Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Well of the Past

With the recent death of Nora Ephron, I got to thinking--yes, even I do that sometimes--about her filmography and how unabashedly romantic it was. Ephron's work is often seen as "Chick Flick" fodder and much of it had an emphasis on romance: When Harry Met Sally; Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail--I can't believe I'm actually typing these titles--but her films were all imbued with a strong sense of Hollywood's Golden Age. When Harry Met Sally is heavily lacquered with Harry Connick, Jr. crooning the standards, Sleepless in Seattle has the two female characters weeping copious tears over An Affair to Remember, and You've Got Mail had...spam in their Inbox? I don't know. 

The point is that contemporary films often, if not always, draw from the past whenever they want to invoke a sense of romance, class, and sophistication. In an era where jeans and a "hoodie" are the de rigueur outfit for today's sophisticate, that's probably what they must to do, because there's simply no equivalent in film today.  

In Ephron's case, being of a generation that came of age when the era of romance was near its end influenced her sensibilities because she most likely was a young adult during the tail end of glamour and romance, even if it was second hand even by then, though I personally consider the first half of the 1960s as the last time a strong sense of glamour and romance thrived in film. All romance from the 1970s onward draws heavily and near-exclusively from a wistful nostalgia of the past. In fact, those Golden Age movies were still being aired on late-night TV when I was a kid, but other than war and westerns, I had little use (and even less maturity) to fully appreciate what those movies offered. I do remember thinking how "old fashioned" it seemed, but with an appeal I recognized even then.

We're now three(?) generations removed from the "Greatest Generation", whom I consider the only group to come of age completely in Hollywood's Golden Age, and that idea of romance, while not completely gone, an ironic thanks must go to advertisers who manufacture some well-marketed nostalgia like Hollywood used to--but outside of tried-and-true commercial bytes, the whole emphasis on TV show remakes, comic book adaptations, and teen pulp novels don't lend much to a grown-up sensibility of romance.  I wonder when things will change...

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