Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Finally absorbing the lessons of my annual viewing series

Way back in 2010, when I started doing specific monthly viewing series in order to further cultivate my familiarity with previously unfamiliar pockets of cinema, the idea was not to expose myself once to these pockets and never go back. It was to open doors to me, and then to continue walking through those doors.

Nearly eight years later, I seem to have finally gotten the message.

When I emerged in late January from the fog of watching a dizzying series of films released in 2017, I couldn't help but notice myself finally walking through these doors I had been opening for myself for the better part of a decade. At first unintentionally, and then a little intentionally as I noticed the pattern, I began watching a glut of movies that would have fit into one of these previous series. And though it eventually became a bit intentional, culminating in tonight's viewing, all of these films were ones I took out from the library, quite innocently and unintentionally. Making sure to watch them before they were due back, once I noticed the pattern, became the intentional part.

First it was the very first film I watched in the "new viewing year," Howl's Moving Castle, which was an immediate remnant of my 2017 bi-monthly viewing series Audient Anime. I'd meant to watch it as one of the movies in that series but never had it out from the library at the right time. Undaunted by the fact that I was no longer "required" to watch it, I watched it. That was on January 26th.

On the 11th of February I watched Dogs in Space, an Australian film that my wife had previously talked up to me, which starred former INXS frontman (now deceased) Michael Hutchense. That would have fit in perfectly with my 2014 monthly series, Australian Audient.

Four days later it was Ugetsu, my second film from Kenji Mizoguchi, a director I discovered last year when I watched (and didn't really like) his film Sansho the Bailiff. His film Sansho the Bailiff, which I watched for my monthly viewing series Asian Audient. Then the very next day, it was back to Asian Audient with Kim Jee-woon's A Tale of Two Sisters.

Although I probably watch films that would qualify for this series more regularly, I did notice that on March 4th I watched Collateral Beauty, which would have been a candidate for my 2013 series Famous Flops had it already been made at that point. And as with at least one film in that series -- yes, I will unnecessarily out myself for having liked The Hottie and the Nottie -- I was quite taken with Collateral Beauty, even becoming emotional in it. (I was actually going to devote a whole post to that, but I fell behind. Just as well, as I'm still trying to convince most of you I'm not crazy for having liked The Emoji Movie. A whole post devoted to my not-dislike of Collateral Beauty might have just killed my credibility entirely.)

By this time I had the idea to write this post, but I couldn't until after tonight, when I watched Carl Theodor Dreyer's 1932 film Vampyr, as shown in the above poster art. Vampyr is classified as a silent film based on the fact that Dreyer used very little dialogue in his first sound film and relied heavily on title cards to convey the story. (The DVD copy I had did not even have subtitles for the stray lines of German dialogue, further emphasizing the show-don't-tell aesthetic of silent film.) Of course, 2016 was when I did No Audio Audient, my monthly series devoted to silent film.

Vampyr is a double whammy, though, as it would have also fit into my Getting Acquainted series, which I ran for two years in 2011 and 2012. I first fell in love with Dreyer as a result of seeing three of his films in April of 2012, and criminally have not gotten back to see another of his films since.

In fact, the only recent viewing series that has not been represented in my young 2018 viewing schedule is one that couldn't possibly be. In 2015 I cleaned up all the best picture winners that I hadn't seen in a monthly viewing series called Audient Auscars. And since I saw them all then, I can't see any of them now. However, one of my final 2017 films was The Shape of Water, which I watched on January 21st, and which would become the next best picture winner 42 days later.

If you go back to late 2017, you could even say I revisited my only other bi-monthly viewing series, which occurred in 2015, when I watched one existing Star Wars movie every two months in the lead-up to the release of The Force Awakens. We finally watched the original Star Wars with my kids on December 22nd.

Any one of these and I wouldn't have noticed it. All of them together and I just had to tell you about it.

And it's not that I don't ever go back to the types of movies I watched in these series. I've obviously seen a bunch of renowned flops since the end of 2013, and being in Australia means that I'm exposed to Australian movies more regularly than the average non-Australian viewer would be. But this was my first silent film since I watched 12 of them in 2016. A year without a silent film is not unusual for me, historically -- but it should be, and I want to make it so going forward.

I started doing these series so that I'd discover new tastes I might not have known that I had. (Or sometimes, just because I thought the name was clever.)

It's nice to finally be tasting those tastes.

No comments: