Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rewatching movies

Ann Althouse has written a post about rewatching movies.

She says:

To watch something the first time is to respond to some mysterious mix of your own imagination and the various things you've heard. Maybe something about a poster or some feeling about a movie star pulls you in. Then you find out if it was what you thought it would be or if you're surprised in a good way. But rewatching a movie, you know basically what's there, and you're making a choice to relive what you know or you have a sense that there are places in there where new things can be found. It's a richer, deeper experience. Oh, that reminds me of what Andre says about marriage -- as opposed to an affair -- at the end of my most rewatched movie, "My Dinner With Andre."

Ann and I part company there--I wasn't all that keen on "Andre" the first time I saw it--although perhaps if I watched it now I'd like it. But her remarks resonate nevertheless, reminding me of my own earlier comments on love, the theme and variations vs. the symphony.

It's true that rewatching a movie involves a type of love. Same for rereading a book, or going to a play we've already seen. We know what to expect in the general sense, just as we know the character of the beloved. But there's always some sort of surprise amidst the repetition, and part of the surprise is that we ourselves bring new knowledge and experience to it.

One of my favorite authors, Jorge Luis Borges, wrote a story entitled "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," about a writer who set about re-experiencing and recreating Cervantes's writing of his novel Don Quixote. Borges's story is a gently humorous dig at, among other things, literary criticism; but it also makes the interesting point that a work can be exactly the same, but if the context is different the work itself changes for the reader.

With film rewatchings, the context is never the same. I watched familiar favorites of mine post-9/11 and often saw something new and different in them than before (see this for a recent reassessment of "High Noon," for example). The same is true of the romantic movies I loved as a teenager, although this has nothing to do with 9/11 but more to do with age; the old Zefferelli "Romeo and Juliet" says one thing to a nineteen-year-old and another to a fifty-something-year old, although it speaks volumes to both.

It turns out, now that I think of it, that my favorite rewatchings over the years don't include many new movies. The only one I can think of is "Groundhog Day." But that seems appropriate; isn't it what that movie is about? Keep doing it till you get it right, with deepening understanding every time.


At 4:50 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Unknown said...

When the end draws near, there no longer remain any remembered images; only words remain. It is not strange that time should have confused the words that once represented me with those that were symbols of the fate of he who accompanied me for so many centuries. I have been Homer; shortly, I shall be On One, like Ulysses; shortly, I shall be all men; I shall be dead

At 5:55 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Randy said...

I'd love to read your re-evaluation of High Noon, but the link takes me to the same place as the Borges link. I'll check back later. though.

At 6:04 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger MikeZ said...

I'm probably odd, but I don't really like rewatching a moview. I've seen Citizen Kane, Metropolis, Gone With the Wind, even My Dinner With Andre (which help me transfixed throughout the whole thing).

But if I thought about watching any of them again, I'd probably pass.

One of the few exceptions is "King of Hearts" (Alan Bates, Genevieve Bujold [that probably explains it]). Another would be "Umbrellas of Cherbourg".

Music, I can listen to over and over. If it were possible to wear out a CD, my Mahler and Chopin (&c) would be dog-eared by now.

I have no idea whay that is. Might have something to do with whether you're more visually-oriented or more aurally-oriented.

Books are another matter. I've re-read only a few - mainly because there are so many on the in-box.

At 7:07 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I just watched Aeon Flux and it has a really really good plotline.

At 7:30 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

I fixed the link, internet ronin.

It's not an in-depth reevaluation, just a few paragraphs at the end of a longer post, with an insight at the end.

I also wrote about "High Noon" here, briefly, in a post about my favorite movie stars.

At 7:39 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger chuck said...

the old Zefferelli "Romeo and Juliet" says one thing to a nineteen-year-old and another to a fifty-something-year old...

I found the same with the opera Carmen. When I was young Carmen seemed a beautiful, sexy, and freespirited woman. When I was older she seemed nothing but trouble: self-centered, exploitive, and wilful. And my sympathies changed from Carmen to Don Jose. Experience changes much, no?

At 7:43 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

chuck: That reminds me; the same thing happened to me with "The Graduate" and Mrs. Robinson!! See this.

At 8:08 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Ron said...

I watch movies more than once for the same reason I have more than one conversation with the same people, but I often the movies are more lively conversationalists than the people!

At 8:10 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Ron said...

oops! Forgot the word "find" in my post after the word "often."

Mea culpa

At 8:30 PM, June 28, 2006, Blogger Cappy said...

Neoconned said ...
I shall be dead

Really? When? Is this another liberal promise?

I've enjoyed rewatching Animal House, although less so as my daughter approaches college age.

At 12:25 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger camojack said...

Sometimes I like re-watching something with someone who has never seen it before...that can be fun.

At 2:41 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger douglas said...

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At 2:42 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger douglas said...

Indeed- Groundhog Day is one of the best movies in recent memory- and I can watch it over and over, which is odd because I was never much for rewatching movies. Ironic that a movie that revolves around repetitiveness presents so many angles for reconsideration. Speaks volumes about boredom and the bored as well.

At 8:05 AM, June 29, 2006, Blogger Sassenach said...

When I saw GWTW as a teenager, I thought Scarlett O'Hara was the heroine. Re-watching a few years ago with my daughter, I realized the heroine is really Melanie.

At 9:55 PM, July 01, 2006, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 9:55 PM, July 01, 2006, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> the old Zefferelli "Romeo and Juliet" says one thing to a nineteen-year-old and another to a fifty-something-year old, although it speaks volumes to both.

There is also the additional context of seeing other ways the same material is done. No doubt since seeing the Zefferelli R&J you've also seen Luhrman's R+J. This adds a subtle impression of the original material which was not there the first time(s) it was watched.

Perhaps you've since then also seen the 1936 version, with a 43yo Leslie Howard absurdly cast as Romeo (He was a wonderful actor, but being taken seriously as a 13yo when you're 43yo is beyond most human limits)

I've always like to collect variations on film/theatre pieces.

Shakespeare is ideal for this, since every actor wants to do Shakespeare.

King Lear, for example, allows you to sample the 1953 Orson Welles version as well as Kurosawa's "Ran".

Hamlet goes from the dreary Olivier version to Gibson's.

Othello lets you choose between Fishburne and Branagh.


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