Sunday, January 28, 2007

Re-Viewing Films

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.

A somewhat different reason for re-viewing is a filmmaker one feels an affinity for, but whose work is challenging enough to not make us feel completely comfortable. Perhaps we are on our way to cultivating a reasonably well-developed appreciation and understanding but the work hasn’t fully opened itself up to us yet. Occasionally (not always), these films might also make huge sensory demands on us, making them impossible to even fully apprehend on first viewing, thus making repeat viewings essential. For this category, I’m thinking (in my case) of Godard, Marker, Resnais, Straub-Huillet, Brakhage, Costa, etc.

When the closing credits of Costa's Colossal Youth were rolling, I remember Darren leaning over to me to say that he was ready to watch the film all over again, right there and then; I felt exactly the same way. I saw my first Ruiz, Three Crowns of a Sailor, last week, and had the identical feeling. Even as I was watching Three Crowns, enjoying it immensely, I knew that the film, in its fleetness and density of invention, was already eluding my ability to ‘affix’ it to my memory in a strong and lasting fashion.

Sometimes, the reason for re-visit is frustration and difficulty. One reason I was thankful for the Abel Ferrara blog-a-thon a year ago was that I had mixed feelings about Ferrara at the time. There was much I admired about his work but I also felt blocked by his films in some ways—they didn’t allow me the clean, clear, unproblematic access to ‘getting’ them and loving them that I had (with much less effort, it seemed) with so many of my favorite filmmakers. That has since steadily changed (more on Ferrara in a soon-to-come post). Another example filmmaker here is Bertolucci, whom I’ve had trouble with; I hope to give him a renewed try at some point.

All too often, reading a great book or essay is sufficient reason to revisit a film or oeuvre, to ‘see it through new eyes.’ This happens to me a lot, most recently with Nicole Brenez’s book on Ferrara. Other examples: Tom Gunning on Fritz Lang; Chris Fujiwara on Jacques Tourneur; Adrian Martin on late 20th-century Hollywood cinema (Phantasms); Gilberto Perez on Dovzhenko, Godard, and Renoir (The Material Ghost); Robert Philip Kolker on the neo-realists, Godard, and Antonioni (The Altering Eye). Last night, after reading some appetite-whetting words about it, I sent away for a book on Woody Allen by surrealist-influenced Positif critic Robert Benayoun. I haven’t been an Allen enthusiast for many years now, but perhaps the book might end up spurring some Allen revisiting.

There is also the matter of Time. There are films I saw 10 or 20 years ago in my early film-buff days that have receded almost completely into oblivion. Perhaps this is less of a problem for the tender-aged cinephile but for someone like me who was born the year Godard made Contempt (1963), the memory bank needs recharging every now and then. To make things interesting, I won’t of course be seeing those films with the same 'eyes' I did back then. And as time goes by, since we are constantly in flux—always in the process of ‘becoming’—how can we still cling confidently to evaluations we made years ago?

Finally, there is the opportunity cost to be dealt with: every re-viewing automatically means foregoing a (new, strange, vital…?) experience with a film we’ve never seen before….


* * *

So, if you feel like it, I’m wondering: What are your re-viewing practices like? Do you revisit films? And do you do so less or more than you used to? Are there some filmmakers or kinds of films that particularly lend themselves to revisiting? And any other thoughts you may have on the subject….


* * *

So, several years ago, soon after seeing Jean-Pierre Melville’s Leon Morin, Priest at Cinematheque Ontario, I pulled Rui Nogueira’s book on Melville, in perfect condition, from under a big rickety stack at a Binghamton used-bookstore. I bought it for three dollars. I mentioned this at the time to James Quandt who seemed surprised: “That’s a rare book—you should hold on to it.” This morning, surfing Amazon, I discover that used copies are going for as much as twenty-four hundred bucks. Crazy.

71 Comments:

Anonymous acquarello said...

That's actually one of the reasons I'm persnickety about separating my notes when I'm in a film fest mode versus when I'm working through a film (i.e. without the time crunch). When I started the site, everything I wrote about, I had seen at least twice. Then I started the journal section specifically to capture initial impressions to films. I still operate in those two modes, but in a less discretized form. Once in a while, I will develop a longer piece and replace my journal "quick take" notes after a repeat "fresh" viewing.

As you've noted, a lot of it has to do with deconstructing the film to a molecular level, when it's no longer about the novelty of the first impression - resolving the plot and the isolated images - as much as it is taking apart the form of the film towards the alchemy of that resolution. Ruiz is perfect for that because his films are so deliciously tortuous in narrative that it's easy to overlook the ingenious camerawork that reinforces it.

January 28, 2007 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Most of the work of David Lynch remain evergreen films for this fan, Girish. I think it's because viewing them is like re-reading Borges: another trip through the labyrinth to see If I can figure out how I found the way out the last time, or more likely, to encounter a new twisting path along the way.

January 28, 2007 10:00 PM  
Blogger jaime said...

As someone born the year Whit Stillman made Metropolitan (1990), I do feel as if I rewatch films a lot, particularly my favorite ones. I saw The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972) twice the same day, and I must have seen McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) five times in the last year alone.

What's really bad is when I give up seeing a new film to rewatch something. For example, yesterday I decided to forestall Woman on the Beach (2006) and Army of Shadows (1969) to revisit the Night of the Hunter (1955).

By the way, what are your thoughts on rewatching films of extreme length? I personally would love to sit through Jeanne Dielman (1975) and Regular Lovers (2005) again, and have seen Barry Lyndon (1975) at least four times. But Satantango (1994), which I saw earlier this month in a half-empty auditorium, I think I will have to wait a while for.

January 29, 2007 1:03 AM  
Blogger alsolikelife said...

Going strictly with stats: in the past 12 months I re-watched 25 films, which means about one every 15 films I watched was a revision. I think I am definitely one to seek out new films rather than revisit favorites, though I suspect that I may be less intrepid as I get older. Or maybe I'll just start reading novels again.

acquarello - I was scanning the National Gallery yesterday to see if you might have been in the audience for L'amour fou. Next time I should check in with you in advance. I did have a nice dinner with Tom Vick, film programmer at the Freer Asian Art Gallery (who says he's heard a lot of great things about you but has never met you).

January 29, 2007 1:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Acquarello -- I've been meaning to ask you about the two modes you use and how they're different, so I'm glad you talked about them. And yes, re: Ruiz (just on the basis of the single film I've seen), I had heard about his dizzying 'story-worlds' but was not prepared for the means of delivery, the audiovisual feast that Three Crowns turned out to be...

Thom -- By a coincidence, Ruiz made me want to go back and re-read Borges, which I haven't done in years...

Jaime -- At 16, you're a precocious cinephile! And I can tell from your blog that you have great taste. Re: long films, I used to be a little daunted by them (especially revisiting them), but people like Rivette, Angelopoulos, and Feuillade have made me come around over the years. It's been 5 years since Satantango and I could easily go for it again.

Kevin -- I enjoyed your detailed recent posts on Van Gogh and L'Amour Fou.

Oddly enough, Netflix seems to have pulled Van Gogh from my queue and stuck it in "future releases"....might be time to just buy the dvd.

January 29, 2007 8:37 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Hey Kevin, coincidentally, I saw someone who I thought *kinda* looked like you, but since it was DC and not NYC, I didn't think anything of it. :) Let me know if you're planning to go to Out 1: Spectre this weekend.

