Movies 26 Sep 2007 07:20 pm
I teach a high school class in film studies, and part of the fun is experiencing old favorites with new audiences each semester. We work our way decade by decade through Hollywood’s best films, watching a mix of genres as we go.
This year, for example, many of my students saw for the first time the Marx Brothers in “Duck Soup,” Preston Sturges’ “Sullivan’s Travels,” and the Bogart/Bergman classic, “Casablanca.”
Some of the movies go over like lead balloons. The Marx Brothers were not a hit; I was the only one laughing through most of the movie. “Sullivan’s Travels” fared better, especially the ending, when things turn very somber and serious before wrapping up on a lighter note.
“Casablanca” was especially enjoyable. My students had no idea who Bergman ended up with in the end, or if Bogart would be selfish and turn over freedom fighter Victor Laslo to the Nazis. They were genuinely surprised, and seeing the movie with such a crowd makes me see it with new eyes, too. It really is the perfect film, carefully plotted with sparkling dialogue and not a single wasted scene. I’m as immovable as granite, but I still get choked up over it.
Right now, we’re in the middle of “White Heat,” a gritty piece of film noir with James Cagney as a mother-obsessed killer. Another blast from the past that is leagues above most of what passes for popular entertainment today.