Pigging Out At The Digital Trough

Special guest Ant Timpson hates the easy access to rare movies the internet has given us.

Note from Devin: Ant Timpson is a wildman and a genius, and a good friend of ours. Ant lives in New Zealand where, among other highlights in a long career, he founded and runs the Incredibly Strange Film Festival. Ant is one of the world's foremost print collectors, and his archive of 35mm exploitation films is unmatched. If you regularly attend screenings at places like The New Beverly, the Cinefamily, the Alamo Drafthouse or any other cool revival house it's likely you've seen one of Ant's prints projected. 

Last week Ant came to Austin for SXSW and crashed with a bunch of us at Tim League's house. One of the joys of staying at Tim's is hanging out on his porch until 4 in the morning, drinking beers and bullshitting. On the first night things got a little out of control...

On the very first night after my arrival into Austin I managed to get into a major verbal stoush over beers with Drafthouse Films honchos Films Evan Husney and Tim League about the non-theatrical movie viewing experience in this day and rage.

I said I felt old and depressed about the instant download anything scene today. How the scene I grew up in seemed quaint and forgotten in the analog fields of time. They laughed and said I was an angry quasi-simian raging against progress and democratic freedom.

So I attacked, calling Tim League an insta-hoovermatic of pop culture and Evan Husney a whippersnapper who hadn't done the hard yards. Obviously I was out of line and more than a bit boozed. Even the argumentative and opinionated Devin Faraci, who was present, agreed with me in principle but was horrified but my Bukowski outburst. Being an elitist prig I argued that this 'gimme/ torrent me/download me' generation had zero appreciation for what used to be rare cinema and are simply monstrous gluttons who share no sense of discovery or the joy of the treasure hunt.

And that the inherent nature of the 'hunt' is part of the process of film salivation and mastication. I'd argue that it's a very true component for enjoying a film to its fullest capacity. Food analogies are for lazy writers so here's another one; who do you think would enjoy a yummy meal more? Patient A who is given a beautiful plate of food to eat or Patient B who is told about how beautiful the plate of food is and is then made to wait before final being allowed to eat it. The hunt for elusive prey has been part of our nature, to bypass that and fast track it, is to lose a part of who we are.

The gluttony began with the birth of DVD and the realization that people suddenly had stacks of rare material sitting in corners of their room, unopened in their wrappers. Bloated by restored/ pristine editions of previously impossible to find films, they casually picked at their DVD buffet, nibbling here and there without ever feeling the gnawing hunger pangs of titles that were either lost in time or just mirages in the oasis of entertainment.

We're not talking about appreciating the film's actual content, the focus was about growing up in a video generation where many titles were impossible to find and material sometimes took a decade to eventually surface in some form. Before the VHS generation, others had to sneak to into film societies and Eyes Wide Shut masonic type enclaves to witness such cinematic wonders.

Now it appears the satisfaction appreciation period of cool shit is literally down to hours. Fans instantly point-click-download their heart's desire and before they even digest it are then tucking down on the next chunk of previously rarified loot. It appears to me that without the delay and accruing desire, then it stands to reason that the overall appreciation of particular titles must be somewhat diminished.

Today's film fans simply have to lean over a keyboard and click a torrent link, bypassing the long car journeys, the visits to insane hillbillies, the numerous underground tape trading exchanges, the danger (customs raids, etc.) and the incessant ache of a desire to finally see something that once tapped at the window to your celluloid dreams every night.

And yes I totally acknowledge I sound like every out-of-touch curmudgeon stuck in nostalgia who bitches about the kids these days having no appreciation.

But before I depart to shamble along the streets grumbling to myself, I'll think of you and your Amazon-clickin' instant-fuckin-noodle cine-chowing self and I'll remember a time when I carried a drooling one-eyed old man with Parkinsons on my back down into his basement to find a motherlode of VHS in a bizarre scene straight out of Tourist Trap complete with naked mannequins in weird poses.

And once I overcame the stench of cat piss on every slick, I eventually dined out on an analog meal that lasted for months.

Feast on that you torrent-sucking motherfuckers.