April 26, 2010

What movies have you done a 180 on?


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.

4 comments:

Scott Nye said...

You know this, but the most violent 180 I've ever done was on The Third Man, which was greeted with a rather tepid "well...okay!" the first time, when I was purely watching it hoping for a ripping film noir. The second time, I was greeted with the purest form of cinematic storytelling perfection.

And, as I continue to insist, there are OTHER reasons for watching a film again and again. First can be just the pure pleasure of it, as one would listen to a piece of music over and over (see: my relationship with Speed Racer over the last two years). Or simply to get even more out of it, as when I recently rewatched Chinatown and explored depths within it I hadn't even noticed the first time.

majid said...

agree with you about M . first i was 11 ... and now i re-watched it ... and understand the power . like caligari ... i diden't understand it for first time .

and about coens . i just know that i re-watched Fargo ... 1000 ...

and about other movies ... that i re-watched with veral good feeling...

Green mile
Leon
good fellas

Alex said...

The big 180 for me is definitely Jackie Brown. I went into it expecting Pulp Fiction II and didn't get it. I rented it a couple of times over the next few years and still I thought it was too long and dragged in places. Finally, when the 2-disc DVD came out, it clicked for me and now I will wrestle anyone who hasn't seen the light yet.

Had a similar experience to you with M. Couldn't get through it after three separate attempts to watch it on DVD. Then I decided to catch a 35mm screening of it and it was a revelation.

moviesandsongs365 said...

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