I don’t often sit down to watch a movie, but when I have been watching movies lately, they’ve been from the In Technicolor! era. Recent watches have been For Love of Ivy, Arsenic and Old Lace, Sunset Boulevard and Mogambo. Tonight I’m watching To Catch a Thief. I’ve been enjoying the conventions of older movies, which seem to be much closer to their theatrical origins. The zoom-ins to newspapers that further the plot and the music (which seems to be the same in every movie) that point out when the romantic leads encounter each other are endearing. The clothes where men always wore suits and women were always in absolutely gorgeous ball gowns always make me wonder if that’s how it really was or if it’s just a Hollywood convention. Part of me appreciates a more formal world, even while I’m laughing at the sudden bursts of passion that cause Clark Gable to go marching over to a leading lady and push his face forcefully against hers. Is that a kiss? If so, I hope never to have one. Sorry Clark.
Actors, is there a name for this old style of acting? The conventions are hilarious.
Of course, the films that I’m watching are the ones that have survived through the years and have made it to DVD. I never studied film in school, other than one art history class that was a survey of Korean film. (A class in which I learned that Attack the Gas Station! is actually a remake.) I know very little about cinematography or film history. But still, I find I’m enjoying the look back at, what is to me, a very foreign time and place. It’s similar to when I watch foreign movies, where I only understand the cultural references because I’ve studied the time and place. And yet, I’ve been picking these movies because I want to understand the references of my own culture. Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Sidney Poitier, Gloria Swanson, Ava Gardner — all names I’ve known for years without faces. And now I’ve got the reference.