I only had one rewatch during the month of March, so I just lumped it in with April. I had a really good crop of rewatches these couple months; even if I didn’t get a ton of new stuff out of these movies they are definitely some of my favorites.
March 28: Strangers on a Train
Hitchcock’s thriller about the perfect idea for a murder that is somewhat flawed in its execution, and one of my all time favorite films, was playing at The Coolidge and I knew I couldn’t pass it up. Seeing yet another Hitchcock film on the big screen there (and staying awake and alert the whole time, too!) was an incredible experience. It was in 35mm with a real projectionist and an appreciative audience, and really had me feeling grateful that I ventured out to see it, since I’m only going to have access to it for another couple of months! I’ll definitely miss Coolidge a lot when I move back home.
I don’t know if I really picked up on anything new this time around; I was really more focused on drinking in the experience of actually seeing it on film. I have seen it at least ten times; it’s one of the Hitchcock films I’m more familiar with because it was the first one I got on DVD. Two things struck me this time around though. One is that because I was seeing it with such a large audience, I would different examples of Hitchcock’s humor that I hadn’t really found funny on previous viewings. People would be laughing at things that I hadn’t even realized were funny! Another was that carousel scene at the end. I know it was very dangerous for them to film, but I feel like I never got the full impact before seeing it in a theater. Not that it doesn’t work on a TV or a computer or anything, but it just works so much better on the big screen.
I was actually very glad to see this again, especially since we didn’t get to watch it in our Hitchcock class last semester, a decision I really wasn’t a fan of. I see why, because arguably the most boundary-pushing thing about this film is the homoerotic subtext which you can also see in Rope (also with Farley Granger), but that also has the first time Hitchcock worked in color, the confined setting, and the long takes. So I get it. But I still think is one of Hitchcock’s most thrilled and well-executed films, and you won’t see Robert Walker anywhere else in his filmography.
April 6: Days of Heaven
So I missed the class where we watched Badlands, so no recent rewatch update on that one, but I did go to the one where we watched Days of Heaven, one of my all time favorite films. This films has such a simple story but I still love the power Malick gives it. We are going to be watching Tree of Life soon, so I’ll finally see that movie, but for now Days of Heaven is still my favorite of all the Malick’s I’ve seen (still mad I missed Knight of Cups because it was only in theaters for like two seconds).
Of course, like all of Malick’s films really, the film is known for its incredible cinematography. It really is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen, making good use of magic hour (though almost of the whole film is shot at magic hour, not quite all of it is) and Malick’s trademark nature imagery. Maybe I just have a soft spot for Days of Heaven because it’s the film that introduced me to Malick, but regardless I still really love it. This was the criterion blue-ray on our sort of biggish screen in class, but man, one of the biggest things on my movie bucket list is to see a Malick in the theater. I hate that it keeps not happening.
April 16: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (this is gonna have spoilers for the show)
One of my roommates has been going through Twin Peaks for the first time, and having just finished the series, I’m trying to get her to watch more of David Lynch’s stuff. Obviously, that starts with the much-maligned prequel movie: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. This is the third time I’ve seen it, and each time I feel I appreciate this movie more and more. I get the complaints against it, that it’s really disturbing, doesn’t capture the spirit of the show, the recasting of Donna and the scarcity of Agent Cooper and absence of the other fan favorites, but honestly, I think it’s an incredible film that accomplishes most of what it sets out to do. If the first part with the new FBI agents didn’t exist I’d consider giving it 4/4 stars. I’m dead serious.
The thing about Fire Walk with Me is that it is so rooted in Laura Palmer’s perspective, that it can’t be close to anything the TV show did after she died. For the town of Twin Peaks, and possibly the forces of good and evil in the universe overall, the death of Laura Palmer was a huge deal, definitely a huge enough deal to justify the gigantic shift in tone Lynch does in the movie. Lynch almost always deals with the disturbing discrepancy between the banal surface of American life and the darkness underneath. This movie shows Laura discovering that darkness and fighting against it.
One reason this movie is absolutely necessary to Twin Peaks is the amazing performance of Sheryl Lee as Laura. What she does in this movie is fantastic; she can handle the extreme surrealism Lynch puts across while having it seem totally authentic and believable. I feel that in most other actresses, this would have seemed like overacting or insincere. For much of this movie, Laura is literally shaking in terror, or pulling off personality switches from one line to the next. The effect Lee’s performance has on this movie cannot be underestimated. (Though in a supporting role, much of the same praise can be given to Ray Wise as Leland.)
The simple fact is that though the TV show is more about the larger forces of good and evil and the spirit world of the black and white lodge, as well as the town’s inhabitants who actually have very little to do with either of those things, the movie is very grounded in the death of Laura Palmer. It’s easy to get caught up in Cooper throwing rocks and Nadine inventing noiseless drape runners, but the fact is that something horrible happened in Twin Peaks before Cooper showed up. An innocent girl was driven to self-medicating with cocaine and alcohol, as well as prostitution, because her father wasn’t strong enough to resist the temptation of the evil spirit BOB. As the end of the second season of Twin Peaks shows us, a very good and competent person, Agent Cooper, wasn’t either. But Fire Walk with Me shows that despite all of the hardships Laura went through (which seem like cliches in the show at times), she was able to fight off BOB, all the while knowing that her father had abandoned himself to BOB. Even though this movie is incredibly hard to watch, at the end there is some hope. Laura find the angel that she fears had abandoned her. She finds it in herself.
April 27: Zodiac
This is probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve seen Zodiac, and I still really love this movie. As such, this segment will be pretty short since I went on and on about Fire Walk with Me in the last one. Zodiac is such a marvelously crafted suspense movie; I’m not sure if it has a ton of deeper meaning beyond that but whenever I watch it I really don’t even care because it’s executed so perfectly. I love how what, in other situations, would be events in Robert Graysmith’s life get left out because he’s so totally absorbed by catching the Zodiac killer. There are several individual great suspense moments in the film, the woman and her baby in the car and the basement scene just to name a couple, but I still think the whole film comes together really, really well.
The rewatches were pretty great this time around, the highlights being Strangers on a Train in 35mm and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me continuing to impress me. I just so strongly disagree with the feeling that the film has no reason to exist alongside the TV show. I super can’t wait until Twin Peaks comes back in 2017! So hyped.