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...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Turner Classic Movies

Turner's Finest Hour, other than dumping Jane

Forget the days when Ted Turner and movies meant colourised classics -- although one family I used to know thought he had colourised "Gone with the Wind"; Leslie Halliwell must be turning in his grave...

These days Turner Classic Movies is the standard-bearer of all film channels in the digital world of cable.

Is there a more elegant cable channel than TCM? I doubt it.

I don't know who conceived its soigné 30's Art Nouveau design, but from start to finish, there isn't a detail they didn't personalise with its sleek lines. It reminds one of a 1932 Bugatti, a car whose original purpose of being ridden is far outdistanced by the secondary purpose of being admired.

Just the type of car ridden by a Bugatti Queen

The small intros they do before a feature begins are absolutely the smartest things I've ever seen on telly -- and I use the British sense of smart, but in fact, the American one applies as well. They appeal to the aesthetic and to the intelligence with such depth of feeling as to be almost a Caravaggio chiaroscuro come to life. "The Sunny Side of Life" always makes me smile warmly, and it evokes the kind of wistful warmth that comes with a slight touch of Great Depression bathos.

Just before turning in late last night, I checked my two recordings of Italian Realism landmarks: Visconti's La Terra Trema, and Rossellini's Germania Anno Zero (a name which lives on in Germany long after the film has been forgotten).

Now tell me, where else could I watch two such films on television? Not even the Starz! network which features "Starz! Cinema" has such a playbill, or would schedule them in prime time.

For those of you who have Turner Classic Movies in your country, namely:

TCM France
TCM Spain
TCM Latin America

You are both lucky to have the channel, but cannot imagine how much better the US version is. Oh sure, the Sundance Channel and IFC are excellent film channels in their own ways (although Sundance seems excessively preachy politically, and IFC has commercial breaks...), but they cannot compare to the artistry of TCM in film vault treasures.

And for a person such as I, whose favourite actors are character actors like Paul Muni or Lon Chaney or even Frederic March, there's no better place on television than TCM.

Oooh, Passage to Marseille is coming up. Humphrey Bogart (a character actor manqué) bliss!


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