Five movies that get better with each viewing

There are some movies that you can’t watch just once. Movies that are like  Sometimes, a second viewing of a movie, or of anything, can completely change your perspective or reaction to it (to use a cinematic example, I liked The Squid and the Whale much more on second viewing, and for a TV example, I loved Dexter once I’d watched the first season a second time), or perhaps, the more you watch a film, you notice more things about, little subtleties and nuances, other interpretations. And sometimes there are films that you fall head over heels in love with and never tire of watching again and again and again. Here are five of those movies for me, that, with each new watch, something new emerges.

5 – Pulp Fiction (1994)

Number of viewings: 4.

Yes, I’ve only seen Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction four times (to my recollection), and there’s really nothing I can add to the discussion of it that hasn’t already been said countless times over. I do adore it, it’s one of my all time favourite movies, even though I’ve seen it a fairly minimal numbers of times.

But the thing with Pulp Fiction, is I tend to watch it with rather large gaps between each viewing. The last time I saw it was this February (it was showing on the big screen, so I felt compelled to go). And because there are gaps between my viewings of Pulp Fiction, every time I watch it, I get to fall in love with it all over again. Every time I see it, I get to smile at those one liners, howl with laughter at the fate of poor old Marvin, and be utterly gripped by the trials, tribulations and lives of the kaleidoscopic cast of characters that make up it’s multi-threaded narrative. That’s the true joy of coming back to great things after long gaps, you get to rediscover their wonders anew, and if anything, it can make you love these things even more.

4 – American Psycho (2000)

Number of viewings: 6.

First off, American Psycho is perhaps my favourite book that I’ve ever read, so of course, I am enamoured of the film, of the slick wit of the screenplay, the way the film interprets Patrick Bateman, and Christian Bale’s faultless performance as the psychotic wall-street man who will hopefully be placed in cinematic history as one of the great villains.

And American Psycho, being adapted from a divisive book (by the divisive Bret Easton Ellis), has lots of people loving or hating it based on how it adapts the source. There are those that loathe it for being lighter and more comic, and those that love it for giving it the substance the book (which many have called ‘pornographic’ and ‘misogynistic’) lacked.

For me though, it’s none of those things. I just think it’s a damn fine adaptation, and of course there are sections you’ll have to cut, but the essence of the source is there. And every time I watch it, that essence, the core of Ellis’ source material seems to come more to forefront. Ellis’ themes of detachment and apathy and self loathing take a step closer to the spotlight (I even wrote an essay about it). And that’s what makes American Psycho joyous upon rewatches, by seemingly allowing both the cornerstones of Ellis’ material, and the unique, nuanced version of Patrick projected onto the screen, seem more pronounced, it manages the downright paradoxical, and becomes better as both an adaptation, and a piece of cinema in it’s own right.

3 – Persona (1966)

Number of viewings: 10.

There was a week during the summer of 2012, where every day, at about one in the afternoon, I’d eat lunch, and watch Bergman’s Persona. As the math dictates, I’d seen it 3 times before then. The second viewing won me over to it, the third placed it in the back of my mind, and those seven, across that one week in summer, convinced me that Persona was a masterpiece.

It’s now one of my ten favourite films. And that’s because it’s cerebral, unique, and the performances are absolutely stellar. Each time I watched it, I came away with some new thoughts about it; I looked at the opening montage in a different way, considered the fever dream final act from different contexts and points of view. Each time I watched Persona, I also gained a little more admiration for Liv Ullman’s almost wordless performance as Elisabeth Volger.

Now, I hadn’t seen much silent cinema at the time of watching Persona those seven times (I’ve seen a fair share now – studying it for a part of my intro to film module), but what those rewatches of Persona managed to do, was convince me of not only the validity of silent acting in the 21st century, but also just how good silent acting can be. Ullman’s performance is magnetic and layered and enigmatic, and each gesture is important.

Some things take time, and my appreciation, and now outright adoration of Persona, was one of those things.

2 – Eraserhead (1977)

Number of viewings: 12.

I. LoveEraserheadBut you all knew that already.

There’s not a great deal I can say about Eraserhead that I haven’t said already. Every time I watch it I am given a creative boost, and am always a little overwhelmed by it. It deals with a scattershot of themes and potential interpretations, but each of them is given several weight.

And every time I watch it, I think of another way to interpret it, another theme that plays a role in the bizarre, nightmarish world of Henry Spencer. Eraserhead is a recurring dream, every time it’s experienced, it is considered in a totally new light.

1 – Manhattan (1979)

Number of viewings: 20+.

“Chapter one: he adored New York City.”

And so begins Woody Allen’s masterpiece, a film it appears I’ve spent over a day watching. This spree of rewatchings began when I was looking for things to watch while I was tired so that I could fall asleep. And it dawned on me, whenever I put Manhattan on, I didn’t fall asleep.

Of course, Manhattan is exactly gripping in the way something like The Silence of the Lambs or Drive is, but it simply held my attention, and led me through New York, showing me people who were flawed, engaging, and relate-able. It’s a fairly minimalist film, all things considered; by no means a laugh out loud comedy like Allen’s early work, or a movie that is full-on dramatic like Husbands & Wives, it expertly treads a line between humour and pathos, gradually etching out the humanity of its cast.

I don’t quite know what to say about Manhattan; it makes me laugh, it moves me, it stirs me in a way that is almost intangible (from Ike asking “what makes life worth living?” to the crescendo of ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ while he runs through the streets, something stirs in me, and I get chills). Yeah, I might have spent a day or so of my life watching a Woody Allen movie, but damn it, it’s a day well spent.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Five movies that get better with each viewing

  1. Great list. I’m definitely with you on Pulp Fiction and Persona. Personally, I would include No Country for Old Men on my list as well.

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