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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

TCMFF Classic Film Presentations Compete Well Against New Releases

Yes, that is exactly what I meant to say. I love movies of all periods, I particularly love musicals, however I am developing a strong prejudice for the good old days when the music was not so over the top loud that you couldn’t hear the words and the scene was not so darkly lit that it was difficult to see the action. I’m thinking of such great classics as Singin’ In The Rain or Funny Girl, (both scheduled to appear at the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival), versus the more recently made Sweeny Todd as an example.

Sweeny Todd is a delightful stage play that became loud, loud, loud, and dark, dark, dark when it was brought to the screen and that pretty much, to my mind, put it out of the running to ever be considered a classic despite a fine cast. I think it is a current fad, a hopefully passing style in filmmaking. But I am truly looking forward to the day when they can get the deaf fellow out of the sound booth and quit lighting the set to make the most of any passing explosions. Do you suppose the dark lighting is to mask less than well-built sets? Do we have a generation of sound techs whose hearing has been damaged by too much time with the earphones turned up to the max?

It’s not just that we exit the old musicals humming the tunes, it’s that we’re still singing them weeks, years, decades later; in the shower, driving, working in the garden. I even sing in the woods – to keep the local bears aware of my whereabouts. I remember well the words and melodies from those musicals seen so long ago, though I must admit Singin’ In The Rain is particularly apt for someone living on the Oregon coast as I do. It use to be that every musical delivered three or four tunes that stayed with one through the years - the happy tunes, the love songs, the heart lifting marches, (I loved it when Clifton Webb played John Phillip Souza!). Even the sweeping waltzes of the bio-pics (pick a composer, any composer’s life story will do). You left the theater sure you could dance like Kelly or Astaire or any of those graceful, beautiful ladies who did it “backward and in heels”. The dark, blasting efforts of recent years have never provided any kind of similar sensation.

To be fair it is not just the musicals that have become loud and dark. Even Harry Potter has fallen victim to this notorious practice. Although the first film did have a John Williams score worthy of a concert and more than one theme that I will find forever recognizable. The film was also light and witty with a fine balance of visual and emotional dark - enough to send the delicious chill up ones spine but not so much that you were overwhelmed. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone is well on its way to being a classic – but can we say the same of the rest of the Harry Potter films? I fear the chances became less and less as the series progressed. In the succeeding films the light, wit, and wonder that previously shone through got lost under lots of explosions and a dimming of the lights until it was difficult to identify the characters or decipher what they were saying behind a curtain of dark, and a barrage of more bangs, pows, and general explosions than a Batman comic book.

One has to be thankful for the great good care that is being taken to preserve for future generations the films whose melodies fill the head, lighten the heart, and stick like a good breakfast to nourish us with words and dance. Likewise, one has to celebrate the venues and events that offer everyone the opportunity to see the very films that need preserving. And TCM - the channel and its Festival - is a large part of that celebration. I for one intend to be at that party. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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