Posted 26 March 2007 - 01:29 PM
Well, there are practical, physical differences (in equipment, style, etc.), and also subconscious differences.
For example, yes, film stocks have changed significantly over the years. Especially if you're comparing to films released closer to the initial advent of color stocks, there's a world of difference between then and now. In addition, while cameras themselves pretty much work the same way they always have, the lenses - especially the optics of the glass elements - have gotten more and more refined over time. Finally, the amount of post work that is done - whether digitally or not - is significant. The look of a film - especially in the color - is carefully tweaked before that film is ever released. Not that people didn't do that years ago, but the tools they had at their disposal to manipulate the image were quite primitive compared to what's available today.
Certainly some films are transferred to dvd better than others, or even better/worse than previous transfers of the exact same film, but I can assure you there are enough differences in stocks and lenses alone to make a significant difference.
On top of differences in the physical tools though, there are myriad ways in which you watch a film and subconsciously assign it to a time period that are not specifically related to the tools used. The style that the DP/gaffer use - while different for every artist, there are still trends over time in how a subject or a scene is lit - even if the same basic lights were available then. The set construction - or even decision to shoot on location, whereas most studio films were shot on studio sets at one point. Then of course there are the hairstyles, clothing, makeup, etc. all things that you *think* you can ignore when comparing films, but that still come into play whether you want them to or not.
But even all those things aside, stock and lenses are the single biggest factors in my opinion.