When we hear the term “world cinema”, the artistic value and aesthetics of the past century come to mind. Over the years, classic films have had a great influence on the global audiences and on contemporary filmmaking. It’s through world cinema of yesterday that today’s directors have learnt how to deal with another era on the screen, and show the style, methods, sounds and effects, cultural mores of a bygone age.
To revive the golden era of world cinema for the benefit of cinema enthusiasts, Navrasa Duende, a production house, organised a classic Hollywood movie festival in Delhi last week, featuring films like The Man Who Knew Too Much by the American director Alfred Hitchcock, starring James Stewart and Doris Day; and It Happened One Night, a romantic screwball comedy by the Italian-American filmmaker Frank Capra, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.
Ecstatic with the response elicited by the Classic Movie Festival, Dinesh B. Singh, Founder, Navrasa Duende, said “The timeless themes and memorable characters in these films have captured the hearts and imagination of viewers and influenced generations. It’s not very often that we get an opportunity to view movies created by such gifted directors of the golden era. Both the directors are unique in their style and approach and are ingenious in their own way. Alfred Hitchcock had a bent towards thriller movies while Frank Capra focused on movies that carried social messaging. We have received an overwhelming response and are happy to bring such unique movie festival to the audience.”
Hitchcock, one of the greatest auteurs in world cinema, was often referred to as “The Master of Suspense”, as he pioneered cinematic genres such as suspense and psychological thriller. Hitchcock has given us classic films such as Notorious, Spellbound, Blackmail, Psycho and many more. And it was no wonder that his work was among the highlights of the recent festival.
Everytime you go back to the journey, you find new inspiration again from those movies because current movies depend so much on the technology. But during that era to create a zoom in, to create cinematic arts was different so they had to back their content much more than today.
In an interview with the critic Roger Ebert in 1969, Hitchcock commented, “The writer and I plan out the entire script down to the smallest detail, and when we’re finished all that’s left to do is to shoot the film. Actually, it’s only when one enters the studio that one enters the area of compromise. Really, the novelist has the best casting since he doesn’t have to cope with the actors and all the rest.” He further said, “Once the screenplay is finished, I’d just as soon not make the film at all ... I have a strongly visual mind. I visualise a picture right down to the final cuts. I write all this out in the greatest detail in the script, and then I don’t look at the script while I’m shooting. I know it off by heart, just as an orchestra conductor needs not look at the score ... When you finish the script, the film is perfect. But in shooting it you lose perhaps 40% of your original conception.”
Such commentary is indispensable for understanding the context of his work, and not least for better appreciating his films.
The same rule applies to Frank Capra, who was known for weaving beautiful stories on the big screen with a twist of comedy. He was one of the pioneers of the silent-era comedy and has given the world films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe and, of course, It Happened One Night.
In his autobiography written in 1971, Capra expressed his feelings about the shifting sands in the film industry, “The winds of change blew through the dream factories of make-believe, tore at its crinoline tatters.... The hedonists, the homosexuals, the hemophiliac bleeding hearts, the God-haters, the quick-buck artists who substituted shock for talent, all cried: ‘Shake ‘em! Rattle ‘em! God is dead. Long live pleasure! Nudity? Yea! Wife-swapping? Yea! Liberate the world from prudery. Emancipate our films from morality!.... Kill for thrill–shock! Shock! To hell with the good in man, Dredge up his evil–shock! Shock!’
The films selected for the festival’s maiden installment are regarded among the all-time bests, and the greatest achievement of their respective directors. These timeless movies have entertained film lovers across generations, also winning several accolades around the world.
Speaking to Guardian 20 about these directors, Dinesh B. Singh said, “ First of all, we think that these directors are the animals who can feed you all your life. There is a lot of entertainment which we think that today’s generation, if they get to see then they will understand its value and would like to be a part of it. Secondly, if you look at the current movies, be it Hollywood or Bollywood or world movies, the focus has somewhat shifted from the subject of humans to super humans or aliens so we thought it would be a good idea to bring back these movies, revive again and let people connect again with these movies to the human subject.”
When asked about the criteria for choosing these two directors, he said, “Primarily the reason why we chose these directors is we wanted to choose two directors who has seen silent era as well as language era. The value we think these directors with the ability to reach audience and express themselves without dialogues. They wanted to create art but they also fell responsible for creating entertainment. They wanted to converge art and entertainment and that is how they were different.”
He further added, “Change in everything has to come. But at the same time it’s good to revisit how we have moved in cinema or any form of art. Everytime you go back to the journey, you find new inspiration again from those movies because current movies depend so much on the technology. But during that era to create a zoom in, to create cinematic arts was different so they had to back their content much more than today. Today a lot of movies are a hit just because of technical values. We do think that they do have a shelf life and that people will realize only when they get to see it so in process of reviving what happens is if thousands of people see these movies and go back then it will cause a trigger.”