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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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Annie

The new version of "Annie" is fashionably artificial and not very well directed, but its unabashed good cheer is very welcome.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Watching movies again. And again...

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"Blade Runner": I could watch it again right now just for the pretty colored lights.

I've fallen behind on my movie blog reading in recent days, so now I'm catching up on some good stuff. Like this, from girish:

I’m curious about the nature and degree of re-viewing practices. I tend to re-view films a lot. I noticed that last year, about one out of every four films I saw was something I had seen before.

One reason for re-viewing is to get closer and deeper into films or filmmakers whose work we already feel a strong degree of comfort and familiarity with. These are works whose cinephilic pleasure is more or less assured. Our previous, pre-existing response to the work is not likely to be seriously questioned. But these repeat visits are nevertheless valuable. They take us further, each time, into the work and its constituent details (its very ‘molecular structure’), allowing us a greater intimacy and thus fluency in thinking and talking about it. For me, some examples here might be: Hitchcock, Hawks, Renoir, Fassbinder, Lang, Lubitsch, Demy, Wong, Wes Anderson.

Sometimes, this can be taken to obsessive extremes. There are films one has watched more times than one really needs to, chiefly because their pleasure-giving capacity is endless, even if (at this point) each subsequent viewing yields diminishing returns in terms of critical insight. Nevertheless, these films are evergreen, hard to tire of. I know I’ve probably done this with: e.g. Demy’s "The Young Girls of Rochefort," Sirk’s "All That Heaven Allows," Wong’s "Happy Together," Hartley’s "Surviving Desire," and (idiosyncratically) Roman Polanski’s "Frantic."

No qualifiers necessary for "Frantic," girish -- I love that movie. It's Polanski's "North By Northwest" and it's almost as funny, perverse and thrilling.

 

I have certain movies I never tire of watching over and over again, mostly because they're always fun and exhilarating experiences for me -- the aforementioned "North by Northwest," Lubitsch's "Trouble in Paradise" (a perfect movie), "Ball of Fire," "Stop Making Sense," "Do the Right Thing," "Waiting For Guffman," "Dazed and Confused," "The Big Lebowski" and (yes) "Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy," for example.

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The damndest thing I ever saw -- and I never get tired of seeing it.

And there are others I return to because I find them endlessly renewing and I always discover some little detail or connection I hadn't picked up on before: "Nashville" and "Chinatown" (of course), but also "Vertigo" and "Barry Lyndon." The last four (and the Lubitsch) are among my very favorite films, and even after all these years I don't consider them "easy" viewing. I'm fully engaged with them every time, because they're alive to me. I can fasten onto one thing -- a color, or a character, or a visual motif -- and watch each of them from a whole new angle for a change, so that I never feel like it's exactly the same experience as the last time I saw it (no matter how much I love to sing along with every nuance in every song in "Nashville" -- especially Haven Hamilton's).

Still others I've watched repeatedly because I want so much to appreciate them more than I do, and I keep waiting to discover some unifying Eureka! vision that will lift the veil between me and the movie and allow me to see it as the masterpiece others claim to see. I had this experience only the second time I saw "Eyes Wide Shut" (my initial viewings of Kubrick movies since "A Clockwork Orange" have often been unreliable or self-deceiving). I've seen "Blade Runner" (in all its various versions) umpteen times and (although the versions have improved) it's never cohered into the masterpiece I've always wanted it to be. But it is gorgeous, even if it doesn't quite hold together. Am I repeating the same behavior expecting a new result? Maybe. But Ridley Scott says he's got a definitive director's cut of the movie coming out this year...

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