There's also that element of re-evaluation about repeated viewings that I like, but it has to be with some distance to the film, not right after. A film like L'Intrus is a good example - you have to take a step back from it and struggle with it a bit first before you're (physically/emotionally/cerebrally) ready to tackle it again. But even then, there has to be enough of that gnawing *something* about the film that propels the second/repeated viewing.

January 29, 2007 8:53 AM  
Blogger kenjfuj said...

Girish:

I've been an on-and-off lurker on your thought-provoking website, but, when I read your latest post, I just felt a great need to say something on this subject of re-viewing. So here I am.

I definitely see the value in seeing films again and perhaps again: great films can reveal greater depths on multiple viewings. Or, at the very least, seeing a film more than once can perhaps crystallize in your mind what you felt about a movie: what you liked or disliked.

You've pretty much summarized all the different facets that go into deciding to re-see a work, girish, so I don't have much to add except my own voice.

I'm a 21-year-old college student, and I love films (more than I love other art forms, to be honest---is that a bad thing, especially for a wannabe critic like myself?). But I'm often overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many great films out there that I haven't seen. I feel like I want to see them all! Just to be in the know!

So, odd as this may sound, sometimes, when I take a day to see a film I saw once or twice already, I almost feel as if I'm taking a step back in my quest to become more knowledgeable about movies, backtracking just to revisit an old fave instead of forging ahead. Not that that necessarily hinders me from viewing, say, Band of Outsiders or Fallen Angels---both films I love very much---for the umpteenth time, but still...

But there are movies that you just know in your gut that you have to see again. I'm waiting for either another showing or the DVD release of Army of Shadows, because I finally saw the film yesterday at Symphony Space, and while much of the film intrigued and frustrated me (is it just me and my dumb self, or did anyone else feel confused for much of the movie until its last 20 minutes or so?), the ending was just so shocking and devastating that it has made me eager to revisit the film and get a sense of how Melville develops his themes throughout the course of the film. Now that I know where the film is headed, I can get a better grasp of how he actually, carefully gets there. Kubrick films are often like this, too (I think Eyes Wide Shut has that kind of power to it in the way it seems to play with waking dream versus harsh reality).

As someone who considers himself a fairly poor college student, I'm not always willing to spend money to see a film in a theater twice (you save when you can, right?). But, even in movies, first impressions aren't the whole story (as much as Pauline Kael liked to believe to the contrary). A couple of months ago, I went to see The Fountain with a friend, and he---an ardent Aronofsky (and Rachel Weisz) admirer, it must be said---immediately raved about it ("best of the year, by far," he immediately said). For a few days, I was inclined to agree with him to a certain extent, as certain images and ideas stuck to me. But, even as various images from David Lynch's insane-in-a-good-way Inland Empire stick to my mind, refusing to let go, I can already feel Aronofsky's comparably second-rate attempt at an artistic folly dissolving from memory (with one major exception---the climax of the 15th-century conquistador storyline, when he gets to the fabled tree of life and is dealt a surprising and strangely moving comeuppance for his own arrogant folly).

Anyway, great post, and I hope I did justice to it by contributing something useful of my own to the discussion.

January 29, 2007 11:22 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

I think that one out of every six or seven films I see is a repeat viewing, which, when I did the math, surprised me since I often have the impression that I seek out novelty rather than attempting to get beneath the skin of certain films. I would divide the films I watch repeatedly into two broad categories:

- those I watch again almost purely for entertainment (generally pop movies like Back to the Future), without consciously engaging them critically for the most part (though presumably something is going on in my brain);

- and those that I watch because there’s some greater intellectual pleasure to be had in teasing out exactly the methods at work or the multiple layers of meaning.

Some of the latter films might well, of course, be immensely entertaining in their own right (like, for me, films by Hawkes, Hitchcock, Capra, Chabrol, Powell/Pressburger), but all of them seem to bear repeated, conscious engagement as well as bringing sheer pleasure.

I find that I’m often prompted to watch films again through a chance encounter with one film by a particular director (perhaps a new one for me, or perhaps just an interesting article about the film): last year, I went back and watched several Bresson films again, for example, after reading something that intrigued me. Yesterday, I read something about the texture of Le Crime de Monsieur Lange that made me immediately want to see that film again – and to throw in a few more by Renoir while I’m at it.

Re Adrian Martin, referenced by girish above, I was excited to read on his agent’s website that he’s launching, this year, a site that will archive some of his film writing going back to 1979.

January 29, 2007 1:20 PM  
Blogger David Lowery said...

I used to take comfort in Pauline Kael's habit of never seeing a film more than once - it sort of legitimized my own propensity for the same. Until recently, I rarely passed up the chance for something new in favor of revisiting something old, retrospectives be damned! And if it was something I saw in the theater, than my memories of it were largely confined to the silver screen.

I've slowed down and learned to smell the roses, though. I don't often rewatch things on a whim (outside of comfort films), but more and more I find myself turning back to older films to gain a better understanding of a new one. I also love rewatching old films in the company of others, to vicariously experience them again through fresh eyes.

I have, too, always been a fan of the midnight movie programs at the local art house. They always show films everyone has seen a million times (Taxi Driver, The Shining, Evil Dead 2), and we always go back to see them, again and again.

Oh, and after watching Satantango this year, I felt (perhaps overzealously) ready to sit right down and watch it again. I'm sort of glad I didn't (couldn't), but I'm eagerly awaiting the next possible chance...and I'm hoping to drag some friends with me.

January 29, 2007 1:35 PM  
Blogger Morefield said...

After keeping a viewing journal for one month, I noticed I was rewatching more films than I would have anticipated. Part of that is sharing films I like with my spouse, who watches less than I do.

C.S. Lewis allegedly said that he forced himself to read one new book for every re-read or else he would just endlessly reread the stuff he already liked.

As an academic, I'm really interested in differences between first reads and re-reads, so in addition to your question about reviewing habits, I'd be curious to hear what sorts of things people review and to what extend the reviewing experience is significantly different. (As opposed to what I call "nostalgiac reviewings"--people reviewing Star Wars for the umpteenth time to ritualistically get a reminder of how much they liked it every other time they viewed it.)

The next best thing to finding a new work I really connect with is being with someone, and sharing their first viewing experience, who is discovering something that I've viewed (or read) many times. It's amazing how often those first readings will reveal new paths of investigation or meditation in ground that has already been well gleaned.

January 29, 2007 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Matt M. said...

Quick post from work—

RE: re-watching a film just upon completing it.

Just the other night I watched Ford’s The Searchers on Blu-Ray, a film I’d seen before but never in widescreen. The door closes shut on John Wayne’s Ethan as he steps away from the house and into Monument Valley, “The End” appears on the black screen and I’m eager to see the entire picture again, back-to-back. However, this time I employ the service of the accompanying Peter Bogdanovich audio commentary, which provides me an extra pair of eyes in addition to a lot of information I’d never have known otherwise. I find myself doing this more frequently these days, especially with films I love, and I seem to retain much more of the visual information when doing so. For me, it depends as much on the audio commentator as the picture. (I immediately re-watched the Masters of Cinema releases of Teshigahara’s The Face of Another and Pitfall because they included audio commentaries by the erudite Tony Rayns.)

Anyone else do this when time permits?

January 29, 2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger Damian said...

Girish:

Excellent post. I have found myself thinking a lot lately about the film "re-viewing" process, why we do it and what can/does result from it. I even wrote a blog about it here a couple months ago. I think I said it better there than I probably could again.


Gareth:

Since you mentioned Back to the Future in your comment, I suspect you'd probably find this post rather interesting as well.

January 29, 2007 6:39 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Wow, so much great reading here!

