Coens Hint 'Inside Llewyn Davis' Might Be Their Last Shot on Film

September 27, 2013
Source: NYFF

Coen Brothers

The debate over the death of 35mm film has been a bit quieter in the last few years as many have moved on to digital. This story might be the final nail in the coffin, as the few remaining prominent filmmakers still sticking with film are converting to digital as well. The Coen Brothers' latest film Inside Llewyn Davis just screened for press at the New York Film Festival this week (I saw it again and loved it as much as I did in Cannes) and the brothers sat in for the press conference after. They were asked about the muted look and went on to comment about digital, admitting that Inside Llewyn Davis might be their last one shot on film.

Here's their quote about shooting on film at the press conference as transcribed by the New York Film Fest:

"I have to say I'm not wildly enthusiastic about the idea," said Joel Coen. "This movie was shot on film for a number of reasons… I'm glad we shot on film, but it's a hybrid thing right now. It all goes into a computer and it's all heavily manipulated. But still, there's something that looks different. It's probable that the next one will be shot digitally."

Probable, but not certain. According to early reports, their next film is likely to be about an opera singer, but nothing is confirmed yet. During the conference, the Coens explained that their cinematographer on Inside Llewyn Davis, Bruno Delbonnel, had "not shot anything with a digital camera before, and we discussed that would be one more complicated factor in our relationship with a DP." But the joke then became that everything is digital anyway, and even though they shoot on film, it instantly goes into the computer to be edited, and eventually projected digitally and so on. However, that is why they mentioned "but still, there's something that looks different" and feels different about film, which is why some directors still insist on it.

We'll be watching closely to see if their next feature is shot digitally and how that changes the look of it, if at all. In the meantime, these statements should nudge the digital discussion yet again. At the very least, I can attest that Inside Llewyn Davis looks and feels and sounds sublime and if it ends up being their last feature shot on film, that's all the more reason to see it in theaters on the big screen. Projected in 35mm, if possible.

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Reader Feedback - 6 Comments


35mm film is more or less as far as it is going to go, quality-wise. Digital is quickly catching up and will surpass it. Things like dynamic range, color saturation, and 'texture' will always be talked about in the film vs digital conversation...but digital has made improvements in a lot of those 'aesthetic' categories and will continue to do so. Beyond that, as far as pure resolution and detail, digital is getting very close to film. Hell...the average joe probably never even realized that this 'film vs digital' thing ever happened. I watched 'Collateral' with my brother years ago, when I was too young to know what was what, and kept wondering why the 'picture seemed funky' especially during movement, he didn't know what I was talking about. I found out later it's because Collateral was shot digitally. Either way, Digital cameras are reaching 5K and beyond. They are also quite a bit cheaper and more eco-friendly than the photo-chemical process, which is something to consider. Now, I still see a great value in shooting with 65mm film, or even IMAX 70mm film. But such large film stock drives up prices in areas of the production that aren't specifically noticed/appreciated on screen by most 'average' viewers. But just as Digital is slowly but surely putting 35mm to bed, it will do the same to 65mm and beyond. By 2020 'film vs digital' will be an entirely moot point. If anyone really wants a great chronicle of the evolution of digital cinema(from Digital intermediate, to CGI, to filming digitally) an AMAZING documentary to watch is one called "Side by Side"

Chris Groves on Sep 27, 2013


Kind of sad but also very true and reasonable.

DAVIDPD on Sep 27, 2013


Great points! I think sharpness is where digital really excels. Oblivion was a great example -- Sony's F65 shoots at 8K I believe, the photography was simply gorgeous. It'll be great when digital can match IMAX 70mm resolutions, it means we'll be getting a lot more IMAX films!

axalon on Sep 27, 2013


Agreed. In all honesty, I think the entire theatrical industry could be shifting. I think with Video on Demand and legal downloading methods surging, more and more 'small' films will be released digitally instead of in theaters. I think many dramas and comedies might go this route. Theaters will be reserved for blockbusters, action films, family/animated films, big thrillers, possibly horror films and occasional big-time awards contenders. So there will be significantly fewer theatrical releases, meaning that the 'multiplex' concept will be less needed. I don't think there will be a big need for 15-18 screen theaters. Hopefully that will ultimately result in a MUCH larger 'standard' size for a theater screen, and much higher standards in brightness and sound as well. I dream of a world where nearly every screen is an IMAX, or some other large format screen. Maybe it is just wishful thinking.

Chris Groves on Sep 27, 2013


A film shot in digital IN THE RIGHT HANDS is clearly as good and in some cases better than most 35MM films shot today.

Chuckee Knowlton on Sep 27, 2013


Hipsters! They should be filming on Iphones like everyone else.

Carpola on Sep 27, 2013

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