This morning, my husband kindly took the Tater Tot with him on some errands and left me to watch something I picked on the TV (at least until the Tween wakes). So, I am watching The 39 Steps, an Alfred Hitchcock, on Netflix's Watch Instantly through our XBox 360. I'm rather enjoying that idea that I am using such up and coming technology to enjoy something from another era.
I'm pondering what it is that I so enjoy about movies that are so much older than I am. My favorite movies of all time are found under "classics" on Netflix: The Quiet Man, Bringing Up Baby, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Key Largo, Pillow Talk, The Thin Man, The Egg and I, Roman Holiday. (As soon as I click "Publish" I'll think of 10 more I should have listed).
It's not that I don't like more contemporary movies. I do. But, if you leave me alone for some "me time" I will undoubtedly choose a movie that is more contemporary for my grandmother than for myself. I do have cut-offs though. I don't generally like silent movies, or movies that were made when sound was too new and the soundtrack is hard to listen to, garbled or just badly recorded. I don't find much to revisit that's from the 70's.
But what is it about these films?
The storytelling was different then. The effects were less special, but the relationships were stronger. There's something striking about black and white, something that stays in mind's eye longer. The influence of radio was still there, making voice and sound into different instruments than they are now. I don't get attached to contemporary actors particularly, but have often watched an older movie just because it featured a "face" I admire: Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant.
Maybe it's my resistance to things that are popular--probably beginning way back when I was a less than popular girl at my high school. Generally, if "everyone" likes it, I probably don't. I like my clothes to be different than everyone else's, my meals to be inventive and interesting, and my entertainment to be quirky and "different" too. I'm not a "follow the crowd" girl. I take a geek's pleasure in knowing about more obscure things.
Or maybe it's a golden age myth--a belief that things were better "back then," a nostalgia for times before my birth, a desire for a different vision of glamour or beauty. I like the beliefs that are evident in many of these films: that the good guys will win out in the end, that smart is better than born with advantages, that honest people will be believed and rewarded, that there is true love and the world cannot keep deserving lovers apart.
I guess I don't really know what exactly the appeal is for me. Just that there is "something" in these older movies that draws me and keeps me coming back. Something as indefinable as the star quality that made these faces great when they were living.