Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Think I Saw that Movie

Sometimes ideas just pop into my head in the middle of the night, so I get up and write them down, mainly because I have trouble sleeping anyway, but also because maybe I’ll think of something to say. Tonight it was movies—really old movies, the ones I saw as a teenager or very young woman a l-o-n-g time ago. As they flash before me, I realize I didn’t really understand most of them then, not the plot, the statement they were trying to make, or the storyline, really. It makes me want to watch them again, really watch them, with a lifetime of experience and perhaps understanding, and a little wisdom thrown in, behind me.

No reviews here, as that would require some extensive research since I don’t much recall the movies and this was meant to be a quick post. But I do remember certain scenes and images even if I can’t explain the plot.

Dr. Zhivago – Omar Sharif and Julie Christie starred in the original 1965 version of this epic saga of the life of Dr. Yuri Zhavago between 1912 and 1925, the years that span the WWI, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. It also starred Rod Steiger and Alec Guiness. I was only 12 when I saw this movie, a very adult movie for such a young girl, especially one who wasn’t even allowed to cross the street by herself at the time. I had never even heard of the Bolshevik Revolution then; no wonder I didn’t understand the movie. I remember the magnificent scenery in the Russian winters, the “ice palace” and the frozen lake, and the gorgeous costumes, especially the furs. And who can forget the the enthralling music, especially “Lara’s Theme.”

The Godfather – Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 saga about the aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty who transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. With major stars like Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and Abe Vigoda, all I really remember is the horse head in the bed.

A Clockwork Orange – Directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1971 and technically a sci-fi movie since was set in futuristic London, it was billed as the movie “about the adventures of a young man whose primary interests were rape, ultra-violence, and Beethoven.” Starring Malcolm McDowell and Patric Magee, I fortunately don’t remember many violent scenes (I probably closed my eyes). Speaking of eyes, what I recall most vividly is the reconditioning of the young criminal by some new experimental aversion therapy that involved forcing his eyes kept open (with the use of plenty of eye drops) by some mechanical device as he was subjected to countless hours of violent images played before him. I never did understand the significance of the title; I might have been in a slightly-altered state of mind at the time myself.

Chinatown – Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway, it was Roman Palanski’s 1974 film about a private detective who stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water and leads to a dramatic showdown in Chinatown. I know I saw this movie, but I don’t remember anything about it, except wondering how they all ended up in Chinatown.

The French Connection – Gene Hackman played Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle in this 1971 film about a couple of New York cops in the Narcotics Bureau who stumbled onto a heroin smuggling job coming in from France (hence, the French connection). I remember the car chase(s).

I still don’t really like spy and espionage-type dramas…way over my head, or attention span.

Then there were the “in” movies of the 70’s, the ones that sort of defined the decade.

Annie Hall – Woody Allen’s 1977 film about a neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer (played by his truly) and his love affair with the ditsy and equally neurotic Annie Hall played by Diane Keaton. My thoughts at the time: What could anyone possibly see in Woody Allen?

Saturday Night Fever – John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, 1977, scored by the Bee Gees. Already loved him; just wanted to see him dance. I have actually seen bits and pieces of this movie since the 70’s, so I recall more. Stuck in Brooklyn, the only way Tony Manero (John Travolta) feels that he can make something of his life is to become king of the disco floor.

Although I can still picture Travolta’s gyrations on the disco floor, I don’t remember the ending, but I do remember thinking how much my brother Jon (right) resembles him (still does).

The Goodbye Girl – By Neil Simon, filmed in 1978, starring Richard Dreyfuss and Marsha Mason. A romantic comedy about an unemployed dancer and her 10-year-old daughter who are reluctantly forced to live with a struggling off-Broadway actor. In a sort of practical co-habitation, they end up falling for each other, which two-time-loser-in-love hesitant Paula (Marsha Mason) resists (hence the title, goodbye girl). I’m not sure there were any memorable moments in this one.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – A real cult flick made in 1977 starring Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a scientist, and Susan Serandon, the heroine. Meatloaf was also in the movie. A recently engaged couple have a car breakdown in a isolated area and go to this bizarre mansion-castle for help. Transylvanians dance to the 'Time Warp', Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist from the planet Transexual, builds his own man, a beautiful Adonis he names Rocky, and a whole host of participation for the audience to enjoy.

I was living in Miami, Florida, at the time, and I saw this with a group of straight and gay friends from work. While many fans went to the movie in full drag, my friends did not, at least not the time I was with them. (It was a movie to be seen over and over and over again, although I would not recommend it for a young person.) It was the audience interaction that was most fun as we took our bag of props with us to the theatre. For instance, you hear a loud “bang” and the couple’s tire blows, and at the same instant, everyone in the audience pops a balloon. The couple run through the rain to the castle while the audience squirts squirt guns at each other. Fans sang along with the songs and held lit cigarette lighters to light up the darkness. Ridiculous, eccentric, it was fun. The last lines of the movie as the castle and the aliens within it fly away:

And crawling on the planet's face
Some insects called the Ruman Race.
Lost in time,
and lost in space......
and in meaning...

Then there are the classics, movies I’ll love forever, and that I have actually seen many times but still want to see again.

Fiddler on the Roof – Made in 1971, with Topol as Tevye and Norma Crane as Golde, his wife. What’s it all about? One word: Tradition. Tevye sums it up in the first lines: “A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn't easy. You may ask 'Why do we stay up there if it's so dangerous?' Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!”

The music is glorious, and even though this movie took place around the same time as Dr. Zhivago, in pre-revolutionary Russia, I loved the story line of a poor Jewish peasant who had to contend with marrying off his three daughters in non-traditional ways while antisemitic sentiment threatened his home. It is a beautiful story of romance with a glorious musical score and memorable characters.

The Sound of Music - Made in 1965 with Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, perhaps the best musical (or movie) of all-time. This is one you can hardly forget as it airs almost yearly now, like The Wizard of Oz, usually at Christmastime. A biographical saga about a nun turned governess who ultimately falls in love and marries a Captain with 7 children, it has everything: music, the stunning scenery, a basis in fact and history set in WWII Austria, romance, drama, comedy, adventure and suspense (a little). Loved it all, and will watch it again and again and again.

Cabaret – Bob Fosse’s 1972 musical starring Liza Minelli and Michael York. At the center of the movie is the Kit Kat Club. The club is the hub of Berlin’s lowlife during the rise of Nazism—an essentially immoral place where anything is for sale. While I do not remember anything more specific about the movie, I cannot forget Liza Minelli’s appearance in garter belts and bowler hat.

So many others, too many to mention, and you can see now why I just have to see them again—surely they all have much more relevancy than my memory alots them. Then, too, with the price of everything through the roof and the economy in such a slump, to put it mildly, good old-fashioned movie nights are an attractive alternative to nights on the town (not that I’ve had one in 20 years). Time to trade some DVD’s, pop some popcorn, and settle in for a family oldies-but-goodies movie fest.


Lauren said...

Those are some great movies. I haven't seen some of them in aaages. I wonder if Netflix has them...I shall have to go check.

Junosmom said...

What I liked best about this post is the photo of Jon. Haven't seen him in so long....