In these COVID times, the mind has begun to seek lighter fare over heavy-duty, “difficult” cinema

Posted on July 4, 2020


The pandemic has made us seek optimism and joy, which is not usually a quality you find with “difficult” films. When life has become The Seventh Seal, with many of us playing games with Death each time we step out, the last thing we may want is more gloom and doom on screen.

Sight & Sound magazine recently put up a superb article from its Summer 1937 issue: “Alfred Hitchcock: my own methods”. The Master of Suspense wrote about how he put together his thrillers, and while talking about Blackmail (1929), he made one of the most profound statements I have heard about cinema. He wanted a bleak end. “But I had to change it for commercial reasons… And that shows you how the films suffer from their own power of appealing to millions. They could often be subtler than they are, but their own popularity won’t let them.”

This is the reasoning generally used to explain why any film industry that appeals to the “masses” (the Indian mainstream industries, Hollywood) is usually unable to make really great cinema. And by this, I don’t mean great mainstream cinema or great popular art, but cinema whose greatness is measured by how “difficult” it is: cinema that deals with heavy themes and makes us think about the human condition, and so on and so forth.

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