I went to see To Kill A Mockingbird at the Aero last night. 53 and 1/2 years after its initial release, Robert Mulligan, Alan Pakula and Horton Foote‘s Oscar-winner is still three things — (a) a great children’s POV drama that doesn’t pussyfoot around when it comes to the darker side of human nature, (b) a poised liberal fable about measured, compassionate humanism (as embodied by Gregory Peck‘s Atticus Finch) vs. vile backwater racism, and (c) a very moving film that still gets you in the gut.
It was screened in 35mm, and once again the celluloid experience disappointed me. The detail wasn’t all that sharp, and the monochrome tint (grayish, half-sepia, murky swamp) shifted from reel to reel. The Universal Bluray is a much richer, smoother and more needle-sharp rendering.
For whatever reason the producers decided against filming exteriors in some authentic-looking small town and chose to shoot the whole thing on the Universal back lot. And so the first shot of Maycomb, Alabma (a stand-in for Harper Lee’s Monroeville) still looks absurd with the smoggy air and the mountains of Burbank visible in the near distance.
Plus I was sitting in front of an emotionally volatile 45-year-old who (a) told me to shut my phone off as I was doing just that as the film began, and (b) was over-reacting to the film like an idiot, chuckling and swooning and moaning to every classic line and story beat. It’s a very affecting experience, agreed, but I despise movie hounds who can’t hold it in.
As I left I was recalling how I once suggested to an ex-girlfriend with a ten-year-old daughter that we all might watch To Kill A Mockingbird together, and how she said “oh, I don’t want [my daughter] to watch that rape movie.” One of the most moral and humanistic Hollywood films ever made, and she was shielding her ten-year-old from seeing it. Give people a chance, and sooner or later they’ll always blow your mind.