A group of classic film fanatics are making sure the history and cinematic value of these timeless pieces are not lost on a younger generation.
With just two iterations notched, the Hillsborough Classic Film Society meets one Sunday afternoon a month to watch and discuss a classic film. The initial film was “On the Waterfront,” with “Paths of Glory” following in October. On Nov. 25, they will show “The Cranes Are Flying” before a December break. In January, the group will reconvene.
Began by wife and husband Gail and Michael Corrado, the collection meets at the Orange County Public Library, as the library holds licenses to most of the films.
Working closely with the library and Friends of the Library, the showings are free to attend – and the popcorn and other snacks, sometimes themed to the movie, are also free of cost.
“We love classic films and we figured that they need to sort of be seen in company,” Gail said. “They are magnificent works, they really are. We figured there would be a lot of folks around here who might be interested in seeing these films as well.”
Michael, UNC-Chapel Hill Emeritus Arch Allen Professor of Law, and Gail, UNC-Chapel Hill Emeritus Lecturer of Public Policy, moved to Hillsborough from Durham in February 2018. They were looking to downsize and Hillsborough, a nice small-town getaway, was the first thought on their minds.
“We haven’t regretted 10 seconds of it,” Gail said. “It’s wonderful.”
Upon their move, they looked to make friends and become a part of the vibrant community. Now, the society has close to 25 members, though they hope attendance continues to grow.
“We’re really hoping that [this society] is not only grey heads, but young folks, too,” Gail said. “Our fear is that [these films] will sort of get lost. We’d like to introduce these films to young people as well, because there is some opportunity for intergenerational discussion and that would sort of prevent these films from getting lost, and their messages as well.”
“On the Waterfront,” has a “new style” of acting, or method acting, Gail and Michael said.
An acting style that swept Hollywood in the 1950s, “method” acting, originated in Russia in the late 1890s.
The “Method” is “a process by which actors behave naturally, stripping themselves of all artifice, using their emotional memory of past experiences and feelings to create a character's motivation,” renowned actor and film historian Robert Osborne once wrote for TCM, or Turner Classic Movies.
“[This film] both has some cinematic value and some historical value,” Gail said. “I guess that’s what we think is important about classic films, that they both have cinematic and kind of social importance.”
Before or after the film showings, the society will invite a historian or film critic to provide both cinematic and social background on the chosen film.
Those who have previously led discussion and given lecture are Dr. David Zonderman, Labor Historian at NCSU, and Dr. Greg Vitarbo of Meredith College. Dr. Vitarbo will also provide context at the presentation of “The Cranes are Flying.”
Currently, Michael and Gail are the sole film selectors, though they hope to greatly expand that as the society continues to grow.
Of the films considered, they aim to show films that are more than 50 years old.
“Innovations cinematically are interesting to watch,” Gail said. “You take those sort of things for granted when you go to the movies now.
“I think it’s probably going to be interesting to young people,” Gail continued, “not just from a historical point of view, but because sometimes going back to the way things were before could give a young filmmaker a way to express themselves without having all the bells and whistles you need for some of the modern films.”
The November selection, “The Cranes are Flying,” is an important and award-winning Soviet film. It is one of the first films to come after the heavy hand of Stalin's censorship was lifted, and it remains one of the best Russian films since WWII, the society’s website noted.
The film features a delicate love story, set against the great Russian tragedy that was World War II. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1958.
This will be shown on Sunday, Nov. 25, from 3 to 6 p.m.
For more information about the society, background information and film reviews, visit www.hillsboroughclassicfilms.com. The website offers an RSVP option and a newsletter sign up. As the society grows, Gail and Michael will widen the film selection committee and take input from members on what films to show.