Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Girl and movies

Sorry for the light posting; first I had computer problems and other urgent matters, and this week I start a permaculture course in the west of Ireland.

I used to write about The Girl almost every week, but in the last few years it’s been less and less. Part of that is because I am more protective of her privacy now that she is a teenager; I felt secure posting something adorable my two- or four- or even eight-year-old said, especially since I didn’t say her real name, show her face or say exactly where we lived.

As she approached adolescence, though, I’ve had many talks with her about online privacy, and she knows that I don’t post anything about her without her permission. Young people these days have never known a world that was not lived online, and they face threats previous generations never knew -- from cyberbullying to porn to the addictive nature of internet itself. Part of me wanted to keep her from modern media altogether, but that’s increasingly difficult, even here in rural Ireland. Instead, she’s getting a life on a homestead but is able to relate to her peers, and I can be satisfied with that.

No matter how different our lives might seem to some, we still go through the normal Dad-teenager conversations -- eat healthier food, turn off the telly and read more, do your chores, and so on. I’m not fond of most of the music she loves or the teenaged-girl culture that she swims in, but she stays away from anything genuinely objectionable. She also reads for pleasure, goes to the opera and sees Shakespeare plays with me, or watches old black-and-white movies - something foreign to many of her peers. She loves riding horses, and has acquired a passion for archery and other medieval martial arts, taking part in competitions against adults and occasionally bringing home trophies.

“You know, Dad, I think I’d be quite prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse,” she said. Yes, I’m pretty pleased about that, I said.


I’ve talked about my love of black-and-white films from the 30s and 40s -- not just because I grew up with them, but because their plots and dialogue seem much funnier, more suspenseful, and more realistic than most films today. They portray a world that lived on far less energy than we use today, generated far less waste and pollution. Finally, filmmakers like Frank Capra and King Vidor offered a compelling, relatable stories about regular working people facing moral dilemmas, organising with their neighbours and standing up to the greedy and powerful.

We used to watch lighter fare -- Danny Kaye in Hans Christian Andersen, or Burt Lancaster in The Crimson Pirate, or Errol Flynn in The Adventures of Robin Hood, or Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby, or the Marx Brothers in anything. As she got older, though, we moved on to more substantial films -- Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or Meet John Doe, or Our Daily Bread. We watched Preston Sturgess satires like Sullivan’s Travels or The Lady Eve, Howard Hawks comedy-dramas like His Girl Friday.

When she got older, we went through Hitchcock, from The 39 Steps through Rear Window (now her favourite film), The Trouble With Harry, North By Northwest, and so many others. She’s developed a taste for film noir, so I’ve been introducing her to Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, The Killers, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, Gaslight and The Big Sleep.

Now, older still, she is often too busy with her own life to have a movie night with me, but sometimes she makes an exception. Last night she asked to see the one remaining film we hadn’t seen in my collection -- The Big Steal, with Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and William Bendix. It turned out to be a delightful romp, perhaps too light in tone to properly be called a film noir, but just as suspenseful. 

The film wastes no time getting to its plot, starting the action in the first minute without explaining who the characters are -- it’s more fun to figure them out as we watch them chase, steal from, and bamboozle each other. Most films simply explains how smart their characters are; this one shows them doing clever things, with little explanation, and assumes you’re sharp enough to pay attention.

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