“It’s the pictures that got small.”


It is one of the most famous one-liners in the history of cinema, which also turned out to be an inadvertent prophecy. “I am big,” says the slighted Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard (1950). “It’s the pictures that got small.” She had no idea. The past half-century has seen the pictures get smaller and smaller, to the point that we wonder if they can ever be big again. From television screen, to laptop, to smartphone, the ever-shrinking movies reach a greater part of the world than ever before. But what have we lost along the way? On a recent flight, I downloaded the relatively well-received Marvel spin-off The Avengers to watch on my iPhone. It was, of course, a ridiculous venture, this squeezing of monumental themes on to a miniaturist canvas, lacking in textural detail, atmosphere, communality of experience. But it was easily accessible, convenient and cheap. Is the trade-off worth it? And how does it affect us and the art form?

more from Peter Aspden at the FT here.