Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Changing Your Mind On A film

This is about initially hating a film then seeing it later and thinking its not so bad, or is actually good.

I've had the experience a few times recently. It does take a few years for me to give a film another chance as I can keep up a vendetta pretty good if I find something lacking or objectionable in some way. My first recent change was Alexander, which I saw again on DVD last year. Saw it in the cinema, hated it, wanted to see Oliver Stone killed. Saw it cheap on DVD, a pound or two, wanted to hear his explanation on commentary, left it in my collection for a year then finally took a look at it. It was the re-edited directors cut, which is viewed as stronger. Now I won't say its a good film but it is an ambitious but very flawed one. Kind of likable, even in its excesses (all the acting is pretty ropey, the dialogue cheesy). But everything that bugged me when I wanted to see a great serious film on Alexander The Great now isn't horrific, as its just an eccentric director's view of Alexander. It failed but at least it was ambitious. Its now a film I feel warmly towards, even though I can't say that it ever really works.

Next was Master And Commander. This was the one that hurt the most on first viewing, as I like Peter Weir a lot. I thought the script was cliched, the acting dull. The film was pretty but had no focus. Same pound or two buy, a sudden curiosity to see it again. It's probably the most sudden change as I now really like the film. What I saw as first as cliches in incident and dialogue seemed right for the world, seemed to be how the characters expressed themselves and saw their world, had more subtleties. The slow pace seemed correct for the story and the build, as they carefully hunted their prey, their existence very fragile, with small errors causing catastrophe, their job insanely difficult. The interludes felt pure Peter Weir. This is the one where I have no idea why I so hated it first time around. I simply don't.

This week it was The Departed. I hated this the first time. Again saw it cheap, got curious. Was I too hard on it? First time I thought Nicholson was awful, DiCaprio worse, the direction dull, only Matt Damon being any good. I essentially viewed it as Scorsese tracing his way to an Oscar. I love the original film series and still think they are all superior to this one. So I like it a lot better now but its still pretty flawed. Damon is the villain but is so much more interesting than DiCaprio, is weirder, funnier. Is oddly more tragic because he is smart enough to see what he's done to himself, has been ruined by what he's done. DiCaprio is working with a character that isn't that fleshed out. He looks too nervous and obviously undercover, doesn't feel like someone who could pull it off. He's the weak point in the film. Some of its writing, as he's the good tragic guy but that's really all. There isn't much elaboration beyond that, weird character touches. He gets close to Nicholson too easily, never seems to be truly tested. He's with murderous thugs but doesn't kill anyone, ever. He was a cop, the mob knows this so they don't do that to get him compromised. It's weak writing. Nicholson makes more sense second time around but is still a bit broad for what he plays. The direction is better on rewatch but still a bit flabby. It doesn't have details in frame, something I think Scorsese has been weak for a while. Casino and Kundun the last films where this was distinctive.

So it's interesting watching films you had problems with. Sometimes its a nice surprise. Of course, I also rewatched Exorcist The Beginning and still thought it was awful so its rare change. (Why did I rewatch a Renny Harlin film. In a word, syphilis.)

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