All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Thursday, 28 July 2005

The African Queen Revisited

I'll come clean. I'm a sucker for old Hollywood movies. In fact, about 80% of our burgeoning DVD collection is comprised of old movies.

Why do I like them so much more than the modern stuff? Easy! It's because they have something called "quality" ingrained within virtually every frame. In old Hollywood, they cared about the script, the character development and the finished result.

Am I being unfair to the modern stuff? I don't think so. This doesn't mean that there aren't gems scattered amongst the new crop, but I'm finding it increasingly harder to find quality movies amongst the dross (much of which is mostly entertaining though eminently forgettable) pumped out from the relic that is Hollywood 2005.

I find that the older movies have another ingredient that is lacking from about 99% of the movies you see today - charm. Old movies are filled with it.

Think of The African Queen, Charade, The Quiet Man and Singin' In The Rain....all these movies are so charming and give you so much pleasure as you watch them. The actors and actresses seem to be enjoying themselves and getting a thrill out of wanting to please you, the audience.

Why the tirade? Because last night, I saw The African Queen (1951) on DVD and I was once again enthralled by it. Bogie and Hepburn were so natural, they didn't seem to be acting. The photography was beautiful and the script, a comic delight. I finished off the movie feeling all warm and fuzzy - when did I last get a buzz like that in the cinema?

I suppose it also helped that I feel a certain affinity with the movie, having seen the real African Queen boat that was utilised in the movie, when I was in Florida a few years ago (it was tiny by the way and looks much bigger in the film).

Why can't they drop the overblown special effects and get back to scriptwriting and proper character development? How many years will we have to wait for a romantic comedy that doesn't have to resort to smut to get laughs? Two words: Audience expectation. Modern audiences have become used to the crap they see and forget how great movies really could be if the people behind them actually cared enough to make a difference. Why spend $10 million on a movie when you can spend $250 million?

To be fair, there are still actors and directors who do give a damn. Unfortunately, the major studios and money-men don't want to have anything to with them unless there's a lot of money to be made (would Dude Where's My Car? or Stuck on You have been made in 1951? I very much doubt it).

Please treat yourself and get/rent a copy of The African Queen on DVD or video. Sit back and enjoy. I promise you that it will be the most pleasant 105 minutes of your week.


athena said...

I too adore the old movies. Do you get the Turner Classic Movies channel 'over there'? I couldn't do without it! I think it is the dialogue that hooks me. It's fast, it's funny, it assumes that the viewer knows a thing or two and can make intelligent inferences on their own. Which is what I dislike about more modern films. They have to tell you every little thing - as if a person wouldn't understand it otherwise. Great NEWER movie award though...'Man on Fire' with Denzel Washington. Good Stuff!
Madagascar was a dissapointment - my personal favorite for animation is 'The Incredibles'.

The Teacher said...

We do get TCM here although my only gripe is that they run commercials during the movies which really spoil it for me. It's a shame because they show classic after classic.

I agree that The Incredibles was superb, especially the scenes when Dash was running through the Jungle (a la Return of the Jedi)