The Future Is 4K: High-Resolution Digital Movies

  1. The Future Is 4K:
  2. High-Resolution Digital Movies

“Who would have dreamed film would die so quickly? The victory of video was quick and merciless...and it's important to consider this in the real world.”

—Roger Ebert, “The Sudden Death of Film” (November 2011)

From July 5 through July 31, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents The Future Is 4K: High-Resolution Digital Movies, a series of ten films demonstrating the capabilities of the digital format known as 4K DCP. Also being shown is SIDE BY SIDE, Christopher Kenneally’s enlightening documentary on the recent digital revolution in cinema.

Cinema is currently undergoing its most significant technical transformation since the coming of sound ca. 1929. It is a transformation that calls into question the very name of this institution: the Gene Siskel FILM Center. Film itself--the medium or material known as film and sometimes called celluloid--is disappearing from the process of making and exhibiting motion pictures. It is being replaced by digital formats.

The currently reigning digital system--for multiplexes and art houses alike--is known as DCP (Digital Cinema Package), in which movies are delivered on a hard drive and then “ingested” into the theater’s projection system. The Gene Siskel Film Center installed DCP in 2008, using the then state-of-the-art resolution of 2K (i.e., 2048x1080 or 2.2 million pixels). In the manner of all digital systems, obsolescence is speedy, and the more richly detailed 4K (i.e., 4096x2160 or 8.8 million pixels) is now being positioned as the new standard.

In March 2013, the Film Center became 4K-capable in our Theater 1 auditorium. 4K projection is actually more crucial in relatively small theaters like the Film Center, because the closer one sits to the screen, the more visible the limitations of 2K (such as “jaggies” and “screen-door effect”) become.

The series “The Future Is 4K” provides us with an opportunity to showcase our new system and the work that is being done in this enhanced form of digital presentation, encompassing movies originally shot in high-res digital formats (SAMSARA) and classic films restored and/or transferred to 4K (everything else in this series). There are presently only a few classic titles available in 4K (around 60, by my estimate), but the number is bound to expand, inexorably and exponentially.

The coming of digital is a development which we at the Film Center regard with ambivalence. We will continue to make a special effort to obtain classic and current films in 35mm prints. However, the percentage of films (including restorations of classic films) available only in digital formats is steadily growing and will continue to do so, as 35mm screenings become an increasingly rare special event.

Those who saw the stunning (even in 2K DCP) version of Roman Polanski’s TESS shown here in January know that it is possible to achieve high quality in digital restorations, arguably superior in some respects to what might have been currently possible on film. This series will provide other impressive examples of fine work being done on this new frontier, such as the acclaimed 4K versions of DR. STRANGELOVE and TAXI DRIVER overseen by restoration expert Grover Crisp at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Of course, it is inevitable that 4K will all too quickly become the past, not the future, and in five years or so we may be offering a series called “The Edge Is 8K.” Wherever the currents of cinema history may carry us, we will endeavor to maintain the commitment to quality that has been the hallmark of the Gene Siskel Film Center for over 40 years.

—Martin Rubin



Fri, Jul 5th at 3:00pm
Fri, Jul 5th at 7:45pm
Sun, Jul 7th at 5:45pm
Thu, Jul 11th at 8:30pm
Average: 3 (3 votes)
  1. 2012, Christopher Kenneally, USA, 99 min.
  2. Narrated by Keanu Reeves

“Simply a delightful experience...highly entertaining and informative.”
—Jessica Kiang, Indiewire

“Necessary and long overdue...Critics, crew members, students and any lover of the seventh art should seek this out.”
—Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter

This illuminating documentary provides one of the best ways to get a handle on the recent digital revolution in cinema. A lucid but not dumbed-down overview is augmented by well-chosen clips and highly personal, often passionate opinions from Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, George Lucas, Walter Murch, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Vilmos Zsigmond, the Wachowski siblings, and many more key filmmakers and technicians. HDCAM video. (MR)

SIDE BY SIDE discount!

Buy a ticket to any other film in the The Future Is 4K series and get a ticket to SIDE BY SIDE at this discount rate (tickets must be purchased at the same time): General Admission $7; Students $6; Members $4. (This discount rate applies to SIDE BY SIDE only. Discount rate available only at the Film Center box office.)

