I’m a film geek who tried to watch a bit of anything and everything with wages disappearing into DVD shops and cinema box office tills. Like most people this season I’ve watched, and whilst enjoyed might not be the word, found myself entertained by The King’s Speech and The Black Swan whilst trying to find the time to convince people to watch NEDs and Tangled with me. But I always seem to find the time to squeeze in a golden oldie or two. Be it curled up on the sofa with a hot chocolate or drinking beer with friends, a classic film always goes down well. But just what makes a film a classic and why do we find ourselves drawn back to them for comfort and entertainment?
This classic film can be found in almost every genre. From the war epics with ‘The Harvest of Death’ shot showing fields of corpses in silent reverence, to the fated romances ending so predictably in farewells surrounded by steam from the departing train (or aeroplane in the case of Casablanca). That gangster film and the inevitable shoot out or the thriller where that plot twist you have learnt so well still shocks you even on the 15th viewing. It is this formula, it seems fair to argue, which pulls us back in every time. Like an addiction the film enthusiast craves to stay one-step ahead of the plot whilst still allowing themselves to be caught up in the moment. A predictable film is disappointing but one which shocks us whilst displaying the formula appears to have a strong power over its audience. Great waves of emotion swing through these classics, tragedy and comedy having been the key elements of entertainment since Ancient Greece. A film may have the ability to reduce us to tears or school children repeating lines for hours on end, but it is, in my mind, this safety blanket formula which draws us back for more.
Camera work, direction, acting, soundtrack, these all hold key influences over a film’s sustainability but without the formula they will barely be seen as good examples of film perhaps studied by academics or those trying to broaden their library of films, they will never be the classic that can both disturb and comfort on a rainy day.
So, like a good gossip with a friend you know all too well, set aside a few hours and just lose yourself in the beauty of a classic movie.