Acquarello, Kenji, Gareth, David, Ken, Matt, Damian -- Thank you so much for taking the time to set down your ideas! They make for energizing and fun reading...!

Your comments have got me thinking some more. A few points:

-- Sometimes I'll tell myself that I'll watch for certain aspects (gestural, structural, montage, sound design, etc etc) that I didn't pay as close attention to the first time. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. (Truffaut tells Hitch in his book-length interview that he tries to do this with The Lady Vanishes every time but gets sucked into the plot and characters without fail.)

-- I also (like Acquarello) see the value of waiting a little bit before revisiting a film that I'm having some trouble with, wrestling with it, living with its dissonances for a while. I think that the struggle can be very productive, even if our evaluation of the film does not change. It forces us to think through issues that may retrospectively apply to hundreds of other films we've seen (or are yet to see).

-- I often feel like I learn most about films from the diversity of insights that others offer. (By this mean everything from books, essays, Internet, to conversations with cinephiles, etc). So, when I'm struggling with a film after a viewing, I often seek out other people's takes on the film, try them on for size, see if I find them persuasive. Countless films have been illuminated (rescued!) for me because of perhaps even a stray word I heard about them, causing the film to come into focus. Subsequent viewings of the film thus become more profitable...

-- My laziest comfort viewing is probably not films at all but instead, TV. I watch (and rewatch) sitcom series on DVD to unwind (late at night, getting ready to drift off), and it's probably the closest I get to completely mindless watching although even that is not 100% mindless, I suspect...

January 29, 2007 7:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

To squeeze in a little reading here:
--A big reminder: The Contemplative Cinema Blog-A-Thon rages on, with lots of new posts and comments. It's a huge party over there, so don't forget to spend some time there each day...
--Zach on Tony Scott and on Tsai Ming-Liang.
--Andy: "Five, four, three...".
--Jonathan Rosenbaum has a couple of posts from Rotterdam.
--Last installment of Tuwa's Body Snatchers mix with a fistful of jazz mp3's.
--A ton of online viewing (some new) at Expanded Cinema.

January 29, 2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oops, this is the correct link to the Jonathan Rosenbaum posts.

January 29, 2007 9:22 PM  
Blogger David Lowery said...

"-- Sometimes I'll tell myself that I'll watch for certain aspects (gestural, structural, montage, sound design, etc etc) that I didn't pay as close attention to the first time. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't."

This reminds me of an old ploy I'd use when I was younger. Through most of my childhood, my family didn't have a TV or VCR. So on those occasions where I'd be at relatives houses and I'd convince them to rent me a movie I wanted to see, I'd milk the opportunity for all it was worth and watch the tape four or five times. My excuse was that the first time I just wanted to see the film, and each subsequent viewing would be to pay attention to some specific aspect, the study of which was integral to my future as a director. It usually worked.

This habit continued, somewhat altered, one time when I visited my aunt and uncle in Portland when I was about fourteen. They rented for me all the movies that I'd been dying to see but that my parents had forbidden - Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Crow were the two I remember most - and I took full advantage of the situation and watched all of them at least twice, before returning to my censored homelife.

January 29, 2007 10:58 PM  
Blogger kenjfuj said...

-- I often feel like I learn most about films from the diversity of insights that others offer.... So, when I'm struggling with a film after a viewing, I often seek out other people's takes on the film, try them on for size, see if I find them persuasive. Countless films have been illuminated (rescued!) for me because of perhaps even a stray word I heard about them, causing the film to come into focus.

That's why I love reading good critics! They always seem so much more valuable after you've seen a film than before you've seen it. I did exactly that---check up on the "external reviews" from IMDb.com---when I came back from NY after seeing Army of Shadows Sunday. Not only did they aid in clarifying aspects of the film for me and helping me understand my reactions, but they also made me rather jealous that others could be so much more articulate about Melville's existential characters than I ever could. (That could probably be because I haven't watched any Melville, however, other than Army of Shadows and a clip from Bob le flambeur I saw in a course on French film I took last semester.)

Does anyone else also enjoy simply watching certain sequences in a film? As an on-and-off guilty-pleasure action flick fan, once in a while I find myself inclined to simply pop in my Die Hard DVD and skip to a particular fight or suspense setpiece just because it's so pleasurable to watch such a high level of craftsmanship. Or what about a particular image: the moment when Scottie sees his newly-restored Madeleine bathed in light in Vertigo, for instance? You may or may not notice new things each time you revisit a particular scene or image, but, if it's good, its pleasurable aspects will hopefully pop up again and again.

January 30, 2007 1:00 AM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

All of the reasons mentioned are motivations for my re-viewing films. For "molecular structure", I like to revisit Dario Argento, particularly Deep Red, Suspiria and Tenebre. Kubrick also benefits from multiple readings. On a purely intuitive level, the British uncensored version of Eyes Wide Shut makes more sense to me. My strangest multiple viewing is having seen three different versions of Lawrence of Arabia. I saw it in its initial release and thought it good but not great, again in a shorter re-release version that came out ten years later, and then the "restored" version. I figured I owed it to myself to see if I could understand why some people think Lawrence is a great film. I don't share their enthusiasm, but in the forty-five years since Lawrence was released, I am more familiar with the work of David Lean.

January 30, 2007 1:14 AM  
Blogger Noel Tanti said...

i find multiple viewings to be extremely important... one does not only get the opportunity to look at everything else beside the plot line, but in some instances, the film might not be really appreciated for what it is at that moment in time... malick's badlands readily comes to mind... the first time i've seen it i really liked it but as i grew older and matured, i noticed that the film did likewise... i just wasn't all that ready the first time round...

unfortunately it sometimes works the other way round too... rear window used to enchant me in my childhood years, and i had seen it six or seven times before i was ten... when i saw it as an adult, i found it too cerebral and consciously plotted as an 'art' film, with the result of appreciating it without really liking it...

January 30, 2007 3:11 AM  
Anonymous Rob Baker said...

Its difficult not to use a wine analogy for something like repeated viewings of a film. With the first viewing, you may notice an oak taste, so overwhelming, powerful and unanticipated. Subsequent sips reveal notes of apples or grapefruit. This may sound a tad pretentious but its exactly how I feel. For example, upon the first viewing of Manhattan, I was floored by the screenplay, how effortless and witty it was. Wow, I thought, what a great film! With my second viewing, maybe a year later, I found myself muting the TV just to soak in the images onscreen. My God, it was as if I was watching a completely new film. Without the words, I moved past my initial impression and noticed hints of what lies beneath.

Re-viewing films has since become something of a habit for me. Certain directors (Melville, Godard, Fellini, Bunuel, Allen) have become a staple of Friday nights without plans, regardless how many spins their DVDs have received.

Thank you Girish for your constant intelligent commentary. I am a long time visitor and first time poster, and this won't be my last.

January 30, 2007 4:07 AM  
Blogger Ignatius Vishnevetsky said...

I almost never rewatch films. When I watch a film, I know very well that it is likely that I will not see it again for a very long time, if ever again. It makes the viewing experience very intense--it's like falling in love with someone and then finding out that you'll never run into them again. You notice everything, and sometimes you treasure moments more than you should.
I'd didn't want it to end up this way, but I just find myself having more and more films that I feel compelled to see, so I just don't have time, to be quite frank.

January 30, 2007 5:08 AM  
Blogger Damian said...

Does anyone else also enjoy simply watching certain sequences in a film?

