It’s ridiculous how easy today’s cinéastes have it. Unlike their forebears, they don’t have to track down lost treasures and arcane information in dark corners and mildewed basements, because everything is available at their fingertips.
In the old days, the only way that hard-core film fans could see the movies they coveted was through rare repertory screenings, butchered TV showings or by obtaining actual prints. When critics like David Thomson and Andrew Sarris wanted reference materials on their favorite filmmakers, they had to write them.
Fast-forward a half-century and all the legwork has been eliminated: Criterion just dumped a huge chunk of their collection on Netflix instant viewing, the William Wyler classic Dodsworth is available for free on Hulu and the proliferation of file-sharing sites has made access to arcane classics even easier.
Anyone with a cell phone carries the entire works of Akira Kurosawa in their pocket.
Some might argue that this cheapens movies by sullying the sanctity of the theatrical experience. (Uh, have you been to the theater lately?) But I think it might be our last chance to save movies. Hollywood’s grosses are inflated by 3-D and IMAX ticket prices, but a film industry built on gimmicks is an industry that will not stand.
The conditions are ripe for a generation of young cinéastes to take over and transform American movies the same way that the film culture of the 1960s led to a second Hollywood golden age. The rich vein of cinematic history is insanely accessible to anyone with the will and technology to tap it.
Today’s kids are growing up with access to portable high-definition cameras, so it can’t hurt to also give them every opportunity to learn composition from Hitchcock, storytelling from John Ford, and theory from Godard, whenever and wherever they want.