Why I love old movies

Monday, January 10, 2011 8:53 PM By Simon

The sound of the film running, even during quiet moments, you can hear it running, the projector humming, sometimes the flapping of the the end of it as reels change.

Because actors then found a glorious equilibrium between the mad flailing of the silent era and the quiet brooding of today.

I love the spots and scratches that no amount of restoration can remedy, a badge of honor, that this film has managed years and years before being rediscovered by video or Criterion.

Scores were epic and rarely reflected what was actually going on onscreen, studios ruled in America and arthouse ruled in Europe, German Renaissance and French New Wave and American Studio fodder duked it out in theatres, celebrities crept away to Swedish clinics for addiction, where it was rough and brutal and unforgiving, and one wasn't celebrated for such things. Where celebrity couples were the Bogies and Bacalls, the Hepburns and Tracys, even the Godards and Karinas, where the worst they could throw at an actress who was perceived to have answered a dual casting call/personal ad was 'his little soulmate', because even the press, in their way, were classy, if not by choice, then by censorship, which is never good, but that's besides the point.

Every bit of violence, of sex, or language, feels all the more tantalizing because you know it pissed somebody off.

Faces glowed in heavenly light, tears made the face unashamedly wet, guys like Fassbinder were a novelty more than a norm (although I suspect he'd be a rebel even today, because he was a tough guy, but a tough guy of, in loosest terms, flexible sexuality), Klaus Kinski provided the fodder...

But the American films were so pleasant. No pretense of relatability, no force-fed lies about job description versus income, plainess meant to equal glasses. No, no, they knew they were hot, and rich, and made sure we did too, without patronising us with lamentations of relationships and weight. Escapism as it was meant to be.

Melodrama was La Corbeau , salty mysteries and noir. Comedy was anything you found funny. PC was a myth. Sensitivity was a myth. WHat you saw was what you got, unless you wanted to see more.

I ramble. Of course I do. I love the sound of the projector, don't you?

12 comments:

Nicholas Prigge said...

I love this post. That's really all I can say.

January 11, 2011 at 7:04 AM
Ron said...

Well done Simon! Beautifully written. I hail from an era when much of what you wrote about was still relatively young and I do remember, and I loved the sound of the projector in a Saturday afternoon matinee. Thanks for the post...and the memories.

January 11, 2011 at 12:50 PM
5plitreel said...

Awesome, great post. AGREED! I love the reel sound more than anything.

January 12, 2011 at 7:37 AM
Yojimbo_5 said...

Applause

Another thing I miss. The directness. In the old days, movies had a tendency to..as Cagney said about acting "walk up to the mark, anchor yourself, and tell the truth." Now, it seems like film-makers hide what they have to say behind layers and layers of technique, verbiage and obfuscation. If you got something to say, say it...hopefully, well, and even more hopefully, visually.

January 12, 2011 at 9:06 AM
Simon said...

Nicholas, Mad Hatter, 5plitreel: Thank you.

Ron: Welcome...

Yojimbo: Right? Like, enough with the damn metaphors, there's only so many things a lone flower can represent.

January 14, 2011 at 8:24 PM
Jose said...

Couldn't have said it better. I love the "weeeeeesh" sound in old films and I particularly looove how they enunciate everything.

January 14, 2011 at 9:38 PM
Ross McG said...

great list. sex and violence in old movies is sweet

January 17, 2011 at 7:03 AM
Simon said...

Jose: Yeah, realism was left to reality. It was so damn blissful.

Ross McG: Indeed.

January 18, 2011 at 8:25 PM
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