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Fri, Jul 5th at 5:30pm
Tue, Jul 9th at 8:00pm
Average: 3.7 (3 votes)
  1. 1990, Tim Burton, USA, 105 min.
  2. With Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder

“Strange, funny and powerfully moving.”
—Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune

Super-geek comes to the supermarket in Burton’s imaginative twist on the Frankenstein legend. Johnny Depp has his first great role as the blade-fingered being left unfinished by his creator (Vincent Price in a moving cameo) and brought to live in a sunny but small-minded suburb. Bo Welch’s pastel-pop production design beautifully marries the Gothic and the plastic, and Danny Elfman’s score is stirring and heartbreaking. 4K DCP video. (MR)

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Sat, Jul 6th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 10th at 6:15pm
Average: 4.8 (8 votes)
  1. 1962, David Lean, UK, 216 min.
  2. With Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness

“A towering achievement.”
—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

The shimmering vastness of the Arabian desert and the limpid pools of Peter O’Toole’s blue eyes are the two poles around which this legendary film revolves. Lean revolutionized both the screen biography and the epic film with this contemplative spectacle about the enigmatic English outsider who united the desert tribes to fight against the Ottoman Turks during World War I. As several critics have noted, LAWRENCE is more an experience than a story, and, as much as any movie ever made, it demands to be seen on the big screen. 4K DCP. Note: There will be a ten-minute intermission. (MR)

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Sat, Jul 6th at 7:30pm
Mon, Jul 8th at 6:15pm
Average: 3.5 (2 votes)
  2. 1963, Luchino Visconti, Italy, 186 min.
  3. With Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale

"Magnificent...a great film of a great book."
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"One of the greatest visual experiences in cinema."
—Martin Scorsese

Visconti's widescreen masterpiece is one of the cinema’s richest visual experiences. Based on the classic novel by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, it tells of an aging but still vigorous Sicilian prince (Lancaster, who modeled his performance on the princely Visconti) whose sympathies for Garibaldi’s revolution conflict with the interests of his own declining class. The climactic 45-minute grand ball scene is an overwhelming tour de force of densely orchestrated detail. In Italian with English subtitles. 4K DCP. Note: There will be a 10-minute intermission. (MR)

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Fri, Jul 12th at 8:00pm
Sat, Jul 13th at 6:30pm
Tue, Jul 16th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.5 (6 votes)
  1. 1964, Stanley Kubrick, UK, 95 min.
  2. With Peter Sellers, George C. Scott

“Arguably the best political satire of the century.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Cold War may be over, but Kubrick and Terry Southern’s slashing, side-splitting satire of lunatics in power seems more timely than ever. When a demented Air Force general launches an air strike against Russia, the race is on to cool off the Hot Line or, failing that, to grab the cushiest spot possible in the post-nuclear world. Sellers is at his versatile best in three roles: earnest British squadron leader, apologetic American president, and, most unforgettably, crazed ex-Nazi scientist. 4K DCP. (MR)

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Sat, Jul 13th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 17th at 6:15pm
Average: 3.8 (4 votes)
  1. 1972, Francis Coppola, USA, 175 min.
  2. With Marlon Brando, Al Pacino

“It's hard to find a moment in the film that isn't great. THE GODFATHER lives up to the term masterpiece.”
—Hank Sartin, Time Out Chicago

THE GODFATHER reconfigured the gangster film as a family saga, and the result was an enduring American classic. A dream cast graces the violent but romanticized chronicle of a Mafia clan in postwar New York, centering on the passage of power from the aging patriarch (Brando) to his at-first reluctant son (Pacino). Gordon Willis’s legendary chiaroscuro cinematography (heavy on the oscuro) suffers greatly on the small screen. 4K DCP. (MR)

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Fri, Jul 19th at 8:00pm
Sat, Jul 20th at 8:00pm
Tue, Jul 23rd at 6:00pm
Thu, Jul 25th at 8:30pm
Average: 3.9 (8 votes)
  1. 2011, Ron Fricke, USA, 102 min.