Oh, absolutely. Though I am often willing to "take a chance" on a new film, there are times when I simply want to see something that I know is good, that I know is well-made, that I know is going to be worth my time; that will make me marvel (yet again) at its sheer beauty, its brilliant craftsmanship, its total "perfection." Several things do that for me: the opening of Manhattan, the heist scene from the first Mission: Impossible, any number of action sequences from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the "Cheek to Cheek" number from Top Hat, the finale of Psycho and so many more. Such scenes create a "harmony" in my mind through their combination of camerawork, editing, music, costumes... just general conception and execution. They hold me in awe and I never tire of watching them nor the films they belong to.

January 30, 2007 5:17 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Just received a comment by email from Adrian Martin, which I'm posting below:

"There are many films I have rewatched, for sheer pleasure, many times over: Clueless, Carlito's Way, The Barefoot Contessa, Angel Face, Bande a part, the Molly Ringwald film Malicious...

Of course, films that I have written about and analysed I can watch literally hundreds of times, variously in bits, parts, the whole thing, slow, fast, forwards, backwards, sound on, sound off ... such as Once Upon a Time In America.

Picking up on what Girish said, I very often re watch a film especially to then immediately read a meaty analysis of that movie: so that all of its details are fresh in my mind, that way I really 'see' the analysis in action in a material way. I recently did this with Jacques Aumont's brilliant essay on Garrel's Birth of Love.

It has been interesting that people here have started talking about just watching certain scenes or 'chapters' over and over again, which is often said to be a characeristic of the new DVD cinephilia. I don't do it much myself, except for the first song and dance number in Haut bas fragile. I tend to stick with old-fashioned 'whole films'!

Except in this case: certain scenes that, more and more, I want to rewatch in order to commit them to memory, so I can 'run them in my mind' whenever I wish: this is for me the sweetest cinematic pleasure of all, I guess like learning a poem or how to play a piece of music ... I recently watched Alain Bergala on the DVD extras of the marvellous French edition of Cafe Lumiere: that guy's ability to conjure every detail of a scene (right down to the lighting, the rhythm, the gestures, the framing, the movements ... ) is really impressive, and what I want to do. Finally, I think, it comes down to this, more than any technological support: the cinema in your head!"

January 30, 2007 7:47 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you--David, Kenji, Peter, Noel, Rob, Ignatius, Damian, and Adrian!

I'm finding all this reading very inspiring!

Off to class now, but will be sure to respond later today...

January 30, 2007 8:09 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

What a fun discussion!

Damian - thanks for drawing my attention to your post: I went straight home and put in the DVD of Back to the Future to watch the sequence. Maybe I need to engage the brain when watching this next time!

Like girish suggested, I love to read or hear a range of opinion when struggling with a film; I do find it vital to seek out those not naturally likely to match my own thoughts, as a challenge and help to my own thinking.

I do seek out certain passages in films over and over - it's characteristic, for me, of the VHS cinephile, forced to remember where certain sequences start given the lack of chapters 'in the old days'. A few I love to re-watch: Chico at the piano in Marx Brothers films; the Nicholas brothers sequence in Stormy Weather; the long party sequence in Olivier Assayas's L'Eau froide (I went to a Q&A with him and he said something to the effect that shooting the sequence was the most fun he's had as a filmmaker: that certainly comes across on screen to me).

January 30, 2007 8:47 AM  
Blogger Morefield said...

Ignatius Vishnevetsky said:
I almost never rewatch films. When I watch a film, I know very well that it is likely that I will not see it again for a very long time, if ever again.

I'm sort of a slight corollary. Especially if it's a rental, I might watch the film two-three times while I have it, precisely because I know I may not have another opportunity for quite some time.

Recently, I've been trying to go back and rewatch some films that did not make a strong impression but feature work by people who have recently caught my eye. For example, I just dug up a $3 copy of Guillermo Del Toro's Mimic at a used book/DVD/tape store. [I believe this also had an uncredited screenplay edit by John Sayles.] My recollection of it was as a totally generic sci-fi/horror flick, but having recently seen Pan's Labyrinth, I'm curious to see if my viewing experience will be different. Also I really liked Kopple's Shut Up and Sing, so I used it as an excuse to revisit Harlan County USA, which I hadn't seen in years.

January 30, 2007 8:54 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Thanks for the mention, Girish. I'd love to see what some of the more perceptive filmbloggers might come up with watching all three of the Body Snatchers films.

More importantly, Tofu Hut is back.

January 30, 2007 10:53 AM  
Blogger scot said...

This is a great topic. Thanks girish and to all the others who have posted thoughtful replies.

As someone who only within the past year found his love for cinema rekindled, I find myself thinking there is just so much out there I have yet to see that I almost feel guilty re-viewing a favorite like Band of Outsiders if I haven't seen something like Imitation of Life yet.

So far this year I have watched 18 films that are new to me, and only 1 that I have seen befor (Masculin Feminin).

However, I do often times want to find myself rewatching a movie if only for the communal aspect of viewing or discussion. For instance, I am in a film discussion group with some friends, and it was my turn to pick a film. I could have picked a film that none of us have seen already and had us all discuss it. But, I picked Birth even though I have already seen it. It's a film that floored me when I first saw it, and one that I don't think the others would have got around to watching if not prodded by this group. And now with my friends watching it, I will likely watch it with a more critical eye, and see if it affects me the same as when I first saw it. And maybe some parts of the discussion would have me watching it even again.

This has been a pretty disconnected reply. But I guess it comes down to this, I feel guilty often times about rewatching. But, I've convinced myself if it invokes discussion, or it's in a community setting I can ignore those guilty impulses.

January 30, 2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I've been having fun applying Paul Schraders suggested criteria for determining cinematic masterworks; one of which, of course, is "repeatabillity." If one watches a film more than once it is sometimes simply because one can. There is something permeable in the textured structure of a film that allows access again (and perhaps again), in contrast to films that are sometimes so slick or superficial they resemble a masonite countertop. Films with a shellaced surface. Films that deflect. Films that do not engage.

Sometimes to watch a film again is, in the grasp of Schrader's canonical zeal, an effort to see if it will still "hold up." "Timelessness," he writes, "is the sine qua non of the canonical."

Other times films for me are what the Maya used to call an "ilbal", or a seeing instrument. Like books can be seeing instruments. Or a crystal. You scry into them. You delve. They produce what you invest. You see what you allow yourself to see. I think it was Abbas Kiarostami who said that when he makes a film it is not just a film, it is at least a thousand films, because each person who watches it invests into it and sees his own movie.

Whether for historical purposes, or biographical ones, it's often rewarding to measure the returns or to bemoan when they have diminished. I have seen "The Birds" let's say nearly 50 times. Or many of those Harryhausen flicks equally as many times. I like slipping into them like cotton clothes that have worn smooth.

I don't think I enter films again and again to deconstruct and critically an analyze them. I don't really think of myself as having a talent for analyzing and criticizing film. I enter them again and again because I like experiencing them in different ways. And I am always sad or a little disappointed when a film no longer yields experiential results.

Often I watch films at least twice because I am the consummate audience, I am so willing to suspend disbelief, that my anticipation to do so often gets in the way of seeing the film the first time around. So I have to see it a second time in order to calm down.

And on and on. As ever. A good topic. So much could be said.

January 30, 2007 1:24 PM  
Blogger aaron w graham said...

I mostly re-view films in the company of others - “experiencing them through new eyes”, as David wrote – or when I feel I’ve missed something in particular upon first viewing, or when a work is so dense that it needs to be broken down with a second viewing, or like others have written, simply for their comfort (Girish, I also find myself putting on sitcoms before bed in order to unwind, which almost always turn out to be classics – this week it’s been “I Dream of Jeannie”).

