Thursday, August 11, 2011

The classics... never heard of

Bill Mesce writes on the Sound on Sight site about his experiences as a teacher for a film appreciation class ("'The Gray Ones' Fade to Black"):

"“The movies none of us ever heard of” included, among others, Dead End (1937), His Girl Friday (1940), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), This Gun for Hire (1942), Double Indemnity (1944), On the Waterfront (1954), Ben-Hur (1959), Spartacus (1960), Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), Fail-Safe (1964), In the Heat of the Night (1967), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Wild Bunch (1969), Patton (1970), Network (1972), Chinatown (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979)."

"Not to mention they didn’t know who Bogart was, or Stanwyck, Lancaster, Grant, Fonda, Bergman… Some didn’t know there’d been a The War of the Worlds (1953) before Spielberg’s (let alone that there’d been a – “Really?” – book!); that there’d been a Planet of the Apes (1968) before Tim Burton’s monkey fest. And those few who did know, hadn’t seen the originals. With the exception of Jaws (1975), Star Wars (1977), and (for just a few) The Godfather (1972), it seemed most of them didn’t know any movie before Independence Day (1996) and Titanic (1997)."

The situation is familiar also in Finnish schools and even in university film courses and at the Department of Motion Picture, Television and Production Design. It is hard to be a professor when the students have hardly any previous knowledge! But from the viewpoint of our Cinema Orion and, say, Midnight Sun Film Festival, there seems to be a strong young cinephilic audience in Finland.

Bill Mesce gives an interesting backstory about the American development. But the situation is global. Yet I don't think there is a reason for pessimism. We are in the middle of the greatest ever media turbulence. These days we are experiencing a phase of technology fetishism, where new information technology is king, and substance is being reduced to "content". The turbulence will continue, and we may have a completely different media technology in 10-15 years. But quality movies will survive and find audiences on a new scale. Already now obscure silent and experimental films are getting manifold audiences via the internet.

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