Monday, February 28, 2011

The Power of the Story

I took my son to see "The King's Speech" over the weekend. (How was I to know George VI was going to drop the F-bomb?) As I did so I remembered the first grown-up movie I went to. It was "Fiddler on the Roof." (On re-release, ahem.) I cried and cried at the end, and went back the next week with my friend Amy, and proceed to tell her, in loud whispers, what was going to happen through out the movie, until the woman in front of me turned around and told me to shut up. And thus I learned my first lesson of movie etiquette.

By high school I was going to the art movie theater downtown and sitting through a bewildering mix of old Hollywood and avant-garde Eastern European movies, with some New Wave and Bergman thrown in. Passage to India. The Seventh Seal. Some Like It Hot. 42nd Street. Closely Watched Trains. It was an education, particularly in narrative and the language of film.

When I first read about "The King's Speech," I thought, honestly, that it was a silly subject for a movie. I mean, how trivial could you get about the Royal Family? Stammering, really? Some speech no one even remembers? (Speaking as an American, anyway.) But as with any creative work, it's not the subject, it's the storytelling. Make the viewer/reader care, as "The King's Speech" does, and you can follow it up with a sequel, "The King's Hangnail," I suspect.

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