And like most cinephiles, there are certain directors that I’ll gravitate towards: Godard being one who practically bellows out the need to be re-viewed and, lately, Luc Moullet, and his A GIRL IS A GUN in particular, which is fresh out on DVD. In the latter’s case, certain sequences dumbstruck me into re-viewing because I couldn’t believe what I’d written down in my notes was actually said by the characters.

And re: Adrian Martin’s comment about re-watching the Molly Ringwald film MALICIOUS…

Suddenly, I need to see this...

January 30, 2007 5:32 PM  
Anonymous creative said...

Thanks girish for raising the topic, I've been addicted to girish's learned site and lurking for quite some time.

Like girish said,"there is the opportunity cost to be dealt with: every re-viewing automatically means foregoing a (new, strange, vital…?) experience with a film we’ve never seen before…." Currently, I'd rather watch another unseen acclaimed film than re-watch some known great films, I only watch a film twice if need be, like, writing a review.

Maybe when I've watched all those films I hope to get acquainted with, (most of the exceptional films in the world cinema) I'll try to re-watch some wonderful films I came across to get a deeper insight, but at the moment, I'd rather explore unknown territories than re-visit familiar areas, for there are still alot of lesser known great films out there deserving notice among cinephiles.

January 30, 2007 6:01 PM  
Blogger Damian said...

You're welcome, Gareth. :)

I almost never rewatch films. When I watch a film, I know very well that it is likely that I will not see it again for a very long time, if ever again.

That's an interesting perspective because my good friend Tucker (or "cineboy" of Pilgrim Akimbo) says, "you've never really seen a film until you've seen it three times." Personally, I'm inclined to agree with him.

I mostly re-view films in the company of others - “experiencing them through new eyes”, as David wrote...

Sometimes this is almost more fun than re-viewing a film alone. You can almost experience the surprise, suspense, sadness and.or joy of your own first viewing vicariously through them. Or maybe it's just the "filmmaker/storyteller" in us manifesting itself. Steven Spielberg once said, "I love movies. I love to make movies and I love to watch movies. I love to make movies so that I can watch them, I love to make movies so that you can watch them... and, what is probably the best part of all for me, I love to make movies so that I can watch YOU watch them." I know exactly what he means.

January 30, 2007 7:43 PM  
Blogger weepingsam said...

I find (consulting the old film diaries) that probably 1/4 to 1/3 of the films I see are films I've already seen. I suspect the bulk of these are rep house standards - Bogie films, Chaplin and Keaton and the Marx Brothers, Fred and Ginger, lots of Godard, Altman, Kurosawa, Kieslowski, Capra and Hitchcock turn up every year, and I generally see a bunch of them, no matter how many times I have seen them already. Ozu, Murnau, Renoir turn up less often, but when they do I go. And quite a few others that turn up even less....

The other big source of repeat viewings are DVDs - I'll watch the film, then rewatch it with the commentary track on - then sometimes watch it again...

And there are some comfort films - Rushmore, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Capra and Ozu, Marx Brothers, Monty Python, Busby Berkeley films, the Universal Frankensteins.... gotta see most of those 2-3 times a year.

January 30, 2007 9:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Gareth, Ken, Tuwa, Scot, Maya, Aaron, Creative, Damian, Weeping Sam -- Thank you!

All these rich and varied accounts...!

"The cinema in your head..."
An awesome phrase, that I'm not likely to forget...!

Speaking of DVD cinephilia, I live in a relatively small town (talking in cinephile terms here) with limited theatrical access to anything but mainstream movies and high-profile indies. (Old Joy, Army of Shadows, Lazarescu--none of them played Buffalo.) And there are no rep theaters or cinematheques here either. I make one or two carefully planned movie road trips each month to Toronto or Rochester, but the majority of my movie watching is on DVD. I am a mostly-DVD cinephile, and I also (like others here) use the random-access nature of the format to watch fragments (chapters/scenes) on a regular basis. 5 years ago, I propped up a book on my kitchen table and read for a half-hour as I ate a leisurely breakfast. Today, I'm more likely to flip open the iBook (not much larger than a real book!) and play a scene or two from a DVD, sometimes a certain favorite, other times, equally likely, chosen purely at random....that old dialectical tension again: comfort and surprise....

January 30, 2007 9:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Speaking of surprise, here is an excerpt from an essay by Adrian at the on-line issue of the film magazine Filmkrant; the issue is on the future of film festivals. [The navigation's a bit tricky--select "Meest Recent Krant" from the left sidebar, and then IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) from the right sidebar.]

Here's a slice from the piece, which uses the example of a film festival like Rotterdam to make a case for discovery and surprise and against habit and comfort:

"Whenever people start saying (as they often do today) that DVD will replace film projection - and, even worse, that little 'DVD parties' in our domestic loungerooms will replace all public screenings, including Film Festivals - I, too, start to feel precious and pained about that 'element of surprise'. Because what is wrong with this 'loungeroom theory' of the future of global film culture? I will tell you: it has too much comfort in it. Too much pre-programming. Too much of what we already know - whether that it is the good old friends who enter our loungeroom every week, or those shiny favourite DVD hits we love to play again and again, for sentimental reasons (and I am as sentimental as the next cinephile, of course).
It's been said before: cinema is all about - should be all about - discovery. There are moments in my life where I have deliberately, rigorously trained myself to pick up a movie at the video shop that, under no rational circumstances, I would ever choose to see: you would be surprised what you can discover, doing that. Or to stick with watching something flashing up on TV that I know nothing about. Actually, being a paid, weekly film reviewer (as I once was, for over a decade) is good for this, at least: you have to surmount your distaste for all kinds of 'crap' (as everybody else tells you it is, whatever it is) and see everything on offer - whether you want to or not. And, in my case, I came to want it a lot... But, of course, the problem for all people in that film-reviewing profession is that, alas, they don't get to 'see everything', not nearly a fraction of everything, not nearly even a fraction of representative samples of everything...

"The good Festivals, to me, are like strolling through Godard's playpen at the Pompidou. You never can predict what, or who, you are going to bump into, or fall over, or see or read. You follow strange whims, enter through strange doors, accept advice from strangers who - in your normal daily life - you would not pay any sensible heed to. You develop sudden passions for national cinematographies that are utterly foreign to you. You find new genres, sub-genres, mini-genres, multi-genres. Movies combine in your head, talk to each to each other, crossbreed: it's that vast, imaginary film-fleuve, the great river of film, that you have always dreamed about - but which you never, ever found in your loungeroom, sipping tea or smoking joints with those 'old familiar faces' who share life-history with you, and hence also share your tastes, your lifestyle, your sophisticated culture...

"But all cultural taste (particularly the most sophisticated) is a prison. Everything that is habit-forming in the life of a cinephile is bad news. Festivals are a good way to break those habits, to throw you off-track, catch you off-guard. Navigating a Festival - especially one as large, wondrous and unruly as Rotterdam - is a paradoxical exercise for the soul, like being Jackie Chan's drunken master, or learning to play two different rhythms at once like an African drummer. Perpetual insight and loss of control both at the same time."

January 30, 2007 10:20 PM  
Blogger CINEBEATS said...

I really enjoyed catching up on your blog girish! I like your thoughtful posts which ask readers to contribute since so many different points of view get expressed. I also thought I'd contribute to this interesting discussion even if I'm a bit late.

I often re-view films for a couple of reasons. Many films hold a sort of special charm for me and like a good song you listen to over and over, I don't mind watching movies I like over and over again. I also find that I often discover new things when I watch a film multiple times. A movie like Danger: Diabolik is an example of a fun movie - tasty piece of candy really - that I just can't get enough of. If I’m in the mood for a good cry I might watch something like The Way We Were and if I want to laugh a lot I’ll watch any comedy with Peter Sellers.

