CAE Reading and Use of English Part 8
You are going to read about a certain genre of movies. For questions 47-56, choose from the sections of the article (A-D). The sections may be chosen more than once.
In which section does the writer…
47 praise the quality of some more serious films?
48 point out the value of feel-good films in difficult economic times?
49 mention a film character who learns from his experiences?
50 explain how a director uses a film as a vehicle for his own opinion?
51 comment on the artistic merit of the cinema?
52 talk about the importance of escapism in films?
53 mention a special technique used to create a feel good reaction?
54 insist that lighter films can also be clever?
55 talk about films that make us reflect on life?
56 refer to films where ordinary people triumph over authority?
Films that make you feel good
Feel-good films stretch back right into the early days of cinema. The Brits were pioneers of the form. Producer Cecil Hepworth’s Rescued By Rover (1905), a winsome yarn about a dog retrieving a kidnapped baby, was an early example of feel-good film-making. What distinguished it was the tempo. The film-makers used cross-cutting to crank up the tension, which is only finally released when the baby is found. The film “marks a key stage in the medium’s development from an amusing novelty to the ‘seventh art,’ able to hold its own alongside literature, theatre, painting, music and other more traditional forms,” claims the British Film Institute’s Screen online website. Film historians today continue to study Hepworth’s storytelling abilities but that wasn’t what interested the 1905 audiences who flocked to see it. They went because it was a feel-good film.
There has long been a tendency to sneer at feel-good films. Serious, self-conscious auteurs are often too busy trying to express their innermost feelings about art and politics to worry about keeping audiences happy. However, as Preston Sturges famously showed in his comedy Sullivan’s Travels(1941), if you’re stuck on a prison chain gang, you don’t necessarily want to watch Battleship Potemkin. Sullivan’s Travels is about John L Sullivan, a glib and successful young Hollywood director of comedies, who yearns to be taken seriously. Sullivan dresses up as a hobo and sets off across America to learn more about the plight of the common man. He ends up sentenced to six years in prison. One of the prisoners’ few escapes from drudgery is watching cartoons. As he sits among his fellow cons and sees their faces convulsed with laughter at a piece of what he regards as throwaway Disney animation, he rapidly revises his own priorities. “After I saw a couple of pictures put out by my fellow comedy directors, which seemed to have abandoned the fun in favour of the message, I wrote Sullivan’s Travels to satisfy an urge to tell them to leave the preaching to the preachers,” Sturges recalled.
A few years ago there were a lot of ‘deep-dish’ movies. We had films about guilt, (Atonement) about the all-American dream coming apart at the seams (Revolutionary Road) and even a very long account of a very long life backwards(the deeply morbid The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button). Deep-dish, feel-bad films have plenty to recommend them. If you’re not teenager and you don’t just want to see the next summer tent-pole blockbuster, you’ll welcome movies that pay attention to characterisation and dialogue and don’t just rely on CGI or the posturing of comic book heroes. However, as film-makers from Preston Sturges to Danny Boyle have discovered, there is no reason that a feel-good movie needs to be dumb. You can touch on social deprivation and political injustice: the trick is to do so lithely and, if possible, with a little leavening humour.
Historically, the best feel-good movies have often been made at the darkest times. The war years and their immediate aftermath saw the British turning out some invigorating, entertaining fare alongside all the propaganda. The Age of Austerity was also the age of the classic Ealing comedies, perfect examples of feel-good film-making. In the best of these films like Passport To Pimlico or Whisky Galore, a community of eccentric and mildly anarchic characters would invariably come together to thwart the big, bad, interfering bureaucrats. Stories about hiding away a hoard of whisky or setting up a nation state in central London were lapped up by the audiences. To really work, feel-good movies must have energy and spontaneity – a reckless quality that no amount of script tinkering from studio development executives can guarantee. The best take you by surprise. What makes the perfect feel-good movie? That remains as hard to quantify as ever – you only know one when you see one.