Monday, July 06, 2009

Old Movies

We were wondering the other day whether or not some older films get hyped far beyond how good they are. I'm not sure, others seem to have fallen off the popular radar for no good reason.

In way of a small, completely unscientific sample, I recently saw four 'classics', and I was more or less split on them. They included a silent film, "Pandora's Box", war films "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Paths of Glory", and finally "The Man Who Would Be King".

Pandora's Box: Silent film showcasing Louise Brooks. Louise Brooks is strikingly attractive, sure, but a cute girl does not make a film great on her own.* I don't think Pabst deserves heaps of acclaim for his direction of this droning epic. The director seemed constantly unsure of himself, lingering on scenes well after the action had gotten its point across. The audience doesn't need a 40 second shot of a girl kicking and banging her fists to get that she's pouting.

The Bridge on the River Kwai: Alec Guinness is absolutely great in this film. Still, gross historical liberties and a plot that goes well out of its way to make the British look like saps tanked the experience for me.

Paths of Glory: Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick bring this one home with the help of maybe 9 other fantastic performances. A really deep film showing more aspects of war than any other three war movies combined. Characters and narrative are why I love film, and here they are at their absolute top.

The Man Who Would Be King: Adaptation of a Rudyard Kipling story, essentially a buddy film for Sean Connery and Michael Caine. It's set a century or more ago in the region of Kafiristan, the one area of Afghanistan that the Taliban could never completely control. The place has an interesting history worth reading more about. Performances from the two leads make it seem as though they'd been making films together all their life. A little lightness along the way, but it still manages to speak weightily about topics as deep as imperialism and human frailty.

Any other classics come to mind that are consistently overrated or overlooked? Maybe we can get a consensus one way or the other in the comments.

*Chungking Express makes you fall in love with a dark haired girl with a short haircut too, but there the cinematography is wild and thrilling, and the stories are good too. Or maybe Faye Wong's just better than Louise Brooks. Silent film fans, Asian film fans, FIGHT!