Old Movies, Eternal Morals
Theyre still making James Bond and Rocky movies, and the latest ones are getting surprisingly good reviews. A guy named Daniel Craig has now taken the role of Bond, which I guess means that George Lazenby has lost his box-office magic, but Sylvester Stallone is still playing Rocky Balboa, who, at age 60, is making another comeback in Rocky Balboa.
This suggests an idea for another movie. Why dont they make a beach-party movie, with an eye to the aging Baby Boomer market, called Old Gidget? Gidget would still wear a bikini and retain her virginal innocence, but now she would carry a cell phone and deal with such contemporary problems as Islamofascism. Of course her blonde hair might be silver now. And shed wear Depends under her bikini bottom.
I love old movies, because I learn so much from them. They remind me how much we have changed. In fact, they are among the things that have changed us. They are paradoxical that way. Light romances like the Gidget movies celebrated monogamy and unconsciously undermined it at the same time.
The old prudes who were suspicious of all movies had a point. So do the later liberals who deplore violence in films; maybe they dont go far enough. The movies teach us to expect too much from romantic love and to think violence can make the world just.
The films I like best treat love and violence with irony. I think this may be why Alfred Hitchcocks movies wear so well. They respect moral norms, but they show happiness and justice coming at a price. Its no accident that Hitchcock never made a war movie, not even during World War II. Frank Capra could make stirring patriotic propaganda; Hitchcock couldnt. He was too aware of the other side, the dark obverse of things. Maybe it has something to do with religion. Not that he could do religious propaganda either, but his Catholicism, as many critics have noted, seems to color his work, even Psycho.
The morality of a great writer, as G.K. Chesterton says somewhere, is not the morality he explains, but the morality he forgets to explain. A Shakespeare doesnt spell out his moral; he makes it felt through his characters, through the situations, and so forth. Hitchcocks morality is implicit that way. When I watch his films, the last of which was made a generation ago, I never feel Im watching something essentially quaint, like a period piece; I feel its moral immediacy. The passage of time hasnt really changed our reactions to Notorious or Strangers on a Train, despite certain differences in moral fashion.
By contrast, even a Christian watching Ben-Hur today feels that it was obviously trying to manipulate the emotions of the audiences of another time. The spectacle is still thrilling, but the dialogue feels dated.
The moral law is eternal, but elusive. At times we easily confuse it with our own desires, passions, opinions, customs, and fashions. We marvel when other people do this, but we often fail to notice when we do it ourselves. It becomes more obvious in retrospect, which is why movies reflections of our former selves may assist our insight and help us to see ourselves more objectively. Those old war films can make us wonder why we hated our enemies so much. Had we perhaps gone a little mad? And are we still doing it today?
|Copyright © 2006 by the
Griffin Internet Syndicate,
a division of Griffin Communications
This column may not be reprinted in print or
Internet publications without express permission
of Griffin Internet Syndicate
Archive Table of Contents
Return to the SOBRANS home page.
|FGF E-Package columns by Joe Sobran, Sam Francis, Paul Gottfried, and others are available in a special e-mail subscription provided by the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. Click here for more information.|