Sunday, December 13, 2009

On Classic Films

'Tis the season to sink down on the couch with a blanket and watch a movie. And, for some reason, this year, I decided to return to some old favorites. They did not disappoint.

I picked up Black Stallion to watch with the kids. I remember the cinematography of that film so well from when I was little, remember rushing into the movie theater lobby afterward to buy the movie-version of the classic book, a thin, hard-cover pictorial I studied and studied, wanting to crawl into it, wanting to run on to the beach where Alec rode Black fast and furiously and jump on that horse myself, despite my desparate fear of horses or maybe because of it. My kids were skeptical, as they are with most things I push them toward, but I didn't listen. I wanted them to see those images. And so they did. And they were just as beautiful as I remembered. Even the kids agreed.

"That is a beautiful scene," Eli said, looking up from his Guinness Book of World Records to catch sight of a child roughly his age riding a horse bareback in the water with the setting sun behind.

"Yeah," Oscar agreed.

It is a scary movie, terrifying really at the beginning, but the message is strong and resonant: young Alec is a survivor, tough and strong yet sensitive.

After the kids went to bed, we popped in Saturday Night Fever. My hubby had never seen it, something that shocked me but, as I watched, I realized: I had coveted the movie for the picture it painted of Manhattan and all its infinite possibilities. Since my hubby grew up in Manhattan, he was well aware of those possibilities, they had surrounded him in real life rather than on screen.

Amazingly, much to my surprise, the disco dance film had held up well. Unlike some movies, its message resonates strongly still, the idea of someone wanting to break out of their limited box, to move on, to move up, and the frustrations that ensue when doing so seems impossible.

Horseback riding, dancing, it's all the same, really, all means by which freedom, or at least a feeling of freedom, might be achieved.

As I lay in bed, I thought about it. There are very few themes of films, books or plays, and besting the odds to break out, whether out of a burning ship or an outer borough, is a big one. But it is how much we can feel for the character, relate to his or her story from somewhere deep inside ourselves that makes something a classic, something that sticks with you and makes it worthwhile to return to, to show to your kids. Gold stars to these filmmakers for creating gems that last beyond a single generation. It is not an easy task.

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