Side by Side

Wednesday February 15th 2012

Remember that digital filmmaking documentary I told you about the other week? Well I saw it at the Berlinale yesterday and it’s fucking amazing. A collaboration between documentarian Chris Kenneally and Nice Guy Keanu Reeves, Side by Side sees the latter sit down with a vast array of filmmaking icons, from George Lucas to Lars “no more interviews” von Trier, to talk about the film industry’s gradual transition into digital-only production. Obviously a film that goes into great detail about the precise differences between 1080p and 2K has a free pass into the innermost reaches of my heart, but even if digital resolution standards aren’t your idea of a good time there’s plenty to take from the film, thanks in no small part to the tOp BaNtEr between Keanu and his interviewees.

Keanu’s inimitable presence seems to relax his subjects, and they talk with uniform openness about the films they make, treasure and despise. David Lynch is a picture of politeness, finishing every sentence with a reverential “Keanu”, while Steven Soderbergh refuses to accept that digital filmmaking has even a single drawback or flaw, writing off its detractors as dinosaurs. David Fincher — ever the controversialist — can’t resist peppering his answers with gratuitous “fucks”, while Greta Gerwig is just adorable. JUST ADORABLE.

With its niche subject matter and low-rent camcorder aesthetic, Side by Side is destined for a TV premiere in the UK (my eyes kept darting towards the upper right of the screen to check there wasn’t already a preemptive More4 graphic there). But if you can see it on the big screen, I fully urge you to do so — not only for the sake of the stunning film clips that illustrate each interview, but also for the twenty different haircuts that Keanu apparently road tested during the shoot. They, perhaps more so than any of the historically significant films discussed in Side by Side, deserve the full, unsullied cinematic experience.