The Power of Watching/Re-Watching Films
This is a tough thing to admit, but I’ve been a fraudulent cinephile. I’ve seen many of the “essential” films, most of them old and foreign (not films my friends are interested in, per se) in order to have an appreciation and understanding of the history and movements in cinema, but seeing a film just for the sake of seeing it does you no justice.
I started delving seriously into film 4 years ago. I was going through a rough patch and decided I could fill my time with a hobby that had always been simmering in my mind: becoming a film buff. So I got a Netflix account and began adding what were supposed to be the films that had to be seen if I was going to be taking this hobby seriously. My first film: Seven Samurai. That’s like wanting to take up mountain climbing and starting with Mount Everest. It took me three sittings to get through it. Not because I didn’t like it, but rather it was really long, subtitled, and structured in a way I had never really seen. I remember enjoying the film very much, but the appreciation wasn’t quite there (I’ve since re-watched it multiple times and fell in love with it). Not to be deterred by the difficulties of unusually structured films, I kept on watching. I started with the greats: Fellini, Bergman, Hitchcock, Renoir, Kurosawa, Hawks, Lang. And I enjoyed them for the most part, though I found some of them difficult to digest fully. I wasn’t prepared to dig deep into the multi-layered films, I was so used to seeing a film for what it presented on the surface and getting whatever superficial enjoyment I could get out of it. But the more I watched, the more I began to notice some things and pick-up on the deeper layers of these highly regarded films. Films, even the tougher ones to get, began to make more sense to me. However, having watched many of the all-time greats, I was moving into more ancillary works, off-shoots of some of the films I enjoyed and genres that weren’t as renowned as some of the avant garde films I had been watching. And I’ve liked and/or appreciated the artistic merits of the vast majority of them. Even if the films weren’t to my liking I could still cling to something: the music, camera movement, dialogue, structure, thematic elements. What never occurred to me was, what if I applied my more meticulous eye to the films I had began my journey with?
Cut to 4 years later and I’d say I’m a more savvy film viewer: subtitled films are easier to watch, themes easier to pick out, directors techniques are more clear. Watching films now is a totally different experience from 4 years ago. So now I’m watching films that I haven’t watched in ages, films I enjoyed the first time around but didn’t fully appreciate their art, and I can credit my film class for that. The first half curriculum has been populated by several films I had seen at the beginning of my film experience, but I have to say the re-watching has been a complete revelation. So far in class I’ve re-watched 8 1/2, The Battle of Algiers, The Third Man, Blow-Up, and Sansho the Bailiff, and I swear I watched them like a gleeful child the second time around. I noticed more things and understood key elements better. Films that used to seem slow to me no longer appear slow, they seem purposeful. In short, I feel like a more intelligent film viewer now. Since then, at home, I’ve re-watched Apocalypse Now, Rashomon and Oldboy with the same results. My appreciation has grown exponentially.
There wasn’t much of a point to this post except to get that thought out and let ya’ll know that film might seem like a difficult medium to tackle, full of various obstacles and some tough nuts to crack, but ultimately you have to condition yourself to film and film viewing. And when you do, your satisfaction will only grow with each film. So keep watching!