Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Movie Classics

I decided to actually take a holiday and not follow my usual routine, so no blogging Monday. I celebrated Independence Day Sunday night by going with my friends to the patriotic concert at their church, and then I saw a few fireworks displays on my drive home. Monday was mostly resting and reading, though I did watch A Capitol Fourth on PBS. Now it's back to work in catchup mode because I have something due tomorrow that I usually do on Mondays.

I'd planned to enjoy my post-book time by watching some movies, but TCM obliged me by showing some good stuff, so I ended up not using my DVD player until Monday, when I decided that the upcoming release of the final Harry Potter movie was an occasion for rewatching the whole series and went back to the first one.

Last week TCM showed I Know Where I'm Going, which a friend had recommended to me years ago, but they always seemed to show it overnight. I think I even recorded it once but never got around to watching it and neglected to label the tape. But finally they showed it during prime time when I was home and there was nothing else on, and it really was a delightful film. It's about a headstrong young woman who'd like to develop a taste for the finer things. She's sure she knows exactly what she wants and how to get it -- she's engaged to marry a wealthy industrialist, and she's on her way to the remote Scottish island where he's been based during the war to marry him. It's a complicated journey involving a lot of changes of trains and boats, but when she gets to the final leg, a boat ride to the island, everything comes to a stop because the fog is too dense. A young naval officer on his way home to the same island on leave is also stranded, but he has friends in the village and gets her a place to stay. The next day, the wind has blown away the fog, but the gale is too fierce for safe boating. As the bad weather continues, she becomes increasingly frantic about missing her own wedding and becoming more and more drawn to the young officer, and that leads her to question what she really wants. One thing I found interesting was that although it was one of those "which guy should I choose?" plots, it didn't make Mr. Wrong a villain. In fact, Mr. Wrong doesn't even appear. We only hear his voice on the radio. The choice all comes down to her evaluating her own priorities, not Mr. Wrong doing anything to prove that he's wrong.

While watching this movie, I couldn't help but think of the more recent film Leap Year. The setting is different (Ireland instead of Scotland), the focus is on the elaborate journey rather than on the waiting during the last leg, and the specific reason for the fate-of-the-relationship deadline is different, but there are still a lot of similarities. There's the young woman who has her perfect life all planned and who is in a hurry to make that happen, there's the weather delay that threatens her plan, which then throws her together with someone else who doesn't fit in with her plan. In the older movie, the event that has her really thinking about the other guy is a wedding anniversary party, and in the newer movie it's a wedding. It's not quite close enough to be a real remake, but there has to be some inspiration there (or else the plot elements from the older movies have since become romantic comedy cliches, so all newer movies are likely to look derivative). It would be kind of cool to see the setting using modern cinematography because the scenery would be gorgeous and it would really play up that sense of being trapped, but I suspect modern filmmakers wouldn't be able to resist making the story edgier, so I won't wish for a real remake.

Then on Saturday night they showed Pygmalion. I'd resisted watching this movie because My Fair Lady (the musical version) has been one of my favorite movies since I was a very small child. I remember once when I was maybe in kindergarten that a friend suggested we play movie stars, and my idea of a movie star was Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. I'd read the original play, but I couldn't imagine seeing it without music. Since it was on TV Saturday night, I decided to watch it, and now I have to confess that I may like the non-musical movie better as a depiction of that story. I do love the music, but I think the non-musical is funnier, the casting is better, and the acting is better. Plus, while the musical is set in Edwardian times, the non-musical seems contemporary to the time of release, so it's one of those glamorous Art Deco 30s movies. As familiar as that story is (and the musical is very faithful to the original play, aside from the bursting into song), I still kept laughing out loud. I also finally saw why Freddy was supposed to be a bad choice. In the musical, he's got a glorious tenor voice and sings this lovely, romantic song. But in the non-musical, he's portrayed as a weak-chinned dolt, someone you know she'd never be happy with. I guess it also helps that Higgins is played by Leslie Howard, who's far sexier than Rex Harrison. This movie just sparkles.

With these two movies, I have now become a Wendy Hiller fan. She's absolutely wonderful, and I think she was a far better Eliza Doolittle than Audrey Hepburn. Let's face it, Audrey was always too regal to be a truly believable guttersnipe, but Hiller's version comes across more as the spunky girl from the bad part of town who's trying to pull herself up. She would have made a great Katie, but I'm afraid that casting her in the Enchanted, Inc. movie would require time travel, as she was the right age back in the 30s and early 40s. I now need to keep an eye out for more of her movies.

I'll address my Harry Potter rewatch later as we count down to the final movie.

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