Watching Movies on Commercial TV Stations
The relevance of this post, comes down to how much you like and care about film. If movies are simply a transient form of entertainment to you, something you have no major investment in beyond killing time, then my following protestations will be water off a duck’s back. If like me, you consider film to be art, then hopefully you’ll concur with my sentiments. Because I do consider movies to be a the most immediate and significant art form of the twentieth century. There are no significant barriers to entry beyond the ability to see and they can convey thoughts, ideas and emotions to the broadest possible audience.
Yesterday I watched Devil in a Blue Dress, for the first time. Carl Franklin’s socio-historic thriller enjoys a strong reputation as a neo-noir and is also considered an important piece of “Black Cinema”. It boasts a strong cast featuring the likes of Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle and offers a great deal of period detail. There's also a fine score by Elmer Bernstein. All things considered this is a film of note, dealing with important subjects such as institutional racism and personal friendship, told within the framework of a hard-boiled detective story. The narrative has many a twist and is squarely aimed at mature audiences with a sense of historical perspective.
Sadly AMC (UK), the channel that broadcast Devil in a Blue Dress on December 10th, decide to do so at 5:00 PM in the afternoon. I didn’t realise this initially as I was watching a recording on our DVR but it soon became apparent that the film had been edited to accommodate broadcast at such a time. These cuts where at time so ham-fisted that they stood out like a saw thumb. Edits to violence and a sex scene as well as sundry dialogue omissions were made to sanitise the film for broadcast. However, considering the nature of the plot and the era that the story was set in, such changes drastically altered the dramatic impact of the movie. One missing scene had a particular bearing on the narrative. Then there is the entire separate issue of interfering with the film makers artistic vision.
Sadly, such practises are common place on commercial television stations these days. Films are not only edited for content but shown in the wrong aspect ratio, plagued with commercial breaks every ten minutes and further blighted by onscreen graphics and logos. If you enjoy perusing the end credits you’ll often find these compromised in a similarly crass fashion. Often the picture quality of the source content is subpar and further degraded by the rigours of digital compression. Simply put, watching a film under such circumstances is often intolerable for film fans or aficionados. For those seeking out specific movies, as I were with Devil in a Blue Dress, it really can impact upon your enjoyment and critical judgement. I subsequently re-watched this film several hours later, via a superior source to improve my perception of it.
Overall such practises by commercial stations simply show they have no real interest in the movies they peddle. As ever it is simply a question of viewing figures and ad revenue that concerns them. Thus, they will more than likely continue with such practises irrespective of the few complaints that they may receive. Therefore, I have personally chosen that henceforth I shall no longer watch movies under these circumstances, unless there really is no other option available. Unless a film is extremely rare and unobtainable on any other platform, I shall only watch it via DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, Amazon Prime or some other electronic file format. Adverts, digital branding, censorship and incorrect formatting is no longer acceptable and belong to the last century.
I’m sure there are some who will label me purist but I believe that all creative material is due a degree of respect with regards to the manner in which it is presented; and that should always be in the accordance with its creator. Tampering simply sends a message that there is no inherent value in that which is being shown. It is born of hubris and a lack of creative understanding. Therefore, broadcasters should never butcher films, talk across music or songs and generally interfere with art, simply for the convenience of their business model. Sadly, it is highly unlikely that those currently guilty of such things are going to support such a change in policy. Thus, we return to the concept of voting with our feet and seeking out quality cinema (and other art forms) via the best outlet possible. Why diminish your enjoyment? It is time to start treating these commercial stations with the same indifference they show to film.