I can be finicky about rewatching movies. I often feel guilty watching something for a second time when there are thousands of movies out there I haven't seen a first time. But, in my increasing wisdom and maturity and under the guidance of a very pro-rewatching boyfriend, I am discovering the world of the multiple viewing. This is especially important in that I've deemed everything past two years ago "the time that doesn't count," meaning a time when my film-assessing judgment was not the finely honed tool it is today and thus many of my opinions of films watched during those years are void. Allow me to share a couple of times that rewatching turned me around on a film - for better or worse.
The first case was Barton Fink. I rented it when I worked at a video store, since I loved everything Coen and it was recommended by a fellow employee. I blame the back of the DVD box for setting me up for a hilarious screwball experience - which, needless to say, is completely inaccurate. The closest movie I can think of to Barton Fink is A Serious Man, another Coen outing that one might classify as a surrealist/absurdist deadpan period satire. So I was particularly unprepared for some gruesome violence and a pervasive atmosphere of dread and doom. The whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Some time later, there was a Coen Brothers festival at my local rep theater, and I was convinced to attend the Barton Fink screening. With a better idea of what to expect, I absolutely loved the film. It's genius - the blending of tones and genres, the perfectly crafted characters bursting with personality (even Steve Buscemi as a hotel clerk does wonders with his, like, three lines), the superlative use of John Turturro and John Goodman. Everything. It now ranks as one of my favorite Coens (especially because I now know when to look away for the icky part!)
The opposite happened when I rewatched Knocked Up. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I wrote a research paper about this film, and the act of dissecting can hamper your enjoyment of anything, so that might be a factor. I found that the jokes that were riotously funny the first time were rather tepid the second. I don't want to belittle that, however, since the film made me laugh very hard once and it's a pretty tall order for any filmmaker to create something that is a rewarding experience every time (especially goofy comedies). Upon closer analysis, I also found the gender politics of the movie to be rather troubling. On the first viewing I thought everyone was taking it too seriously, but even allowing for the shrewish depictions of the women, the fact that at the end Ben basically earns his manhood and respect by yelling at a woman who hasn't really done much to him is unsettling. By contrast, I think The 40-Year-Old Virgin holds up very well to repeat viewings.
There are also less dramatic instances when I just didn't get what the fuss was about the first time, and the second time I didn't get why I didn't get it, such as M (which admittedly I didn't get all the way through at first) Vertigo, Manhattan and The Third Man. I am ashamed of those, but at least I gave them another go and saw the light at last.
What about you? What cinematic 180s have you done? No judgment here.