Pieces of the Future

I haven't rented movies in months (seen plenty on HBO thanks to TiVo and *cough* downloaded from the internet) but recently grabbed a couple gems. Pieces of April was something I wanted to see last summer, but its life was short-lived on the Oregon art house movie circuit, and before I knew it, it was gone. The movie is fairly strong, it's a little slow in parts, a little flat here and there, but has some really great emotional parts that make up for its shortcomings. I guess I'd give it a 80/100 if I rated movies on a quality scale. But while I may consider this a pretty good film, I think it's a real breakthrough work; a milestone of sorts. The real breakthrough was the format. Now, I'm not focusing on it because I know it's sort of a gimmick to do a mainstream movie on cheap DV cameras, but it's worth looking at this movie as a sign of things to come. I'm sure someone in 1979 (or whenever Wordstar first came out) made some bold prediction that in five years the Great American Novel was going to be typed out on a computer running their software and I'm sure people laughed. And when you think about how 99% of the publishing industry works today, through laptops and copies of Word, the Great American Novel is being written every year, thousands of times over, on cheap computers running cheap software that allows for easy writing and editing. Pieces of April is the first thing recorded on digital video I've seen that finally felt like a "proper" movie. I'm going to say it was the performances and script, not just the actors involved that made it shine. The picture quality definitely feels like a step down from regular cinema, but after the first 10 minutes or so you don't notice any jaggies or the harsh exposure and focus instead on the story. The entire film was made for about $160k, using prosumer-level cameras. When iMovie came out soon after MiniDV cameras became popular, I heard a lot of people predict that someday soon, the next great film was coming out of some unknown person with a computer, a good script, and a few grand to film it. There has been a few attempts at this already. Sundance recently screened a film edited in iMovie. Although Pieces of April came out of the "Hollywood Machine" it's the first DV feature I've seen that made me forget it cost nothing and was produced with cheap gear. It was a good movie that happened to be shot in DV, and as technology marches forward, there's no doubt that ten years from now anyone will probably be able to buy a high-def DV camera for about a grand that could shoot a feature. Of course, you're still going to need the basics that no piece of software or hardware can provide: great story, actors, locations, sound, and editing, but the prices of tools are dropping so fast that maybe someday we'll get to the point where an artist won't be limited by the cash in their pocket, but by the ideas in their heart.