You think I would’ve learned my lesson with John Ford.
Several years ago, I rented "How Green Was My Valley" from Netflix because I thought it was time I finally caught up with Ford’s 1941 classic about a family of Welsh miners in the early 20th Century.
I had seen so much of Ford’s work that it seemed wrong to have this one slip by for so long.
But I confess that I wasn’t feeling terribly excited. Yes, it was supposed to be a great movie, but I thought it might be stuffy and dated. And what the hell did I know from Welsh coal miners anyway?
I was responding to this film with all the enthusiasm of a trip to the dentist.
Well, when I finally sat down to watch the thing, I was sobbing so hard that I was nearly dehydrated by the time the credits rolled. The setting may have nothing to do with my life, but the characters and the emotions grabbed hold of me like few films ever have in my life.
I strongly suspect this is the reason why it’s called a classic.
Now I’ve had a Russian film called “The Cranes are Flying” on my Netflix hit list for ages.
Again, I had heard great things about it, but I thought it might be dreary and depressing and I allowed myself to get sidelined by the latest hot movie or TV series, while the cranes kept flying further south down the list.
Finally, I decided I needed to watch something with some gray matter. I had been burned too many times by positively-reviewed action crapfests that offered nothing beyond mindless violence and deafening special effects.
The people responsible for these atrocities weren’t even trying to make sense. They were just throwing junk on the screen and hoping audiences lapped it up.
Enough, already, I declared, let me sink my eyeballs into a real film. So, I moved Mikhail Kalatozov’s World War II saga up to the Number One spot and five minutes in, I knew I had struck gold.
Made in 1957—the year I was born—“The Cranes Are Flying” tells the story of Veronika and Boris, a pair of young Russian lovers whose lives are torn apart by Germany’s surprise invasion in 1941.
Kalatozov is a visual genius, composing beautiful deep-focus shots that take us right into the story.
“The Cranes Are Flying” is among the “"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die," and it’s also a favorite of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola—and it’s easy to see why.
Be warned there are no superheroes, wookies, droids, or CGI. There is only a powerful story told with bold, unforgettable images.
According to IMDB.com, the film caused quite a stir in the Soviet Union because of its depiction of such issues as draft dodging and war profiteering—a sharp contrast to the propaganda bilge that people had been accustomed to watching.
“The Cranes Are Flying” has also renewed my interest in making my own film. I’ve running my yap since the Middle Ages about how I want to make my own film.
Perhaps this experience will be what I need to get me up off my ass and out into the world.
And I’m also wondering what other classics I’ve got buried on my Netflix list.