I also love a well-written script and if a movie has great dialogue I'll go back to it again & again. John Huston and the Coen Brothers have made lots of movies I enjoy returning to just to hear the characters talk such as The Misfits and Miller’s Crossing.

Last but not least, I'm also 38 years old and started watching films regularly when I was a just a kid (in the 70s you could catch things like Antonioni's Blow-up playing on TV on a Sunday afternoon) so I'll often return to movies I enjoyed when I was a kid to watch them with adult eyes.

January 30, 2007 11:17 PM  
Blogger Oggs Cruz said...

Re-viewing films for me is a certain luxury I enjoy every once in a while. As in girish's case, I live in a country wherein arthouse films are rarities, except for certain yearly film festivals. I would subject myself to viewing these films on DVD, whenever I can. The luxury of re-viewing comes when a film festival would be playing that exact film I adored on my television set, and seeing it on the big screen --- admiring the little details that my eyes might have missed.

There are of course films which I had to re-view because I couldn't pinpoint what emotion I garnered from such film. Most of Altman's works are subject to that type of re-viewing; the immensity of information in Altman's films justifies every second, third or fourth viewing. Lynch, Polanski, Godard, and several other directors force me to do the same.

There are films however which affect me like a drug. The visuals, the hypnotic storytelling, the simplistic beauty just lures me to view them more than once as well, bluntly speaking, stress relievers --- Wong Kar Wai, Jeffrey Jeturian's "Minsan Pa," Miyazaki, Kurosawa, Guru Dutt, Bollywood.

Lastly, there are films which I adored at first viewing, quite suprisingly, that I'm curious as to how it'll fare the second time around (which would more often than not disappoint). Nolan, Shyamalan, Singer, mostly Hollywood directors who aspire for mere one-time enchantments.

January 31, 2007 12:47 AM  
Anonymous Steve said...

I share that concern about spending time re-viewing something when there's so much I haven't seen. So I don't go back to that many films. But it's often a surefire way of telling what's really good (or what I really like), which can then inform my views on other films later.

Saw Boogie Nights a couple of times, then just had to buy the DVD ... well, it still looks nice. Whereas Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Thin Red Line, and Comrades, Almost a Love Story keep telling me more and more about myself as a viewer.

And on some films, the flaws increasingly irk me, while on others, the problems may become more obvious over time but they matter less, as the pleasures overshadow them.

January 31, 2007 1:18 AM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

Being late to the party I will only offer comments regarding your initial request, Girish.

Today I bought five movies. It's a little excessive, I know, but I feel like each one warrants more time.
(1) Bad Timing, Nicolas Roeg. I borrowed it from the library and watched it in pieces over a week, in between readings and writings. It still slapped me silly and awake in the end. I think it's worth diving into for a fuller critical response so I decided, with new Financial Aid windfall, I'd indulge. Also, Theresa Russell is both gorgeous and brilliant. It's weird, the movie is pretty great but also ingratiating, if that makes sense. I need to watch it again but my immediate response is one of awed praise.

(2) PJ's King Kong. For less than $10, this is totally worth it. I saw it for the first time at a Times Square midnight showing and despite the devestating final sequence, I was pretty let down. Mostly, I realize in retrospect, it was cuz I was tired. Because, I couldn't shake it. I found myself thinking about it -- its faults and its strengths alike -- the whole year until I bought it for my friend for Xmas and we watched it. Now I think it may be better than the LOTR movies. I know, it's a little bit of blasphemy from an avowed LOTR fanboy like myself (I read those books a lot) but, really, it's bigger, almost, than those hobbit tales because it's about more than a flimsy political allegory embedded in mythology. It's about the movies. It's a piece of film criticism. It's the big bad brother of The Life Aquatic and a cousin to the next one I bought...

(3) Mulholland Dr. There's more here about its relation to King Kong than just Naomi Watts' shining light. But that's a big factor. More on that, albeit briefly, in an upcoming post on THE HOUSE.

(4) The Elephant Man. I'm kind of going through a David Lynch obsession right now. And it's worth $5. It deserves another look as it's been ages since I've seen it; probably since before The Straight Story.

(5) Punch-Drunk Love only gets better with each successive viewing. It's a joy to watch.

So yeah: I like revisiting movies. I still have a lot of blindspots because I'm willing to sit through something like King Kong again instead of checking out some more Ozu. But entertainment's part of what movies are, right? Like, duh! So there's plenty of good reason to revisit stuff. Especially if it appreciates. The Roeg film may not, but it's a landmark piece of art, I think, and I promise to offer more thoughts soon.

One final thing: movies, like any art, can inform and reflect upon one's daily life so it's always great to go back and revisit films as friends, as helping hands. I don't really know what movie I can point to that I watch again and again as emotional touchstones, though. But my "favorites" probably work their way into that category: The Thin Red Line, Mirror, Rules of the Game, Manhattan, Shaun of the Dead, Bull Durham, Made...I've probably seen Made more than any other movie thanks to a roommate I had. But, luckily, I still love the film.

January 31, 2007 1:31 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Cinebeats, Oggs, Steve and Ryland--Merci...!

January 31, 2007 6:16 AM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

There are some films that I never want to re-visit because the subject matter is too painful--anything on the Holocaust, for example--but as a general rule, if I loved it, I want to see it again.

Quoting Maya: "I am always sad or a little disappointed when a film no longer yields experiential results."

Yes! There is a point of diminishing returns with re-viewing even a great movie. I find that if I am not getting "experiential results" from a re-viewing, I do not bother (unless I am in a movie theater, in which case I'm kinda stuck).

So, certain unquestionably good or even great films I have seen so often, and are referenced so often, that it is now like trying to look at the Mona Lisa with fresh eyes. I am on absolute re-viewing hiatus with Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night, North by Northwest ... well, you get the idea. They are like extended family members, so well-known to me that even the virtues can grate a bit.

January 31, 2007 12:22 PM  
Blogger Ouyang Feng said...

I often watch films again, more than twice even.
I like to re-visiting some films I first discovered in film festivals because in film festivals, I watch about 25 films in less than a week, the impression is different in the context of a film festival than in a context of a film theatrical release (and also on dvd).
I also revisit the films I present and watch again at the screening.
And, it's always a pleasure to do.

I watched Ashes of Time, Days of Being Wild and Chungking Express oh I can't tell... sometimes I watch even just bits again just because I deeply feel like it all of a sudden. It's an impulsive feeling.
I've watched Farewell my Concubine many times, I always feel very moved. I guess I watched again and again films that left me a deep, personal impressions (and not just because of the emotions they gave out, but also because of the thoughts they brought out on me), basically the ones in which I feel related too, like 'old friends'.

It also happens that I re-watch a film I watch the day before. Impressions can vary.

January 31, 2007 3:41 PM  
Blogger Ignatius Vishnevetsky said...

I've seen Mouchette maybe four times (the last in a theater) and I will probably never watch it again, or at least not for another few years. Rewatching some films is too intense--you do notice more. I don't really own any DVDs anymore--a stack of burned copies of rare films I'll lend out to friends, but, other than that, I just rent and go to the movies--at least one new film every day, if not two or three or four. But it's alright, I live frugally, and I get all my rentals for free.
There was a time I was really into the idea of building a DVD collection--they still fascinate me, especially the aesthetics of DVD menus and the idea of chaptering. Back in those days, I used to rewind and rewatch sequences over and over and over. I used to go to sleep watching a movie and wake up with a bad back because the couch wasn't a comfortable place to sleep. But now it's a bit different--movies seem more delicate, more fragile to me.
And I don't agree with Schrader's criteria or some of his list. Rewatchability suggests cinema as an object rather than an experience. I don't reread books either, though I sometimes go back to a passage I remember--and I own a lot more books that I ever have DVDs.

