A caveat – what I write is from my own experience, reading and hearsay, not research. It all started through the paucity of good, amusing films, and the repetitious new versions of the old staples, like Kidnapped. Some have filled the gap, like Notting Hill and Love Actually, but I was brought up short when the ‘F’ word was sprinkled in them like confetti. It has been with me all my life, in the navy, on the building site, on the rugby field, and I have used it more than once to make an extreme point, but rarely taken it home with me. I didn’t discover its regular use until I was 18 and a sailor, but now it seems to be common currency, not just an epithet signalling extreme rage. My mind then questioned whether the act of love itself, had also been degraded and that romance was not as prevalent as it was in the 20s to 50s, possibly because life is so much faster there isn’t time for protracted romance.
When we went to the cinema with our tanner for a seat almost touching the screen we watched Fred Astaire and Ginger romancing; Robin Hood totally romancing, and lovely romantic musicals with fantastic singable songs and amusing lyrics. There were always films about war and crime and through WW2 there were patriotic ones to boost the home spirits like ‘In Which We Serve’ Even these films still keep reappearing now. Think of the incredible production of ‘My Fair Lady’, the Bond chain. We could cite numerous other successes, like the ‘Thomas Crown Affair’. Unlike some of my family, I found ‘Notting Hill’ with its awful lodger in the house with the blue door, acting as a trigger in a placid atmosphere, to be incredibly well constructed. It had that underlying friendship. love and understanding between the support characters which made it refreshing. There was no wham bam, the aggression was provided by the avid Press, something we all abhor, and apart from the odd gratuitous word ‘Fuck’, even my old Gran would have loved it. ‘Love Actually’, in a different league, seems to be an acquired taste I developed instantly, as it was so contrary in every respect, but so outrageously funny, one could understand the reason for the crass language. The kids dressed as for a fancy dress party and used in the school nativity play, was an act of genius, it offered so many moments of humour. On the other hand I wonder why Film Directors feel it necessary to introduce martial arts skills into films where the characters have no need to perform impossible acts of athleticism, and running on the roofs of umpteen cars, and mass, pointless crashes and destruction serve no scriptural advantage, but that and the indulgence in brutality are sending the wrong message to young impressionable children, because the parental care notices are rarely seen and if seen rarely acted upon.
So I come to romanticism. I am a romantic and I believe, deep down most people are. This doesn’t mean I want to see stories of the sort in some women’s magazines. Life today, like it was in the 20’s, is difficult enough for many, not necessarily only the poor, We need light, friendship and love in our lives, if we haven’t time or the opportunity to find it for ourselves, we, like those in the 20s should find it on tap. It is years since I watched Soaps, but my remembered impression was that they were a series of disasters interspersed with aggression. Contrast, colour, surprise and regret, love and hate, happiness and despair, are the ingredients of great stories, it is the balance between dark and light, between love and hate which determines a dark crime epic and a romantic comedy, and in my experience there is more dark than light. It is more difficult, today, to be funny than it was without retreading old themes. Similarly it is equally difficult to be original in serious films of dark deeds and history, it has all been done. It seems the only option to achieve something approaching originality is to jazz it up out of all recognition to reality, or just keep repeating the old staples. In effect, because I remember old films well, my search for future original and acceptable entertainment is unlikely to be satisfied very often.
The dilemma faced by the film makers has vexed artists since Michaelangelo, and will never go away. To clear my brain as to what is originality and what is beauty in the wider sense, I leave till tomorrow.