It's the new black.
In this, my inaugural Gaudy post, I shall begin, as Oscar Wilde would any of his gaudies, with some theatre of the mind. So please relax and close your eyes as you swirl your imaginary sifters of brandy. I hope the vintage is to your liking. Take care not to wrinkle the complimentary housecoats I have provided or drift off to sleep, as the evening will conclude with a rigorous game of charades. (My man servant, Nigel, can truly attest to its rigor.)
It is raining the kind of droplets meant to artfully caress a lover’s cheek, transform the playful tilt of a Fedora into a death knell, and spur a besuited stranger into a frenzy of perfectly executed jazz squares. But, there will be no puddle-dancing for you. For you are late to a picture show with your beau. He, being the diligent pursuer that he is, has already procured popcorn to win your approval. What he does not know is that years of stuffy Sunday afternoon matinees have taught you to prefer black licorice; after all, it is the cheaper and less popular option, yielding more for you.
You have traded your sensible loafers for patent leather Mary Janes that are so high your legs are now classified as stems; and, your name, well, it’s Baby Doll or Doll Face or Baby Face Doll. Ask any Tom, Dick, or Harry. You are paying the price for fashion, but who could blame you? No sensible shoe would ever do your full-length mink coat justice. Ever since you caught a glimpse of its inky gloriousness in the window of Bullock’s Department Store, you have been besotted, and frankly unstoppable. Next stop, promotion to mailroom gal! And so you cobble along these rain-slicked streets at full speed, not unlike a doe on its first legs, a seemingly fragile wide-eyed and bushy-tailed doe. You have a beau to meet at the cinema.
There now. Have we sufficiently established that you are the heroine and the victim, the observer and the observed, the mink-wearer and the mink-less? You may open your eyes. You have just been treated to a tribute to the golden days of cinema ― old Hollywood, or HOLLYWOODLAND, if I may, where the men were brooding, the women were pale wisps of hysteria waiting to happen, and the smoking was encouraged in all manner of establishments, lungs be damned! What’s that you say? We’ve already reached our quota of old Hollywood sendups for the year ― the fervent, dazzling love letter to cinema that was Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist (2011) being the beginning and the end of it.
First, may I respond by saying that you, imaginary guest, are wonderfully articulate when you are speaking off the cuff, and second, that’s just it: the way we experience the cultural treasures of the past is always changing and always mediated by the present. The Artist may very well be this generation of film geeks’ gateway drug to Citizen Kane, and the endless parade of YouTube clips of Orson Welles’ tantrums that are sure to follow. Don’t get me wrong. As a proud owner of both Netflix and Hulu Plus subscriptions, I can honestly say that mama needs to watch her stories. There’s not a fledgling pilot or long-running CW drama or British, well anything really, that I have not seen and instantly attached myself to like a pop culture barnacle. But, in our society that places such a premium on sequels and spinoffs, (here’s looking at you, Michael Bay and your explosions), I can’t help but think that we are losing something.
And so with this column I propose a return to cinema the best way a modern gal like myself knows how: the Criterion Collection. Ok, ok, the Eight-Dollar-a-Month Criterion Collection…by which I mean my Netflix queue. Each week, I will watch a classic film and bring you my honest impressions of that film, from what I love (Cary Grant), to what I find grating (fainting women), and everything in between (the dramatic swelling of ocean waves for which the jury’s still out). So until next week, let’s raise our imaginary sifters of brandy and give an Audrey Hepburn-worthy toast to cinema, darling! I want to see those comically large cigarette holders gesticulating wildly. – Lilli
At The Cinema will appear on Thursdays.