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'Old' Films - What do you think of them?

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OED says

kitsch kɪt∫

► noun

[mass noun] art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way.

While its clear there are plenty of old films that are not kitsch in any way, I'd just like to say that when it comes to studio era Hollywood films, I often appreciate gaudy sentimentality in an entirely non-ironic (and therefore not kitsch) way. Something like Some Came Running (to choose the first melodrama that came to mind) is just great.

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I've always been embarrassed by the fact that, as a film-lover, I really can't get on with much that was made before gritty realism became a thing in the 70s. My wife loves older stuff like Charade, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, It's a Wonderful Life etc, but I just can't get on with them, often struggling to stay awake.

As mentioned, plots often seem straightforward in contrast to today's arguably over-twisty stories (I was amazed at how mundane the plot of Rear Window was). I also really struggle with the theatrical acting style and the overly loud scores.

I watched a fair few American films covering the history of cinema at uni (Citizen Kane, The Searchers, Woman Of The Year etc), but only enjoyed them in an academic sense, in the same way as you might study a Shakespeare text (as shesaid...er...said) until I hit The Godfather.

Glad to know I'm not alone though!

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Surely finding good films of any era requires cherry-picking?

The majority of any mass entertainment doesn't have any real value be it cinema, books, music or games. The good is always going to be outweighed by the mediocre and the poor, even during golden periods. The difference is that a lot of the bad gets forgotten or lost over time so we are naturally left with a cherry-picked selection.

Good points, and I think Cookie nails it: the films available to us from ANY era tend to be cherry-picked: by ad men, by entertainment conglomerates, by Turner Classic Movies, by Netflix.... therefore the range of films we see from the past is a more narrow choice than was actually released, and the quality possibly higher.

I do think, though, that the original argument was that old films were inherently less valuable and entertaining, even when drawn from the list of 'selected' films of the period. So in other words the argument is not that The Wizard of Oz or Vertigo are shit, but that [picks randomly from wiki list] Eagle Squadron (1942) is likely to be pants, by virtue of nothing more than its age and that it doesn't speak to a modern audience.

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Fucking love the French New Wave, especially Godard & Rohmer and Italian Neorealism, Tarkovsky. Old films rock.

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I've always been embarrassed by the fact that, as a film-lover, I really can't get on with much that was made before gritty realism became a thing in the 70s. My wife loves older stuff like Charade, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, It's a Wonderful Life etc, but I just can't get on with them, often struggling to stay awake.

See, now I don't get this. I watched Rear Window for the first time this year and it's like nothing else I've seen. Completely intriguing and the way it is shot is so creative. I can't get my head around someone struggling to stay awake with that on.

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A lot of my friends shy away from old, black and white films, treating them almost like a genre as if its hue or age gives away anything about the plot, for instance. I haven't paid much attention to a film's age in a very long time, it is totally unimportant.

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See, now I don't get this. I watched Rear Window for the first time this year and it's like nothing else I've seen. Completely intriguing and the way it is shot is so creative. I can't get my head around someone struggling to stay awake with that on.

Indeed. I only watched some Hitchcock films for the first time recently (well, within the last couple of years). Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, The Birds. They're all brilliant films. Rear Window in particular is fantastic.

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I'm no film theorist, but I'd go as far as to say the gritty, explicit (wouldn't call it realism, necessarily) nature of 70s (American) cinema that Pob likes was a direct reaction to the psychological, unsettling but subtle nature of Hitchcock in particular. I get preferring one style of film-making to another and don't have a problem with that, but I do like to think about how style is always informed by what's gone before and made new in response to it.

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I don't really think about age. A decent movie is a decent movie, however old it is. As others said, most of the old crap has been basically filtered out so old movies to be found these days may have a higher hit rate than new ones. And thanks to this forum and the Internet. I've been able to see lots of old stuff I'd never even have heard of otherwise.

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I do think, though, that the original argument was that old films were inherently less valuable and entertaining, even when drawn from the list of 'selected' films of the period. So in other words the argument is not that The Wizard of Oz or Vertigo are shit, but that [picks randomly from wiki list] Eagle Squadron (1942) is likely to be pants, by virtue of nothing more than its age and that it doesn't speak to a modern audience.

Until about a decade ago, Casablanca and Citizen Kane were, by far, competing for Best Film of All Time (according to many Western movie experts). Recently, things like Vertigo and Raging Bull are climbing up the list and often lauded as "better" than the other two. I think that says something about us - as society changes (e.g. generational changes) we rediscover different classics, because they agree more with who we think we are.

