**/**** Image A+ Sound A Extras B
starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney
screenplay by Steven Knight
directed by Robert Zemeckis
by Bill Chambers
"Back in those days I was much more of a taskmaster. I would make my actors hit those marks and always be in their light, and now I've kind of--I don't care as much anymore. I wouldn't allow there to be a camera bobble in any of those films. If the camera jiggled one frame, I'd have to do the take again. But nowadays, audiences are so different. I don't think they appreciate the attention to detail. Maybe subconsciously they feel it, maybe they don't. Having a perfectly composed shot doesn't matter if you are watching it on an iPhone, does it? You wouldn't see it."
That's Robert Zemeckis, speaking to We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy author Caseen Gaines. When I first read those words, I have to admit I had a little moment of "Dylan goes electric" heartbreak, because the precision craftsmanship of Zemeckis's films had always been a comfort. Then I reread them, taking into account the resounding shrug that greeted both his lengthy detour into motion-capture animation and his subsequent return to live-action (Flight), and his sour grapes became considerably more pungent. Many filmmakers relax their standards as they get older; few make a point of announcing it. Fewer still do so with spite. If the prolific Zemeckis is fatigued, he shouldn't pass the buck: it's hard-won--I can't begin to imagine the intensity of effort it took to pull off, say, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or Death Becomes Her. When he belittles the iPhone he gives away his age (62 at the time), but he also sells himself out, as someone who's been at the forefront of the digital revolution for decades. Of course, between his waffling commitment to 3-D and MoCap and his punking of a nation's kids in a 1989 TV special in which he claimed that Back to the Future Part II's hoverboards were a real technology suppressed by parents' groups, it's hard to take Zemeckis at his word.