Sunday, August 12, 2018

Flying High

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.

Hidden Tears

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, 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.


Bijoux said...

I remember when one of my book club members chose for us to read How Green Was My Valley. I thought I would hate it and be bored to tears, but I wound up enjoying the book. Sadly, I can't recall too much of it now.

Rob K said...

Hey, Bijoux!

You know, it's funny. As much as I love the film, I have to yet to read "How Green Was My Valley." Looks like I'm dragging my feet again!

Take care!

Ron said...

Rob, many, many years ago I remember seeing "How Green Was My Valley" and LOVING it! And you're right....what a tearjerker. Was Maureen O'Hara such a stunning lady? I remember seeing her in so many films that my mother enjoyed. In fact, she and I would often sit down on a Saturday afternoon and watch old movies.

I've seen "The Cranes Are Flying" but will look for it on a website I recently discovered that offers films for FREE - It's faaabulous! Check it out. They offer so many different genres.

Have a great rest of your week, buddy!

Rob K said...

Hey, Ron, how's it going?

"How Green Was My Valley" just wiped me out. I saw it shortly after my parents died and we were getting ready to sell our house.

Just a few minutes into the picture the narrator tells us that he can't believe how easily he can recall people long dead and a time long ago. And I went to pieces!

I just checked out!! Wow, what a terrific site! Thanks so much for the tip, buddy!

Take care!