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Almost all of my favourite films were released in my lifetime, but I imagine that's true of a lot of people (especially if like me they haven't seen all that many films).

"Old" films I really love: Rear Window, Brief Encounter, 12 Angry Men and I think that's pretty much it.

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FW Murnau, Georg Pabst, Marcel Carné, Fritz Lang, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Zeffirelli, Pasolini, Serge Leone, Eisenstein, Pabst, Ingmar Bergman, Hitchcock, Claude Chabrol, DW Griffith, Carl Dreyer, Billy Wilder, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Alexander Mackendrick, Powell & Pressburger, Sidney Lumet, Francois Truffaut, Orson Welles, Eric Rohmer, Elia Kazan, John Huston, Stanley Kubrick, Frank Capra, David Lean, Fellini, Carol Reed, Charles Laughton, Billy Wilder, DW Griffith, Blake Edwards, Gene Kelly, Nicholas Ray, Sanjyit Ray, Akira Kurosawa, Ozu, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jacques Torneur, Oshima, Chris Marker, Lindsay Anderson, Carol Reed, Michael Reeves, Alexander Jodorowsky, Tarkovsky, Ken Loach, Leni Riefenstahl, Ousmane Sembene, Luis Bunuel, Jan Svankmajer, Walt Disney...

Anyone that says they don't like any old films may as well say they don't like films. Or having eyes.

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I do enjoy a good Noir detective movie. The Big Sleep is a favourite. Also really appreciate the modern attempts like The Man Who Wasn't There, LA Confidential (albeit in colour, the vibe is there) and Sin City. Hell, even the theatrical release of Blade Runner has some Noir traits. There's probably loads I've missed, but I don't get out to the cinema much.

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Until about a decade ago, Casablanca and Citizen Kane were, by far, competing for Best Film of All Time (according to many Western movie experts). Recently, things like Vertigo and Raging Bull are climbing up the list and often lauded as "better" than the other two. I think that says something about us - as society changes (e.g. generational changes) we rediscover different classics, because they agree more with who we think we are.

Citizen Kane, I'll give you, but I've seldom seen Casablanca hanging around the top spots of Best Of lists (like Sight & Sound). And Vertigo has been a mainstay in many lists for decades and decades. It has always been regarded in the same pantheon as the likes of Citizen Kane.

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I recall watching Citizen Kane but only in the last few years. I'd seen it on all the Best Films Ever lists and eventually got round to watching it. One thing that struck me about it is how modern it felt. I guess that is the ongoing appeal, but it never felt like an "old film" as such, from the cinematography (the lighting and framing of the shots especially) and the editing, especially the breakfast montage sequence.

It is certainly true for me, like some others here, that my favourite films all stem from my early cinema-going years (late 70s and 80s). A couple of classic old films are in my collection (12 Angry Men, Dial M For Murder, Dead of Night, Rope), but not many by any means. I've got a few early Kubrick films to watch and some early heist films from recommendations in here.

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I recall watching Citizen Kane but only in the last few years. I'd seen it on all the Best Films Ever lists and eventually got round to watching it. One thing that struck me about it is how modern it felt. I guess that is the ongoing appeal, but it never felt like an "old film" as such, from the cinematography (the lighting and framing of the shots especially) and the editing, especially the breakfast montage sequence.

I have to admit I don't like the movie that much storywise, but fully agree with technical aspects being groundbreaking. You can see a lot of it in earlier Tim Burton stuff.

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Some of my favourite films are old stuff. I love a lot of the movies Ealing Studios knocked out, not to mention Powell and Pressburger. The Red Shoes is fucking dazzling at times. Well, actually, most of the time.

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One set of old films I've just remembered I really like are the early Carry On films (Cabby, Spying, Teacher, etc.). There is a gentle charm to them that you rarely see in the later colour Carry on films or many comedies these days.

Monkeyboy mentioning P&P just reminded me of A Matter Of Life And Death. Again, like Citizen Kane, it was a film that turned out completely differently to what I was expecting; the whole use of black & white and colour was fantastic.

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I had one of my most pleasurable cinema experiences in years seeing a cleaned up print of Quai Des Brumes in March. Very much classic film noir but well told and I couldn't believe it was from 1938.

I really wish my local cinema showed more (any) older films.