January 31, 2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger StinkyLulu said...

I was born in the year of Midnight Cowboy and started to really watch movies about 12 years later when I had nearly unfettered access to a beta-tape lending library...

Beginning then and continuing ever since, rescreening movies has long been perhaps my favorite aspect of cinephilia. (Indeed, it's part of what got me into studying/teaching film.) I frankly can't comprehend those who forgo the pleasures that rescreening brings. My post on the topic reveals my solidly lowbrow predispositions. That said, I too find that rescreening allows the appreciation of certain "passages" as well as an almost intuitive discovery of style/structure.

January 31, 2007 8:44 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Campaspe, Ouyang, Ignatius, Stinklylulu -- Many thanks for settng down your thoughts.

I think there was a time when I was nervous about revisiting a film I really liked, thinking it might not 'live up to' its initial impact. I refrained from re-watching Vertigo for 10 years, almost terrified that my first (epiphanic) viewing had been a weird aberration which would then be 'found out' when I returned to the film. When I finally did re-watch it (and it was revelatory) it felt like a little breakthrough. It gave me the confidence to revisit a raft of old favorites without fear, even though not every single one held up as well...

February 01, 2007 7:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

A few links:
--Jennifer MacMillan's 3-minute film Laura and Charlotte at Invisible Cinema.
--New issue of Vertigo.
--David Bordwell on jazz critic/film biographer Gary Giddins's "criticism of enthusiasm.".
--Matt Zoller Seitz on Angelopoulos' The Weeping Meadow.
--Thom at Film of the Year on Prince Achmed (1926).
--Many fun Noir posts at Maya's place.

February 01, 2007 7:27 AM  
Blogger cineboy said...

girish, I can't think of any profound insights to re-viewing films, but years ago I did come up with a rule of thumb I loosely use when it comes to better than average films, that is: to really understand a film one should view it at least three times. Of course there are exceptions to the "rule" but the reasoning is simple: the first viewing is more of a surprise viewing when one engages in a somewhat reactionary and surface level; the second viewing is a little more "serious" when one can begin to notice the more subtle elements, and the third viewing provides the opportunity to make the mental connections between the various elements, including both the subtle and obvious elements. This seems to make sense to me, in part because the better films tend to reveal themselves more with each subsequent viewing such that one can generally say the later viewings are better than the first. I doubt this rule would work with poorer films which reveal themselves in their entirety on the first viewing.

There is the problem, as you mentioned, of the continually increasing number of films and the choice that needs to be made between watching something again and watching something new. Alas, I don't think there is a good answer for that one. It's the same with too many books. But I do have to say that it might be better to see a limited number of great films repeatedly than go for quantity. It's debatable.

February 01, 2007 11:00 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

G, thanks for supporting & linking to my films! I know that I said that I was quitting my blog, and now I'm back, look at me, etc. etc., but I had to quit so that I could do this! Placing the films online gives them such a new life. I was taking a break from making film/videos too, but now I feel inspired. Thanks!

February 01, 2007 12:07 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Tucker and Jen.

Tucker, congratulations on your newborn daughter...!

Jen, you're most welcome. When you broke up with your blog, I was hoping it wouldn't be for good. Like a 'virtual' home, it'll always be there for you whenever you feel like popping in and posting (however frequently or infrequently that may be...)

February 01, 2007 8:09 PM  
Blogger girish said...

J. Hoberman has a nice, lengthy essay on "sunshine noirs" in the latest Artforum:

"Anticipated by the German Expressionists, discovered by French aesthetes, beloved by American film scholars, the atmospheric crime stories, paranoid policiers, and hard-boiled detective yarns known as film noir constitute the most stylized, self-consciously artistic tendency in Hollywood history. Compositions in convoluted flashback, tough-guy slang, and precisely adjusted venetian blinds—only bebop, which also developed during World War II, could claim to be a richer form of American avant-pop.

Noir is its own place, but it belongs to Los Angeles; it is a dark shadow cast by the radiant City of Angels. A particular subset of film noir deals with local history—the city’s or the movies’. These are the Sunshine Noirs. Citizen Kane’s fake newsreels and haunted mansion anticipate Sunshine Noir, as Kane (1941) does all noir. Indeed, Orson Welles virtually defined Sunshine Noir when the naïf he played in The Lady from Shanghai (1947) spoke of “a bright, guilty world”—a phrase that has been widely, if erroneously, taken as referring to Los Angeles.

Thanks to Hollywood, Los Angeles is the world’s most photographed metropolis and hence the most apparitional. As film historian Thom Andersen points out in his 2003 cine-essay, Los Angeles Plays Itself, this is a metropolis where motels or McDonald’s might be constructed to serve as sets and “a place can become a historic landmark because it was once a movie location.” The whole city is haunted by an imaginary past.

Thus Sunshine Noir is also prefigured by the moody high-noon surrealism of Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), with its doppelgänger-ridden Hollywood bungalow; Sunshine Noir similarly flickers avant la lettre in Kenneth Anger’s fragmentary Puce Moment (1949), which also concerns ghosts in broad daylight, albeit from a more documentary viewpoint: Limned in Kodachrome against the Hollywood Hills, a young woman in a glamorous antique gown strikes the poses of a silent-movie star, at one point holding four Russian wolfhounds at leash."

February 01, 2007 8:29 PM  
Blogger Damian said...

But I do have to say that it might be better to see a limited number of great films repeatedly than go for quantity.

I was going to say virtually the same thing, Tuck; that it might be better to simply pick a couple hundred of the "greatest" films ever made and just watch those over and over again. I guess you beat me to it, though it's only fair as I already mentioned your "three times" rule earlier. I still gave you credit for it though. :)

February 02, 2007 6:22 AM  
Blogger girish said...

via David Hudson: an article in the Guardian on an Albert Ayler documentary that I'm looking forward to. Also: Kristin Thompson on subtitled films (""I ask myself, can a generation used to learning elaborate strategies for videogames and reading the various icons that appear during their fast action really be so unable to deal with some words on a movie screen?").

February 02, 2007 7:39 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

girish -

It seemed to me that at least some of your regulars might be interested in news I heard of a planned Michael Haneke retrospective in Boston in late October. His theatrical feature films are pretty easily available, but they are going to have the North American premieres of five of his made-for-TV features. That's all I know at present, but sounds intriguing.

February 02, 2007 4:39 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for that tip, Gareth.

Jonathan Rosenbaum, at his blog, talks about attending a film conference in Toulouse, and points to a Chicago film events blog called Cinefile.

Via Andy Horbal, here are two slide shows at Slate on: Henri Cartier-Bresson and Jasper Johns.

February 02, 2007 5:27 PM  
Blogger cineboy said...

Damian, now that I have taken a closer look at the comment section, I see your mention of my so-called three viewings "rule." Thanks for the mention.

February 02, 2007 6:50 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

I wonder at that term sunshine noir--how old is it? I used it a few times myself, then started noticing others using it everywhere.

February 03, 2007 2:46 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Noel, I had heard the term used before but don't know exactly how long it's been around....

A couple of links:
--Brian Darr at Greencine on Sundance documentaries.
--Michael Guillen interviews David Thomson.
--Oggs Cruz on Kidlat Tahimik's Perfumed Nightmare.
--Walter at Quiet Bubble comes up with a "master class" for film, and also talks about his favorite '06 films.

