Where Does the Charm of an Old Movie Go?

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Charley Chaplin Face

Why are the once popular films with such actors as Bud Spencer and even Louis de Funes seem ridiculous today, and the films with Charlie Chaplin still make people laugh?

There are films that are like mascots. For example, for the Americans it is “Hard to Die” or “Home Alone.” Despite the fact that these films are shown on TV-screens every year, an audience is still not bored with them. They are enjoyed with pleasure by millions of people. What cannot be said about many other old films – sometimes even those that are directed by venerable filmmakers. But how should such a phenomenon be interpreted? The answer to this question is given by a recent study conducted by the German culture expert and journalist Thomas Kolsch.

Other Preferences

In recent decades, the collective visual experience of people has changed dramatically, explains Thomas Kolsch this phenomenon. From his point of view, especially the difference in perception of old and modern films made in Hollywood is felt. So, the Hollywood films created today capture the viewer from the first minute and do not let go until the very end; thanks to the dynamics of actions, the richness of rapidly changing events, bright effects, and unpredictability of a final scene.

Nowadays, people who come to the cinema or sit in front of the TV need a notorious "action," regardless of the cinema genre: it is expected in both a thriller and melodrama. Even minor pauses seem like an eternity and cause irritation.

In this sense, the American-Italian film "Once Upon a Time in the West", created by world cinema master Sergio Leone in 1969 and included in the list of the best westerns, has almost no chance to obtain fans now: there are places in it for eight or even for ten minutes where no one is chasing after anyone, does not shoot, which means, by today's standards, absolutely "nothing happens."

The modern viewer does not like this: he/she does not have enough time for anything, he/she is in a hurry all the time, and waiting for the development of the plot to start gaining momentum is an unattainable luxury for them.

It is not surprising, therefore, that the "long-playing" stories, which are a mix of sluggish events and the ongoing boring clarification of the relationship between heroes, are today the prerogative of television series, which are for the most part adored by time-having– and most importantly, unpretentious – housewives.

On the screen of a cinema, this will not work; only blockbusters are good enough for this purpose, spectacular, dynamic, full of extraordinary computer effects and capable of making a real sensation among cinema audience.

Without the Right to Artificiality

Scene from Black & White Film

The main feature of blockbusters is that the atmosphere created in them is close to a reality and provides a participation effect to the maximum.

In recent years, the viewer has become so accustomed to this that it is difficult to perceive the films that were created in past decades, in which a histrionic behavior bordering upon theatricality prevails. So, the once popular films with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, Leslie Nilsson and even Louis de Funes seem strange and ridiculous today.

Trilogy of films of Ernst Marischka "Sissi" (1955), which tells about the romantic relationship of Princess Sissi and the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, is hardly to save even by the participation of the legend of world cinema Romy Schneider.

In our days, this film is perceived by many as nothing more than a banal kitsch. About the silent horror film of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau "Nosferatu. Symphony of Horror", released in 1922, there is no need even to mention. The story of the Transylvanian vampire, which brought fear to the audience at one time, now does not cause anything but a condescending grin.

But the silent comedies in which Charlie Chaplin plays make people laugh and are successful up to this day. As opinion polls show, the phenomenon of the ever-growing popularity of these films, glorifying "little people," is in their refinement: farce gives way to a flashing humor and light kind irony. Chaplin's art remains a favorite because he managed to create an image of a frivolous, gullible, but at the same time, surprisingly worthy, humane, and disinterested hero, which evokes sympathy at all times.

Immortal Masterpieces

Youths Watching Film

The originality of the plot, the refined style, charm, irony, and naturalness of the characters ensured an eternal success to such films as:

  • George Roy Hill's “The Sting” (1973) – with Robert Redford and Paul Newman in the lead roles;
  • Blake Edwards's “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) – with the participation of Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard;
  • "Dead Poets Society" (1989) by Peter Weir – with Robin Williams in the lead role.

The same can be applied to the film drama "Casablanca" (1942) set by Michael Curtis with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the lead roles. Even now, the viewer can hardly stop crying when one of the heroes of the film, despite the presence of a group of German officers-invaders in the Casablanca cafe, interrupts the performance of the song "Die Wacht am Rhein" ordered by them and orders the orchestra to play "Marseillaise" – so close to reality and without too much pathos this scene is, as well as the whole picture in general, deservedly marked as the classic of a world cinema.

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