Monday, September 29, 2014

Swept Away by Gone with the Wind

A month or so ago, Mama suggested a very unusual and special date night.  "Let's go see Gone with the Wind" in the movie theater."  While I have seen the movie dozens of times, starting in early childhood--I was even Scarlett O'Hara for Halloween (in Gommie's billowy white prom dress) and read the whole 1045-page book one summer (it's very different from the movie--Scarlett has a child with each husband, for instance, and you learn all about her parents' courtship)--and Mama will tell you that my conversations are regularly sprinkled with GWTW references and quotes, I had never seen it on the big screen.

So, this weekend, we went for date night . . . to the 4-hour movie.  And it was magical.  First, they showed the film in its original aspect ratio, which is square!  Also, the film wasn't played nearly as loudly as modern pictures.  But the big screen and the immediate attention it demanded allowed us to notice several things--like the cat lounging under the sundial at Twelve Oaks, all the various musical themes of the film's score, the use of silhouettes throughout the film, panoramic vistas, the parallel narrative arcs of the first and second parts (mainly the death of Mrs. O'Hara in the first part and Melanie in the second and the crisis each spurs on), the rapid-fire dialogue, and more.

Of course, seen through the lens of early 21st-century liberal thought, we couldn't help but be disturbed by the elevation of a murderous, immoral, cheating, wife-beating man to heartthrob (or his murderous, immoral, lying, drunk wife to heroine) and the characterization and caricature of the film's African Americans.  It didn't help that the audience laughed every time Mammy talked and cheered when Rhett hauled Scarlett up the stairs to be raped--about which she was smiling and singing the next morning!  That is to say nothing of the glorification or mythologizing of the Old South.

Still, it's a gorgeous, well-paced, expansive film, the stuff of my childhood (and gauging from the sold-out theater, many others').  And I think I'll be quoting from it even more now.

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