“★★★★ A film composed of powerful images, most magnificent, some is the kind of experience you simply sink into.”
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

“Grand and vibrant...The structure is like that of a poem or sonata, a complex tissue of rhymes and motifs.”
—A.O. Scott, The New York Times

SAMSARA is an immersive sound-and-image experience in the vein of BARAKA, which Ron Fricke directed, and KOYAANISQATSI, which he photographed. The title comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “the ever-turning wheel of life,” and the film whirls us through a torrent of stunning images, including sand-painters in Tibet, post-Katrina wreckage in New Orleans, mist-shrouded temples in Burma, transvestite dancers in Thailand, swirling pilgrims in Mecca, majestic waterfalls in Angola, and much, much more. 4K DCP. (MR)

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Sat, Jul 20th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 24th at 6:15pm
Average: 4.2 (6 votes)
  1. 1974, Francis Coppola, USA, 200 min.
  2. With Al Pacino, Robert De Niro

“One of the most ambitious and brilliantly executed American films.”
—Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

Many people consider THE GODFATHER the greatest film of all time, but even more probably consider THE GODFATHER: PART II the greatest sequel of all time. Moving into a more epic register, Coppola’s chronicle of the Corleone family expands in time and space, encompassing Sicily, New York, Nevada, Florida, and Cuba as it parallels Michael’s ruthless drive to consolidate his power in the late 1950s with the youth of his father Vito (De Niro in an Oscar-winning performance) in the early 1900s. 4K DCP. (MR)

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Fri, Jul 26th at 8:00pm
Tue, Jul 30th at 6:00pm
Average: 4.4 (5 votes)
  1. 1976, Martin Scorsese, USA, 113 min.
  2. With Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster

"The savage, many-headed dragon of the American new wave...There may not be a more essentially American figure haunting the national cinema."
—Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

This once-controversial, now-classic spin on the vigilante cycle follows a ticking-time-bomb cabbie (De Niro) through a sweltering New York summer in which he crosses paths with a Presidential candidate (Leonard Harris), a classy campaign worker (Cybill Shepherd), a menacing pimp (Harvey Keitel), and a 12-year-old prostitute (Foster). Cinematographer Michael Chapman’s lurid palette pulsates and Bernard Herrmann’s jazz-noir score resonates in this meticulous restoration. 4K DCP. (MR)

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Sat, Jul 27th at 3:00pm
Wed, Jul 31st at 6:15pm
Average: 4.6 (5 votes)
  1. 1939, Victor Fleming, USA, 238 min.
  2. With Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh

“The moviest of movies.”
—Andrew Sarris, Village Voice

“To see GONE WITH THE WIND on the big screen again is to weep for the fearlessness with which Hollywood once believed the sublime was possible.”
—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Many of its attitudes have dated, but the sweep and power of this legendary movie have hardly diminished. The film’s very contradictions—about race, rape, gender roles, and much more—are the source of its enduring fascination. At the heart of its epic canvas of the Civil War and Reconstruction is a complex love quadrangle, and at the heart of that is one of the cinema’s most iconic couples (rivaled only, perhaps, by Rick and Ilsa in CASABLANCA), and at the heart of that is the film’s willful heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, recently described by Molly Haskell (Frankly, My Dear) as “one of the great, iconoclastic figures in movies, a heroine who grows more astonishing over time.” The movie’s highlights and significant contributors are too numerous to catalog here, but special note should be made of William Cameron Menzies’s groundbreaking production design and Hattie McDaniel’s Oscar-winning, stereotype-transcending performance. 4K DCP. Note: There will be a ten-minute intermission. (MR)

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Sat, Jul 27th at 7:30pm
Mon, Jul 29th at 6:30pm
Average: 3.3 (6 votes)
  1. 2001, Steven Spielberg, USA, 145 min.
  2. With Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law

“It may be Spielberg’s most personal film, as well as his most thoughtful. It might make you cry; it's just as likely to give you the creeps--which is as it should be. This is a movie people will be arguing about for many years to come.”
—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

This Pinocchio story for the computer age was developed by Stanley Kubrick, who bequeathed it to Spielberg. In the not-too-distant future, a bereaved couple replace their comatose son with a robotic boy (Osment), only to set him adrift in a cruel and corrupt world (epitomized by the “Flesh Fair,” one of Spielberg’s greatest--and most disturbing--set pieces). A.I. intriguingly asks what it really means to be human through the plight of a cyber-child created to think and feel, and eerily balances the back-to-the-womb angst of Spielberg on the visionary edge of Kubrick. 4K DCP. (BS)

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