the cumulative experience

Posted on Posted in journal

So, Gregory wants to know what movies you watch over and over. Which is actually a bit of a difficult question for me to answer, honestly, because I'm one of those types who will watch a movie a gazillion and one times and still never tire of it. Same with books. It's not that I'm not selective, just that I've been at this movie-watching and book-reading thing for a few years now 😉

To start with the movies:

  • Labyrinth — I first discovered it during the impressionable teen years. 'Nuff said. Oh, okay. I love movies with a sense of whimsy about them. This qualifies. The final confrontation always gets my attention. That, and the masquerade inside the crystal ball.
  • The Princess Bride — again, it's the whimsy. And the tongue-in-cheekness. The perfect moments are too many to mention
  • Fight Club — for the mindfuck.
  • Cypher — to be honest, this isn't the world's best movie. But there is something about it that catches me. I think it's Jeremy Northam's performance.
  • Amelie — again, this owes a lot of its charm to whimsy. The lighthearted, slightly twisted perspective on reality just makes me happy. And that moment where Amelie turns to water with disappointment? Perfect.

There are more, but I'm going to stop there, because otherwise I'll just drag on and on and never finish this blog entry, and what use is that?

And thebooks:

  • Pride & Prejudice — for Lizzie. One of my favourite heroines. She's gutsy and articulate but not without flaws. And for Austen's narrative tone, which is always delightfully dry.
  • The Mirror of Her Dreams / A Man Rides Through — for the world. Terisa is wonderfully but not irritatingly wan through much of the story.
  • Dune — for the intricacy. And the scale of the story, beautifully combining the intimate focus on Paul with the wide focus on the Empire.
  • The Real Story (but not the rest of the story) — for the structure of the story, and the way it plays with the villain/victim/hero roles. Which is the very reason I didn't like the following books, because they ignored (or underplayed) the ambiguity set up in the first book and took a more straightforward approach.

Again, there are others, but I'm getting too tired to keep typing. So, you know. You take what you can get, right?

What I will add, is that I remember having a discussion about the re-watching of movies and the re-reading of books. My colleague (male) attributed the impulse to women: women were more inclined to watch a movie again than men. (I think it's too broad a generality to be of any use, myself, but whatever.) He was most interested in why you would want to watch again a movie that was traumatic: why, for example, watch Moulin Rouge again if you know you're going to cry when you watch it? Why do that to yourself?

I could only shrug. Crying can be cathartic, of course. But, too, I think it has to do with savouring an experience, tasting it again and again. I love re-reading and re-watching because each time I dip back into that world I discover a new layer: nuances I hadn't noticed before, which deepen the experience. The first time is always more emotional; the later times I have the luxury of foreknowledge, and I can apply a more intellectual appreciation.

14 thoughts on “the cumulative experience

  1. Ditto Fight Club. It's my angry movie. I'd do the same for Labyrinth and Princess Bride except I don't own them don'thurtmeI'msorry! I turn to Starship Troopers an awful lot, because it's hilarious and cool and old school.

    Nowadays, I don't feel like I have time to rewatch movies, so I don't tend to as much.

  2. I know what you mean about the lack of time. But some of my rewatching (usually not the films listed above) I'm happy to do in the background. I have a bad habit of working in front of the TV, so I'll often pop a movie on while I'm scribbling. I must say I don't end up watching much of the movie so much as listening to it. But by the same token, I watch far more than I should, looking up for key or beloved scenes, considering I'm supposed to working.

  3. I'd ask your colleague whether he listens to the blues. And if so, how he believes it to be different from watching a movie that'll make you cry.

    Both are about controlling your emotions, to the extent that that's possible. People will not accept a straight diet of any one emotion. If you "use up" your sad feelings on the blues, you won't be sad, or as sad, at the things in your own life that you otherwise would be.

  4. The movies I watch over and over are "Fly Away Home", "The Terminator", and "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind".

