The Reel Less Traveled – July 2021

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Old Movies – Age is Just a Number

    I was out and about the other day and chanced to overhear a conversation. The talk was about movies, which immediately piqued my interest. Okay, I’ll be honest. I was eavesdropping.
    The exchange was about the four-hour Justice League movie – the Zack Snyder cut. I was very interested since, at that time, I had not yet seen it. Anyway, talking about how cool it was, one of the participants compared it with all the Marvel movies, noting it reminded him of the old Blade Runner.
    I must have done something noticeable because they turned to stare at me with disdain in their eyes. They gave me the once over, and after determining that I posed no threat, continued with their conversation.
    In the interest of full disclosure, I recall I made a noise somewhere between a gasp, a moan and what could only be described as a sound of outright disapproval. Blade Runner an old movie? I beg your pardon. How dare you. It came out in 1982 and I saw it when it was first released – in a theater and everything.
    Fully aware that “age is just a number” and that “you’re only as old as you feel,” it’s still annoying to hear things like this, mainly because many might dismiss a particular film based on nothing more than how long ago it was made and released.
    Old movies to me are not only films made before I was born, but ones already then considered ancient. By some standards, some might call me old (how old is something you can figure for yourself with a hint hidden toward the end of this column), but my life expectancy and the length of the overall history of cinema differ significantly.
    To be generous, the art of cinema as we know it is only about 125 years old, give or take, and by that measure to call Blade Runner “old” is inappropriate. Real old movies would probably be The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary (1920) or Metropolis (1927). I suppose you could lump any silent movie into that category, but early sound films could also be included as well. The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind (both 1939) would also fall into the category of old.
    I would probably draw the line somewhere around 1950 or so. It was around that time when the social fabric was on the verge of a major shift, so I suppose how well a movie has aged, meaning how antiquated the acting and overall attitude of the film meshes with current thought processes, should also be kept in mind.
    I think our ideas of what constitutes “old” should be re-evaluated, especially in regards to film. True art is timeless, and one only need look at any top ten list of classic films to see what I mean. Besides, Metropolis, alluded to above, is a lot closer to Blade Runner than Justice League. So there.
    Next thing you know someone will be calling The Beatles “old,” and that is something I will simply not tolerate. You have been warned.
    Speaking of societal shifts, The International Film Showcase at the Orinda Theatre is still up and running and going strong. This month’s film, The Silent Revolution, hails from Germany, and as the title suggests, it deals with very important chapter in Hungarian history, namely the Hungarian Uprising, which took place in the very significant year of 1956.
    It is not so much the uprising itself at this film’s center, but more the reaction to it by a group of 12th grade students. Despite the restrictions placed upon news of the uprising in the German Democratic Republic at the time, word gets out. So horrified are these students at this horrendous injustice, they do the only thing they can do given their circumstances. They hold a two-minute moment of 
silence.
    This in turn sparks a revolution of another kind, this time coming from the authority figures who wish to hold the party line and make sure it stays held. What follows is a series of events all too familiar in totalitarian countries: persecution, exclusion, accusations, and the unfortunate and sometimes deadly collateral damage that comes with them.
    It is particularly prescient that this film will be shown during a month when we, as Americans, celebrate our identity as a country. It holds a lesson that we should all take to heart. It will have a three-day run at the Orinda Theatre from July 16–18 at 1, 4 and 7 p.m. For further information and reservations, please go to internationalshowcase.org or orindamovies.com.
    So now, I go back into hibernation for another month, curling up with my own vast collection of movies, both old and new, and I’ll leave you with my usual plea to always go towards those wonderful flickering images made of light and sound. For that’s where the reel magic lies.

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