I teach a cinema class at my high school, and it’s always interesting to watch the reaction that they have to movies that are widely considered “classics” — that is, movies that appear on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list. There are some movies that I absolutely love that will bomb with them. Rear Window is one of them. I think just watching Jimmy Stewart on screen with Grace Kelly is entertainment for a couple hours. My students, however, grow bored with the slow pace and lack of scene changes with the film and it ends up being one of the worst rated movies by them. Besides, when modern remakes come out that are better able to hold their attention, like Disturbia, is there a point to watching the oldies? I seem to think there is. But then again, I’m old. Older than they are, anyway.
Still, I am amazed at how some films still strike a chord with my students. Since we are just beginning our Hitchcock unit, we are currently viewing North by Northwest. Cary Grant is the original Rico Suave, to be sure. Today we viewed the train scene — where Cary and Eva exchange suggestive one-liners and undress each other with their eyes. All this in 1959, no less, with the Production Code still in place. If N by NW would be remade today, who would take the place of Cary and Eva in those lead roles? What kind of action and suggestiveness would they have to concoct today in order to make the film more modern?
in any case, my students are enjoying the banter between Cary and Eva, which is measured by a very scientific method: no students fell asleep today. Afternoon class + dark room = nap time, for many kids, but today everyone was wide awake, and some were even giggling at the cheesy lines the two actors were saying to each other in that train scene. Y’know, such classics as, “I’m a big girl …” which is followed up with “Yes, in all the right places, too.”
Just try using THAT one in today’s dating world.