I’m Going To Make A Suggestion You Shouldn’t Refuse: See A Classic On The Big Screen
Last week I got the opportunity to do something special: I saw The Godfather on the big screen.
There were no bells and whistles to the presentation; it was just the movie projected onto one of the screens in a local theater at a screening hosted by the community’s art council. The second greatest film in American cinema (according to AFI) played to a house of ten while the sound of fictional explosions from whatever the blockbuster that was playing next door was occasionally rattled the walls, and you know what? It was fantastic. The horse’s head was bloodier, the baptism scene was more exhilarating and Marlon Brando was larger than larger than life.
In truth, The Godfather isn’t one of my personal favorite films. Prior to the screening, I had only seen it once before, in my brother’s living room on a standard television set, and while I enjoyed it immensely, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece never earned a spot in the small rotation of films I will happily watch multiple times. The cultural significance of the film is what drove me to the theater, well that, and I knew passing up an opportunity to see Brando and Al Pacino on the big screen would be foolish.
I’ve learned from past experience that watching a classic film as it was intended to be seen– or watching it in as close of an approximation to how it was intended to be seen as you can get without time traveling– is always a worthy endeavor for a film fan. The communal act of watching a classic film is a special thing. It’s the one time you can sit down in a theater and be guaranteed that everyone in the room either already loves the film or they were at least interested enough in its historical or cultural significance to make the trek out to the theater to see a movie they probably could have stayed home and Netflixed in their pajamas. Sometimes people will shout out the lines along with the actors, and other times the movie will play to a hushed crowd so wowed by seeing a beloved film on such a grand scale that it’s like they’re seeing it for the first time all over again. No matter what kind of crowd you get, the environment is typically overwhelmingly positive.
Corny as it sounds, seeing classics on the big screen is magical. While all movies have the power to transport us to another time and place, classic films have the added bonus of transporting us to a moment in history. As I was watching The Godfather, I wasn’t just seeing the film, I was thinking about the impact the film has had on cinema and popular culture. It was impossible not to grin when a famous line like “leave the gun; take the cannoli” was uttered, or to feel a sense of awe as the final image of the door slowly shutting as Kay watches Michael complete his transition into the new Don Corleone played out.
The most important thing I’ve learned from big screen viewings of classics is that just because I’ve seen a film, that doesn’t mean I’ve seen everything it has to offer. Over the years, I’ve caught viewings of Casablanca, The 400 Blows and, a personal favorite, The Thin Man and in each one I’ve caught some small detail that slipped past me when I was simply watching the film at home. The same thing happened with The Godfather as certain scenes that barely made an impression before, like a shot of the Statue of Liberty framed against a field of wheat, suddenly felt immense.
Summer is peak movie season, and there’s a good chance that your local communities and theaters will be holding screenings of classics too (and as an added bonus those screenings will likely either be cheap or free). My suggestion is take advantage of every screening that you can. I’ve yet to walk out of a theater regretting seeing an old favorite in all of its big screen glory, and if you’re really lucky, you might even catch a classic you haven’t had the opportunity to see before.
Have you seen any classics on the big screen? Are there any you’d love to see? Share your thoughts below.
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