Monday, February 9, 2009

Re-Visions


In one of his 80s-era Moviegoing Companions, the great Roger Ebert described Citizen Kane as the "most inexhaustible American film ever made." Well, with all due respect to both the Pulitzer-winning critic and Orson Welles, I have to disagree: I think it's The Godfather.

I've said this before, but every time I come across The Godfather on TV, I am immediately transfixed, and have to watch the rest of it unspool. This is true no matter where I come in, no matter that I've seen the movie probably a dozen times, no matter that I've taught it at least half-a-dozen times, no matter that I own the thing on DVD. It's The Godfather, and nothing is as gripping as an eerily still Al Pacino.

It's a film that rewards constant re-viewing, not only in its larger narrative and thematic progressions, but more crucially in its tiny visual touches: I always notce something new. It was on tonight when I got home, and this time I noticed just how blonde Diane Keaton's hair is in those final, chilling scenes with Michael, how the sun bounces off it when she walks into the room, and how it dims as she retreats back into the shadows. I could talk about her perfectly coiffed shininess as a metaphor for her innocence, as a constrast with Michael's pitch-black do, as an ironic recreation of the female screen legends of the day, and that would all be true; but really it fascinates me for more inexplicable, more ineffable reasons. I can't articulate why; I can only watch.

How about you all? Are there movies that you absolutely have to stop and watch when you stumble across them? And what do you notice after multiple viewings?

2 comments:

Jonathan Lapper said...

I have to disagree: I think it's The Godfather.

Aaaaaaaand... you're nuts. No, just kidding, but I still would agree with Ebert and go with Kane for it's inexhaustible well of editing, photographic and audio treats.

And that, and The Godfather are two I always watch. As well as Dr. Strangelove which I started watching for the 576th time on TCM the other night when I happened upon it. But really, almost any very well made film that I like will stop me if I happen across it.

Brian Doan said...

I caught part of Strangelove, too-- great, great movie. I had the sound off when it was on, and I know a million people have written about it, but the lack of sound really brought into even clearer relief how well Kubrick nailed the look of those Cold War thrillers; the scenes on the bomber, especially, have that hard-light intensity and glitter that calls to mind Fail Safe and other films of the period. All of which makes it even more surreal when Slim Pickens suddenly pops the bomb out and rides it down to glory.