February 03, 2007 8:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Sparked by Hoberman's "sunshine noir" essay, David Hudson has a post at Greencine called "Noir et Blanc":

"I've been exchanging email with DK Holm about J Hoberman's evocative essay in Artforum on "Sunshine Noir"; after all, one of Doug's books is Film Soleil, which he calls "an aspect of film noir, but one in which the traditional tropes of noir from the period 1939 to 1958 are reversed or revised. Dark nights become sunlit days and urban sprawl becomes under-populated desert." And he argues, primarily by listing and discussing dozens of examples, that it's "a genre unto itself."
With his lovely riffs on apparitions of Los Angeles, Hoberman is less concerned in this new essay with the formal than with the thematic attributes of what might indeed be a subgenre at least.

"Back to Doug: "I saw After Dark My Sweet and wrote a review for a newspaper in which I introduced the phrase 'film soleil.' After it came out, one of my local colleagues (I think it was Shawn Levy, which would be characteristic of him) mentioned that Hoberman had used the phrase 'film blanc' a few years earlier, and I vaguely remembered that. I mention Hoberman in the book on page 12. When I started to write the book, I wrote to Hoberman because I wanted to quote the review directly and he wrote back to say he couldn't remember and wasn't sure if he knew which review I was talking about. I never did find the review."

""Film blanc"? Nice. So I went looking for it myself. It wasn't long before I found Glenn Erickson recalling, "I first heard of Films Blanc (White Film) about 1975, in Film Comment magazine. I don't know who coined the term, but it is a pretty apt description of the complete inverse of Film Noir. Films Blanc are fantasies, whimsical visions of life that deal with the great beyond, the afterlife, heaven and hell. They are usually romances or light morality plays, sometimes satirical, often sentimental.""

February 03, 2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

:off-topic alert:

Girish, your place seems to be filmblogger central so I just thought I'd give a heads up about this elbo.ws post about Craigslist NY hiring an astroturfer to spam blogs soon. May not affect film blogs, and it might only be for NYC blogs, but it's worth keeping an eye out.

February 03, 2007 8:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Tuwa. Spam has been absent here lately for some reason, thank goodness...

--In the Independent: Bunuel and Dali.
--The Siren on Ford's Arrowsmith (1931).
--Acquarello on Jia's Still Life.

February 04, 2007 8:00 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Some new releases at Netflix this morning that I just added to my queue: Satyajit Ray's Mahanagar; Walerian Borowczyk's Immoral Tales; William Wyler's The Heiress; Vincente Minnelli's The Clock; Michel Gondry's The Science of Sleep.

February 04, 2007 8:46 AM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

February 04, 2007 9:33 AM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Aha, I have seen two of those! The Heiress and The Clock are both wonderful. Olivia de Havilland placed quite high in Edward Copeland's "Best of the Best Actresses" poll for the Wyler movie. And The Clock is such a beautiful, romantic little movie that makes you cry (all the more so if you know the fate of the two leading players).

Mahanagar looks most interesting. I am sorry to say I still have seen only Pather Panchali but add in my defense that it was so heartbreaking it has taken me a few years to work up the nerve for the rest of the trilogy.


(oops, had to repost due to sleep-deprivation typos)

February 04, 2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Campaspe, I've seen (and liked) The Heiress but have not seen The Clock. And I think you'd really like the following two films in the Ray trilogy (if you're worried about it, they're not quite as 'tragic' as the first...)

Kevin Lee posts a couple of good excerpts by John Berger on van Gogh and illustrates with a clip from Pialat's film.

February 04, 2007 10:30 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

The entire Apu trilogy is amazing but, like Campaspe, I find them a bit daunting. I have a great respect for them and remember liking them, but I haven't yet steeled myself to watch them again.

February 04, 2007 11:05 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Mahanagar isn't a tragic film at all, it's actually a pretty funny film about "women's liberation", Indian style. :) Next to Kinuyo Tanaka, Madhabi Mukherjee is my favorite actress, and there's a scene in the film where she's got sunglasses and lipstick on, much to the aghast of the menfolk is one of my favorite images in all of Ray's films. It's absolutely hilarious!

February 04, 2007 11:51 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Yeah, the scene in which she applies her lipstick, slowly, watching herself being transformed in the mirror, is my favorite scene in the film. Campaspe, you'd love Mahanagar...

February 04, 2007 1:22 PM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

The Clock is lovely. Of the Apu trilogy, my favorite is The World of Apu, mainly because it's in that film that the whole story comes together (that said, Pather is heartbreakingly beautiful). Actually met Sharmila Tagore in New Delhi, who played Apu's bride--she's the great granddaugther of Rabingranath Tagore, a lovely grandmother of fifty five.

The Heiress--James is such an odd writer; Greene once wrote that of all the modern writers he knows--Joyce, Kafka, so on and so forth--James is the strangest.

The Heiress is wonderful, for the work of Havilland and Clift and Ralph Richardson, and for the way Wyler keeps the melodrama moving along and under wraps for the most part, even giving Clift his moment of sympathy towards the end.

But maybe the strangest aspect of Washington Square and James in general for me is that he represents the artistic salvation of what I considered one of the worse filmmakers in the Philippines, one Carlos Siguion Reyna, who did big-budgeted productions under his mother's production company, many of them written by his wife.

They're bizarre creatures--well produced, well photographed films that seem to have no basis at all in realistic psychology, or reality for that matter. But for some reason, he gets James (who isn't exactly easy to adapt--I'm thinking of Softley's (a far more talented filmmaker, arguably) Wings of the Dove). He totally identifies with the story of a rich sheltered woman helpless in the grip of her father.

It's almost electric, the way he makes the film so intense; for maybe the only time in his career, I actually bought what he was selling me.

February 05, 2007 1:25 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Noel, when I was a teen I probably had pin-ups of Sharmila Tagore on the wall. She and her cricket legend husband Pataudi made a great 'power couple'...

February 05, 2007 9:54 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

Let me tell you, at fifty-five she's still eminently pin-uppable.

February 05, 2007 11:00 PM  
Blogger dave said...

I rarely re-view films. I am very concerned with the opportunity cost of viewing movies, and in New York watching a movie again means missing a great movie I haven't seen. (Actually, only seeing 5 movies a week also implies this).

That said, i will often see a film and need to see it again. I rarely sit down and screen it back-to-back, but I will wait a few days, let it ruminate, and then re-watch. I did this recently with Rules of the Game and Army of Shadows.

There are certainly movies I love to watch and will see over and over. Umbrellas of Cherbourg would qualify for me, but its too devastating to just put on most days... I'm often inspired to a re-viewing when something shows up on television (TCM, Sundance, IFC).

Seeing Colossal Youth made me want a second viewing, but I only realized this after a few days of reading and thinking about the film. I certainly missed much of the film's depth on first viewing.

One other major factor me - a re-viewing in a cinema is infinitely more valuable than a re-viewing on dvd. In every way - emotionally, formally - it's a more rewarding experience.

I especially love to revisit films at the point when the details are fading but still nearly accessible. I suppose depending on the level of detail, this could mean the next day or it could mean in 5 or 10 years, though to be fair I really only started watching movies less than 10 years ago.

***
In college I took a class on Dostoyevsky, and the final page of the syllabus had an assignment on it: re-read Brothers Karamazov every 5-10 years for the rest of your life. Is there a film that essential for me? (possibly La Jetee). for the rest of you?

February 23, 2007 11:08 AM  

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