While scouring my RSS feed, I spotted this article title: "Robert Redford has mixed feelings about Blu-ray." I immediately wondered what the issue could be. Would any director have problems with crisp, high-def transfers? I've never thought of Redford as a filmmaker whose work thrives in mono-sound, with visual grittiness best suited to old-school VHS and DVD. Reading through the article at USA Today, however, as Redford talked about The Natural hitting Blu-ray, he said: "I'm just a purist. I know it is fascinating to people, but I never ascribed that you should have a documentary about the making of a film."
The director is referring to the special features on the disc, from the MovieIQ+sync that plays like Pop-Up Video during the feature, to behind-the-scenes extras. In Redford's eyes: "Films were meant to be a kind of magic that transports you somewhere else because you can imagine on your own and not have everything spelled out about this trick and this explosion. I would be just fine with none of that." He later adds, while talking of Avatar, IMAX, and technological achievements: "I think technology is driving things to the point where it is beginning to dictate the spirit of something. ... But I think a good story well told will always be the name of the game."
It's not relegated simply to Blu-ray. Discs upon discs of special features have been descending on us for years. And before that, there were VHS combos with commentary and laserdisc bonuses, and before that, behind-the-scenes documentaries. But his point remains: Much of the magic and awe of films has been wiped away -- between revealing the how-to, to the fact that technology jumps forward with such speed that what was awe-worthy today is passe tomorrow. It certainly feeds our curiosity of the why, and inspires new breeds of filmmakers, but it is also much like a magician revealing the tricks behind his curtain.
Does it really help to know what awe-inspiring moments were accidents, to watch how a machine was turned into a mythic creature? Are you able to separate the cinematic experience and the behind-the-scenes goodies, or do you wish for the days when it was all magic?