Friday, October 20, 2006

Old Movie Dialogue – The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941; The Derelict: A, LeaJo: B+)

Part I

The Derelict:
So, Leajo, how many "old" movies have you seen? Pre-1970 movies?

LeaJo:
Heh. Well...I'm not really sure about the exact number, but probably about, I don't know...five. That sounds really pathetic, I know.

The Derelict:
No, not pathetic at all. Which movies have you seen (prior to watching the Maltese Falcon)?

LeaJo:
This is a hard question. I might not remember them all. Actually, it's funny, but most of them are Hitchcock movies. The Birds, Rear Window, Psycho. Let's see, I've seen The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, and I know there are more, but I can't remember them off the top of my head...I might be able to come up with some more later.

TD:
You've seen It's a Wonderful Life???!!!! I had no idea! That's actually one of my favorites.

LJ:
Yeah, we had to watch it in school. Maybe that means it doesn't really count. I liked it though. Oh yeah! I've seen Gone with the Wind too!

TD:
You watched It’s a Wonderful Life in school?! Okay, now my mind has been blown. Why?

LJ:
Actually, I don't really remember why. It was in 6th grade and my whole grade watched it so it wasn't like it was for a specific class. Maybe we just watched it for a Christmas thing...except...oh man...you are going to be mad about this. Everyone had to get permission from their parents to watch it because it dealt with religion and they didn't want anyone to get offended.

TD:
Oh my gosh! Really?! I'm not mad, that's just f-ing hilarious. The "religion" is like, what? A silly storyline about a comical angel getting his wings and George Bailey praying in the bar for a few seconds? Seriously, it's only slightly more "religious" than Elf.

LJ:
Yeah...I don't know. I barely remember watching it so I don't really know what my teachers were thinking. Oh, I've seen To Kill A Mockingbird. Does that count? (I also had to watch that movie in school)

TD:
Yes! That definitely counts. Wow, you're a closet old movie watcher, aren't you?

LJ:
You got me! Hee! I bet there are more too; I just can't remember them all right now. Do you remember that one movie that my mom made us watch with Sydney Poitier and the nuns? Does that count?

TD:
Yep, that counts. It's Lillies of the Field, and a good movie, though I've only seen it that once. Okay, so there's The Birds, Rear Window, Psycho, the Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Lillies of the Field. Is that right?

LJ:
Yeah. I think so

TD:
That's a pretty good list, when really, I bet if you asked your friends they've seen maybe two old movies, probably Wizard of Oz and maybe something like Sound of Music or Mary Poppins or another old Disney movie. Maybe It's a Wonderful Life too 'cause it's on every year on NBC, but that’s probably a stretch. So you are maybe a little ahead of the pack, for your age group.

LJ:
You're probably right. I doubt my friends have seen any Hitchcock movies.

TD:
You're probably right. Okay, so before watching Gone with the Wind with me, and then Maltese Falcon last night, what would you say your general impression of "old" movies was? What did you think about old movies (if you thought about them at all)? Did you have any interest in watching these "classic" Hollywood movies or were you content with watching contemporary films?

LJ:
Oh, I was definitely just content in watching contemporary films. I only really watched those movies because I had to at school or someone in my family recommended them to me and made me watch them. I never actively went out and searched for old movies to watch. My impression with them was that in general, I liked them. They were definitely different than newer movies, but that didn't make them bad. The Birds and Rear Window and Psycho scared me just as much as any contemporary horror movie did. I think the main difference I felt between old movies and contemporary movies was that old movies didn't look as good. Like, I thought Rear Window was cool...but it could have been cooler with better special effects. I liked all of the movies though. Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time.

TD:
Oh yeah. Wizard of Oz is the best. Interesting about the special effects, because Rear Window didn't really have any special effects, or are you talking about when he's hanging off the window at the end? Yeah, I can see why that would be cheesy looking to a contemporary audience.

LJ:
Yeah...actually that's the only scene I can remember. Was that movie in black and white? Because I sort of meant that too. All of the black and white movies in my mind would have looked better in color. Not that I don't like black and white, it's just a matter of taste.

TD:
No, Rear Window is a color film. As is The Birds. Psycho was shot in black and white because Hitchcock didn't have the budget for color (I think that was the case). Yeah, and I have to be perfectly honest, but I've been thinking about my own "education", if you will, in old movies, and it took me awhile to warm up to b&w movies. In fact, the first time I saw Gone with the Wind (I came in at the end while my parents were watching it) I thought it was kinda cheesy and bad. But something about the film stuck with me and almost kinda haunted me, and a few years later when I watched it with my mom on tv it was the greatest movie I'd ever seen. But black and white movies were not an instant "watch" for me, it took me many almost forced sessions of watching b&w movies to start to "get" them.

LJ:
First time I saw Gone With the Wind, I though it was really boring. I liked it a lot more when we watched it. Things can change depending on when you watch certain things.

TD:
Definitely.

LJ:
Believe me, I have nothing against black and white movies. I just don't really prefer black and white in a movie, probably because I'm used to color. Because of that, I would pick a color movie over one without. You watch a lot of black and white movies so you're probably used to it.

TD:
Right. Which is what I'm saying about familiarity (remember from last night?) -- I made myself watch black and white movies because I wanted to understand them and see what made them good as opposed to color films. I was interested in the lighting, and the way faces looked different in black and white, and the haunting quality of it all.

LJ:
Yeah. I totally understand. It makes sense

TD:
I wanted to experience that thrill and newness that came from black and whites -- I was intellectually curious about them. It was about learning something new, in a way. A new way of looking at and enjoying movies. I wanted to get beyond the familiar movies I was exposed to at the time at the theater and on tv in general.

LJ:
Did most of this come about because you were taking film classes?

TD:
No, it happened before that. It came about because my mom used to watch movies on Saturday afternoons while she folded laundry, and I would sit and fold laundry and watch with her. At first I wouldn't sit down if a black and white movie was on (I'm thinking this is maybe when I was eleven or twelve), but my curiosity and love of the cinema got the better of me. Also, my mom would tell me that the movie was really great and I should watch it. So I would force myself to sit on the couch and watch it. And to my surprise the films held my attention and they were really good. In fact, I made a video for a class in high school and I wanted to shoot parts of it in black and white cause I liked the look. But film classes did help, because I was better able to understand the principles of lighting and how huge a deal lighting is in a good black and white film. Not that lighting isn't important in a color film as well....

LJ:
Right. You know it's funny, I think how your mom was for you, you are for me. You're the one going "you have to watch this movie it's so good!" and making me watch these old films. So good on ya! You're getting me to watch more movies!

To be continued...

1 comment:

The duck thief said...

Hi

I just found your blog and I love old movies.

Psycho is definitely one of my favourite Hitchcock movies. It was shot in black and white partially due to cost concerns. As well, he didn't want the shower scene to be too gory and he thought the suspense effect would be heightened if shot in black and white.