    The books (and I'm ashamed to admit it): "The Last Herald Mage" by Mercedes Lackey, "The House of Mirth" by Edith Wharton, and the Ramona books, by Beverley Cleary.

    I love most of the stuff you have on your list, though, except "The Real Story". Damn, but I hated that book.

  5. Matt: Interesting point. So essentially you could say people like to (re-)experience music/movies/art/etc both to experience a wider range of emotions in the first place, and also to gain and keep perspective. I like that, it makes emotional sense to me.

    Leigh: I've found The Real Story to be a love it or hate it book. So far, it is entirely possible I am the only one who loved it, as most everyone else hated the first book but loved the rest of the series.

  6. Hmmm, I've only read two of the books you listed. Great choices! I definitely get the whimsy — so many of the movies I love fall in that category. I could've easily listed Labyrinth and The Princess Bride — Bride in particular I seem to break out a few times a year at least (and quote constantly). And Fight Club, yeah, on a different day I might have listed that one. That's one of the ones that I tend to watch when I'm pissed at the world…

    And your colleague thought women were more likely to rewatch a movie or reread a book? Huh. He never met a male SF geek, I guess, or one of those guys who has watched every Monty Python episode and movie 8 billion times and memorized every skit.

    And I guess my answer on his question would be: sometimes beauty comes from sadness, and it's the beauty that gets us.

  7. "And I guess my answer on his question would be: sometimes beauty comes from sadness, and it's the beauty that gets us."

    Gregory: that's a beautiful sentiment! Very nicely put.

    Deb: I actually didn't care for any of the books in the series, which surprised me, because I LOVE Mirror of her Dreams/A Man Rides Through. A friend and I used to sit and talk about who we would want cast in a movie version (I saw the PERFECT actress to play Terisa on the episode of the X-Files where the secretary is being haunted/protected by her boss's ghost. I don't know the woman's name, but she's exactly how I imagined Terisa).

  8. PS: You look at the end confrontation, and the masquerade, 'cause it's the only opporunity Jarred has to truly strut his stuff and my god he struts.

    For the rest of the film…well, it's hard to be sexy with muppets.

  9. Gregory: Actually (being an engineer 😉 ), the colleague in question was in fact one of those males who has endlessly watched and memorised the Monty Python movies. Rewatching something happy he could understand, it was deliberately reviewing something traumatic that he found anethema. But your answer re beauty and sadness… Well, Leigh said it for me. Wonder if I was clever enough to think of something similar at the time. I doubt it.

    Leigh: I find Donaldson's books a bit hit and miss with me as well. Can't stand the Thomas Covenant books, for example. But the Mordant's Need duology? Fabulous. Utterly fabulous. So good I'll give anything he's written a try, just in case.

    Tess: Well, I guess it depends which muppets. But I suspect you might be right there. The masquerade scene also catches at me because of the music.

  10. I was so happy when Covenant died.
    'cept then he came back. But he died again!
    'cept then he came back. : /

  11. Deb: so he understood the impulse to watch something over and over, as long as it was happy, but thought it was a girl thing to do, but did it with Monty Python?

    Dude had issues, is all I'm saying. 🙂

    Leigh (and Deb): thanks. You know, I really want to try to write up some thoughts on that whole topic sometime, just because I so often find myself trying to explain why some of the stories I love most are sad and tragic. My experience has been that many people look at me quite oddly for that, like it represents some depressive mindset, or other mental/emotional aberration. Guess that can be a meaty blog post sometime.

  12. Gregory –

    I quite like sadness. Not grief, not anger or regret, but sadness. It's quite a gentle emotion, soft, and clear. Powerful, but not painful. I don't mind sadness, but it is such a rare emotion to catch, as it too easily gets swamped in everything else.

  13. Tess: Indeed. One of the things that is fascinating me is why some "sad" stories just make me gag and why others don't. I think I get the difference at a gut level — I know in writing stories I seem to have big warning horns blare with certain elements, say, but don't really consciously think about it.

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