By Ian Duk
The PM recently suggested that public investment in British commercial films might be what is needed to reignite the waning UK media. One can’t help but wonder, however, whether ‘blockbusters’ today are little more than the most expensive form of mediocre entertainment. With the advent of 3D, the increased accessibility to a vast reservoir of special effects, and a seemingly endless number of options provided by digital technology, has the attention shifted away from decent storytelling and basic creative imagery?
With flashy remakes of old classics, and endless sequels based on contemporary commercial fiction, could it be that we’ve traded potentially meaningful and iconic moments for formulaic stories with big explosions and throw-away one liners? This, of course is perhaps an unfair generalisation of modern cinema, but here are five examples of ageless instances captured on celluloid that have yet to meet their match.
Casablanca (1942): The unsociable and often brooding bar owner Rick Blaine (Bogart) is stirred from his sullen slumber by the unexpected return of old flame Ilsa, played in a calm yet sultry manner by Ingrid Bergman. This legendary moment in film history is encapsulated in the line, ‘Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.’
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961): Starring Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, centred on the untameable and alluring Holly Golightly, contains a famous scene in which she sits on a window sill singing Moon River, perhaps highlighting her underlying vulnerabilities. A beautiful scene, whichever way you look at it.
Gone with the Wind (1939): This film gave birth to one of the best known moments of dialogue on the silver screen, when Scarlett O’Hara asks of Rhett Butler, ‘Where shall I go? What shall I do?’ to which Rhett (Gable) calmly responds, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn’. Also famous for being an early instance of – believe it or not – swearing in film.
Citizen Kane (1941): Widely considered to be amongst the best films ever made, Orson Welles’ masterpiece starts with a reporter’s search to discover the significance of the dying word, ‘Rosebud’, breathed by media tycoon Charles Foster Kane. After a recap of his incredible rise to power, the film boasts a poignant ending in which the viewer discovers that ‘Rosebud’ was the name of an old sled of his, a simple but cherished memory from the innocence of his childhood.
Dr Strangelove (1964): A Kubrick classic starring Peter Sellers, the potential end of the world looms when a rogue US Air Force general releases a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union, unaware that they have an automatic retaliatory Doomsday device in place that will end life on Earth. Towards the end of the film, there is the timeless and well known scene where, on discovering that the release mechanism is broken, the US aircraft commander straddles the nuke and pushes it free, riding it rodeo style as it descends.