What makes a classic? Why do some films establish unassailable reputations as great works of cinema, while other films with just as many virtues slip through the cracks of time and are forgotten? At this year’s Il Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna, a number of acknowledged masterpieces from the canon were screened – films such as Singin’ in the Rain, Modern Times, The Godfather, A Streetcar Named Desire and McCabe & Mrs Miller – but the thrill of a festival like this lies in uncovering hidden gems and being surprised by a film that you had no great expectations for, or in some cases had never even heard of. There were plenty of such revelations this year, and we unearthed a few films that really do deserve to have their names listed among the greats.
For example, take the strange case of Only Yesterday. The opening credits of John M. Stahl’s 1933 film suggest that it was adapted from a book by Frederick Lewis Allen, but it quickly transpires that the source material is actually Stefan Zweig’s Letter from an Unknown Woman, and Universal in fact quietly secured the rights to Zweig’s novella just two weeks before the film’s release. Of course, that story was filmed beautifully in 1948 by Max Ophüls, a film that is justifiably renowned as a masterpiece, but it’s hard to see why there is such a disparity between the reputations of these two pictures.
Read the rest of my article at Mostly Film