All About Eve is still sadly relevant
As you might have noticed I don’t care all that much for classic movies. I’ve written about a handful of them over the last year, in most cases because they were screened at my local film club, and I’ve done my best to embrace them, but the outcome so far has been so-and-so.
It’s not just that I’m spoiled with the advantages of modern technology, such as better sound, better cinematography and better special effects. It’s also about the values that are expressed in those movies. Even if I know the films reflect the time when they were made, I still don’t enjoy seeing women treated like second rate citizens, who ultimately only care about marrying Mr Wonderful and then spend the rest of their lives taking care of him and his offspring.
Most of the time, given the choice, I’ll rather watch something contemporary than pick a black-and-white film from the 40s or 50s.
But thankfully there are exceptions. It happens that I stumble upon older movies that will make me drop my usual reservations, films that I can embrace and love unconditionally, not because I feel expected to like it (“it’s a classic that everyone else seems to like”), but because I truly have a blast watching it. And this was the case with All About Eve.
This film from 1950 tells the story about an aging actress who one day is approached by a young admirer who becomes her personal assistant. It turns out that this assistant isn’t as pure hearted and innocent as she appears to be. She has her own agenda.
There are several things that make this film so wonderful. One is the acting. Bette Davies in particular is heartbreaking as Margo, but there also a number of great supporting performances. Another thing is the relevance. You only need to take a quick glance at the beauty industry to realize this. Look at the money and effort women invest as they try to erase the natural signs of aging! They always claim that they’re doing it “for themselves”, but I think they’re facing exactly the same issues as Margo. In the fear of losing their position to younger and more beautiful women, they try to stay where they are as long as they can.
And then there’s the script. To tell the truth I usually don’t give the work of the screenwriter as much attention as they deserve. I just take it for granted. If there’s a line that comes out awkward I might think “that sounds bad, people wouldn’t say that”, but that’s about it. I just take it for granted. But in this case, the dialogue is such a pleasure to hear that you can’t help noticing. It’s funny, sarcastic, witty and fast paced. The enjoyment I got listening to it made me associate to Aaron Sorkin. Normally it wouldn’t occur to me to read the screenplay of a movie for enjoyment, but the thought came to my mind. That’s how good it was.
All About Eve was able to win over even a hugger of contemporary cinema like me and I might actually be open to explore a few more of the classics. The question is where to go next? What other older movies do you think I might enjoy?
All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, US, 1950) My rating: 4,5/5