Saturday, February 07, 2009

Notes on a theatrical viewing of PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

Got out to a noontime screening of a newly struck print of one of my favorite movies today at Nashville's Belcourt Theater. I wanted to see the film on the big screen but I also wanted to show it to my 11 year old (nearly) adopted buddy as well. He has a great interest in genre fiction both in books and movies and I wanted him to see this classic before the ending was ruined for him- however accidentally that might happen.

First things first- the print was a good and complete one but it has clearly been on the arthouse circuit for a while as there were a number of scratches and blemishes especially at the reel changes. But overall it was wonderful to finally see this projected and feel the power the movie still holds in its uncut beauty.

How did the young one enjoy the movie? I'm glad to say that my desire to start him off with POTA correctly was a big success. He was leaning over to me during the opening trek across the forbidden zone and saying it was good and continued in this vein throughout. His only complaint was the ending. He had two problems- one I should have foreseen but the other was.... odd.

He didn't like the ending because he wanted to know what happened to Taylor NEXT. I understood this concern (I remember a similar thought when I was younger) and told him there were four sequels made. This brightened his outlook quite a lot and he has requested a viewing of BENEATH soon. I will be thrilled to fulfill this wish!

But his other problem was something I should have considered- he did not get the idea of nuclear annihilation. He just doesn't have the common reference of that fear of a Damocles sword hanging over him as I did as a kid. He has not lived with the threat of imminent destruction that makes the film's final revelation such a body blow. After I explained this to him he got it but I suspect it's similar to getting a joke and having it explained after everyone else is done laughing. He understands but it didn't hit him like it might have. It would be tempting to call this a shame but I can't. I'm glad this kid doesn't think about mushroom clouds sprouting over his schoolyard the way I often did at his age. I'm glad he doesn't fear his mother and himself being atomized in an instant because two nations can't agree on how to run an economic system. Yeah- it's a shame he couldn't have the same response to POTA that I and millions of others of our generation had- but I'm happy his biggest worry right now is a messed up tooth and a class report on Abraham Lincoln.

Plus- he wants to see the sequel movies anyway. What does that say about the qualities of a 41 year old movie?

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