Innocence recalled

I’ve just watched Blade Runner for about the fifth time. This time is was the Directors ‘Final’ cut, but I reckon I’ve watched every version of it out there, as well as an excellent documentary about it too. This is a movie I should love. It’s got a lot of my favourite elements – vaguely sci-fi set in a dystopian future. It’s got Ridley Scott directing and Harrison Ford starring. Rutget Hauer is great in this also. Production design is great, and the photography eye-catching. The story itself is fascinating, and even includes a philosophical angle of the like I warm to. Somehow though it’s never done it for me. I keep watching thinking one day it’ll just click for me. It hasn’t though, and I know now that it won’t. It’s a pity, because I so want to love it. I don’t think it’s bad, I even think it’s pretty good in some general sense, I just don’t find the greatness in it the elements would suggest, and which so many critics have given it.

There was a rash of movies made of Phillip K. Dick novels and stories in the eighties. They’re all classic, very imaginative stories, but you go back to the source material and they’re a little disappointing. Blade Runner, for example, was based on a book by Dick called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Now there’s a difference between book and movie, as there so often is, and in many ways you understand why. Dick had great story-lines, but I don’t know if he executed them in print as well as he could have. The movies solve that problem by taking the plot genius, and building their own narrative around it.

What else have I watched lately?

The Place Beyond the Pines was a movie lauded by everyone I spoke to. I found it pretty disappointing. I thought it didn’t chere as it should have. The story is clear enough, they just didn’t join together as neatly as they needed to.

I enjoyed The East more. An interesting and intelligent movie starring one of the more interesting and intelligent actresses going around today, Brit Marling. One of my favourite films of last year was written and directed by her, Another Earth.

Pacific Rim? A bit hoky, but I love watching Idris Elba in whatever he appears. A kids movie really.

World War Z is an interesting one. This had a lot of truly spectacular scenes and is one of my favourite movie genres. It’s entertaining, but never really scary like a good zombie movie should be. I thought it resolved to quickly and easily as well. I enjoyed it enough, but wouldn’t watch it again.

Star Trek: Into Darkness was generally excellent in a light-entertainment mode. Not profound, not anything that will resonate with you for any period of time, but well made and good solid fun.

I watched an old Danny Kaye movie yesterday – Knock On Wood – and it was a joy. The joy is twofold. Danny Kaye to start with, such an entertaining performer. There is a nostalgic joy also. This was made well before I was born, 60 years ago this year. Portrayed on-screen is a world familiar in general, but distant in the sense that it has an innocence and happy naivety seemingly absent from the world today. It’s hard to understand why exactly. The second world war was not long finished, and with the full horrors of that exposed to the world at large.

It’s simplistic to think that movies such as this – and there were many – were an antidote to that horror. In the same way you might suggest that movies such as this marked an era when people believed that the likes of Hitler had been defeated for all time – and that we won. The alternative suggestion is that these movies were intended as an entertaining diversion from the realities of the day. From this vantage point it often seems society was generally more naive in those days, and happy to be so – yet this is also at the beginning of the cold war, of ‘duck and cover’, the Rosenberg trials, the McCarthy witch-hunt.

I find myself watching movies of this era wondering at the times they were made in. Many of the movies are expertly crafted, and beautifully written. But even something like Rear Window, which I watched again recently for the umpteenth time, has a sinister story at its heart but told in whimsical fashion. I’m probably wrong, but I can’t recall a movie from that era you might call ‘serious’. I’m sure I am wrong.

Amusing, entertaining movies are made today, but they’re a lot more slick, and absent any of the heart-warming folksiness of a Danny Kaye movie. We do clever, we don’t do warm. We glop the sentiment on a regular basis (Hollywood does anyway), but the authentic is less easily found.

Art ultimately is a reflection of the society of the time, and that’s more true of film than of anything else. We’re not naive anymore, and we don’t care to be. We’re cynical, we know too much, and we wont be fooled. Polish counts for a lot. That’s why I am drawn to movies like Danny Kaye’s – because they strike a chord unplucked today. I recall my innocence, and it delights me.


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