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​I'm genuinely interested how people feel about this. Do you watch a lot of 'old' films? What's your opinion of them? Do you do it to educate yourself about cinema, or out of genuinely enjoyment? Is the era in which they made a barrier to entry or something that excites your interest? Do you cherry-pick the better-reviewed films or are you happy to work your way through a genre, movement or director's back-catalogue? Are even the best 'old' films not as sophisticated as the best produced today?

Genuine enjoyment. I mean, there are certain directors whose stuff it's worth working through, just because so many of the films are great- like Preston Sturges, John Huston, Billy Wilder or Sam Fuller- or even writers like Norman Krasna who churned out some pretty weird and wonderful screwball comedies. I don't think films have become that much more sophisticated- they've definitely become faster and technology has changed things, even in terms of how much easier it is to move the camera...

I can't think of a sci-film more sophisticated than 2001 in the recent era... or even many films as twisted and weird like Shock Corridor. I really think the idea that older films were somehow simpler than modern ones is totally off-the-mark- yeah, many of them reflect social values of the time that have changed, or were made under repressive censorship codes, but that actually gives a lot of them their spark and ingenuity. Sure, there's a lot of crap made, but there's a lot of crap made today as well.

But at the same time I don't really split films up into eras in my head. Just good and bad, and then probably a third category of 'eighties nostalgia' which allows me to watch any old shit from that time with rose tinted specs.

Sort of off-topic but this Sam Fuller documentary is great.

​tldr: cinema has always been pretty good even if Crash won a best picture Oscar a few years ago.

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On of the reasons I got rid of my ex girlfriend is because she refused to watch anything pre 1990 for fear it be boring. I recall watching two 'newer' old movies with her. The verdict and midnight cowboy as they were 2 of my fave films, I mean that acting, newman and warden, Hoffman and voight, fucking amazing. Her review "boring bullshit" pretty much got rid on the spot

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For me it's more than I don't watch as many films as I could/should/can, but I vary my tastes with cinema-goings - Some Like It Hot was brilliant, I saw that a couple of years ago in a particularly rustic Polish cinema, great fun and didn't occur that anyone was watching it because it was old or anything of the like.

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It required tremendous strength for me to not sever all ties with a bunch of my friends when they thought The General was boring. Simply wrong. At least they loved City Lights.

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I see people referencing movies from the late 60s, 70s in defence of "old". For me there's something of a line I'd guess I'd draw somewhere in the 60s between "old" and "new". Maybe it's just down to the increased use of real location shooting, or more "realistic" drama (what I see as realistic from my experience I suppose.

I dunno, generally I see more talent and authenticity in eg, the modern BBC adaptations of Dickens novels (TV, but the reasoning is the same) than, say, 1940s efforts. Not that the older films are without merit, but there's something to be said for a further 60 years of development of the art, even if *some* of it falls into just creating new tropes and clichés.

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It required tremendous strength for me to not sever all ties with a bunch of my friends when they thought The General was boring.

I'm glad you didn't. It's hard enough for the blind to integrate into society as it is.

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Is it the contention that 'old' films are worse than newer films, or just that 90% of everything is shit?

I think the original contention was that the majority of old films don't have much (if any) value beyond kitsch, and that you can find good ones but that's cherry-picking. There was also an argument in the original thread that most people's replies (about the quality of old films) are biased because people who vote for their favourites on places like IMDB, or even post in these sorts of threads, are all well-informed cineastes.

I do think, though, that the original argument was that old films were inherently less valuable and entertaining, even when drawn from the list of 'selected' films of the period. So in other words the argument is not that The Wizard of Oz or Vertigo are shit, but that [picks randomly from wiki list] Eagle Squadron (1942) is likely to be pants, by virtue of nothing more than its age and that it doesn't speak to a modern audience.

This is an... interesting interpretation of the sequence of events that led to this thread.

The contention was made that early computer games are unique amongst all media in that they have a high barrier to entry, whereas classical music, early film and classic literature don't suffer from that. A few people argued that that was a pile of old bollocks, as all the early forms of media have high barriers to entry, and amongst the examples given was the fact that, for a lot of people, early film (particularly pre-60s, and especially silent) is difficult to watch - relatively few people would happily choose to watch films from those eras, and only a select few remain easily accessible to modern audiences (e.g. Snow White, Casablanca - I can't actually think of any silent films I'd class as being 'accessible' to a modern audience). Much, in fact, like early computer games.

I stand by that assessment, as much as I, personally, enjoy films well into the black and white era. I saw nothing in the thread which made a qualitative argument that older films have a higher dross-to-quality ratio, just a series of arguments reiterating that they do have a high barrier to entry for a modern audience.

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