Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Then and Now: Films don't change, but we do

When I was young, I was so sure of everything. Now that I’m not, I’m not. 
What does it all mean?
My opinions were so solid, my convictions so sure. Now, they are, shall we say, open to suggestion.

Films that I was once so definite about now come at me from another angle. Or, maybe I come to them from another angle. Either way, nothing is quite as it was. Older, yes. Wiser – well, I’m allowed to pretend. Film, with its fixed, repetitive nature, remains unchanged. Oddly, I haven’t.

And so, I've come to these films with new eyes and an ever changing landscape of emotions:

Sunset Boulevard:

Ah, Norma Desmond, the gift that keeps on giving (movie-wise, that is).

Then: I once viewed Norma Desmond as a nutty old bat – washed up and stuck in the past. Like Joe Gillis tells her: she’s 50 and there’s nothing wrong with being 50 unless you think you’re 25 – or something like that. Except that I kind of thought there was something wrong with being 50. 50? Yikes!

Now: I see a wounded bird. A woman full of pride and passion, still vibrant and still beautiful with so much to give and no one to give it to. Okay, she is a bit batty, but she just needs to get out more.


Then: Oh, how I hated that film. Every “teenager” seemed too old and it was just not as good as the real classic musicals I loved. You know, Astaire and Kelly and Judy.

Now: Oh my, the beauty of all of the youth and youthful fun in that film. Travolta, so talented, such youthful promise.

Rear Window*

Then: Poor James Stewart! Trapped in that apartment and longing for travel and adventure. I'd be itching to get out of there, too. Good thing he had a great nurse. As for Grace Kelly's Lisa, she was pretty, but shallow. Jame Russell seemed a better companion.

Now: What an old crab that James Stewart is! And what a great gal Lisa Carol Freemont is. She puts up with that growling old bear, brings him dinner from the 21 Club and shows him that a real adventurous spirit can wear a dress from Paris and face down a murderer. Good thing Jimmy had a good nurse (some thing don't change).

* Note: there are a few James Stewart films that fall into this category, but I don't want to pick on him. I like him, I really do, but he always seems so darn crabby!

Singin' in the Rain

Then: Gene Kelly was a gorgeous man. Everything he did was right and everyone else was wrong. Lina Lamont was a pill and Debbie Reynolds was unworthy.

Now: Gene Kelly is still gorgeous, but Lina Lamont was the bomb and so misunderstood. She was a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament. As for Debbie, gosh I miss her. And Gene, well, wasn't he just a little mean sometimes?

Wuthering Heights

Then: because I developed a mad crush on Laurence Olivier in this film, Heathcliff was a poor, put-upon orphan - wrecked by Cathy's inability to live like a pauper. And I was not happy with Merle Oberon's Cathy.

Now: Gosh, they were a miserable pair, Healthcliff and Cathy. I confess I am still dazzled by Olivier (and the lovely score), but my sympathies reside with the Lintons. I find it hard to sit through this film. Another of those things that don't change: still not happy with Merle Oberon's Cathy.

I'm shocked, shocked that I like this film
I could go on - I resisted Casablanca for years because of my resistance to Bogey - but now I give into it. Same, too, for On the Waterfront. Brando to me was like a cross to a vampire, but I admire the film and his performance greatly. I snobbishly pooh-poohed Citizen Kane, only to come to the conclusion that, yes, it is awesome.

I suspect the list will change, because, in  spite of all efforts, I keep getting older. One can only hope that means deeper, wiser, and more in touch with the mysteries of the universe that are revealed on film.


Richard Bellush said...

Bob Dylan:
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now

Caftan Woman said...

I am convinced that things come to us when they are supposed to, when we need them. Even if we are seeing it for the hundredth time, something in us needs to see them now and in a way not seen before.

Wuthering Heights - just what in the name of all that's holy did the Lintons ever do to deserve getting mixed up with Cathy and Heathciffe? What?!

Brittaney said...

I too resisted Casablanca and On the Waterfront for years. Partly because of the actors and partly because I felt they had to be over-hyped. When I finally caved, I was blown away with the quality of these films and realized how wrong I was -gladly.


Our opinion about some films change, and sometimes films change us, too! I write down a little paragraph about all movies I've watched since my teen years. I can't want to revisit them! And, come on, even as a 18-year-old I knew Lina Lamont was cool!
Kisses and congratulations on such a wonderful article!

FlickChick said...

Richard - oh, you are so right. I think that song was in my head when I wrote this.

FlickChick said...

CW - I know! Those poor Lintons. I hope they got off those cursed moors after Heathcliff and Cathy walked into the ether.

FlickChick said...

Brittaney - I do tend to avoid films based on how I feel about the stars. I just didn't want to spend time with Bogey or Brando, but I'm glad I sucked it up and did.

FlickChick said...

Le - What a wonderful habit! I can't wait, too, to see how your opinions have changed.

Silver Screenings said...

Very insightful, especially your thoughts on Norma Desmond. I felt the same way, too, when I was younger, but when I watched the film a couple of years ago, I realized how battered and human she is.

As for Lina Lamont, she's one of the best things about "Singin' in the Rain": Her clothes, her attitude, and that crazy voice.

Great post! I really enjoyed reading about these films and how your perceptions changed over the years.

FlickChick said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ruth. Norma is such a wonderfully complex character - so fully realized by the great Swanson.

Blakeney said...

I loved Grease when I first saw it as a kid. (They're all so cool! Being a teenager in the 50s must have been so much fun!) But in more recent years, I see it very differently. Sandy was fine as long as it was just she and Danny alone. But because she doesn't fit in with his reverse-snob friends, she basically has to change everything about who she is. Yeah, I know, Danny makes a token effort by putting on a sweater for two seconds. But the happy ending only happens when Sandy changes how she dresses and acts. As beautiful as she looked, the older me finds it kind of depressing.