Addictive "Nightlights"

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HerrSchreck
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

Addictive "Nightlights"

#1 Post by HerrSchreck » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:31 am

Here's a thread I've been wanting to throw in for a real long time: the subject of those films which exert the greatest pull on the home video viewer, causing them to for various and often inexplicable reasons to go back to these films over and over and over... and over and over and over.. again.

There's a great term an electrician here in my studio gave these kinds of film (he actually used it for one film in particular, which he watches at least a few times every week, and has done so since the invention of the betamax.. shifted to VHS.. then to laserdisc, then to dvd: THE FORBIDDEN PLANET. For xmas he gave me a box of genuine Cuban Cohiba cigars.. would rather have had Hoyos or Romeo Y Julietas but don't tell him that... so I gave him the collectors tin of the anniversary edition of this film): "I use it like a nightlight," he said. He always has it on before he drifts off to sleep every night. He's had it on beta, vhs, cc laser, all the permuations of the title on dvd.

I've discovered via limited discussion that Criterion-level masterpieces of Heavy Cinema rarely become nightlights. THE CRANES ARE FLYING would never become a nightlight in my case. I've noticed that Criterion editions almost never become nightlights in my case-- they're too serious in the demands they place on the viewer. That kind of seriousness gets in the way of, for example, the kind of friendship my electrician has with the essential happiness and pleasure he derives from living in the FORBIDDEN PLANET.

I've noticed a few constants condusive to this kind of relentless, eventually half-attentive revisitation:

1) a place within the film or general setting which is very well drawn, becomes very familiar, ultimately agreeable (despite being fraught with dangers, the dangers may be clearly drawn and devoid of the frustrating ambiguities and passive agression found in the real world; and the dangers can be dealt with in a way that is somehow satisfying and reassuring to the viewer) to such a highly magnetic degree that chronic revisitation/escapism becomes the result. It becomes a "real" place that one loves hanging out in.

2) ditto on the above, but as opposed to physical location(s), substitute the characters themselves. The familiarity of a certain character, or group of people, can ultimately turn into something reassuring-- almost like a bunch of friends you want to continuously go see. This syndrome can take shape simply by dint of the actor playing a particular character can bring a certain something to a character that makes him-- and the film-- satisfying to revisit. Karloff is a perfect example (speaking of K, BODY SNATCHER is coming on Chiller channel as I write), and his portrayal of Dr Niemann in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN exerted a pull on me in the years 1999-2001 where I watched that film relentlessly. I was going thru a wrenching breakup after 7 1/2 yrs, was buried in heavy historical research, and I'd unwind 2 or 3 times a week watching that film for reasons I didn't fully understand.

3) Atmosphere.. and this is where masterpieces can come into play here and there I've found, particularly silents. I try not to allow masterpieces along the Kino or CC lines to seep into the "nightlight" zone.. I like to parcel them out on semi-annual to annual basis, so that I don't play them out and become numb to what makes them great. In other words so I keep getting stuff outa them each time I watch. But for example the atmosphere and music in the All-Day disc of Epstein's USHER exerted a huge pull on me, and I watched that sucker over and over again for almost a year. Not counting the times I fell alseep late a night watching it, I must have watched it all the way through at least seventy five times.

I've noticed on my end that Universal Horror films are the kings of my "nightlight library". I've seen DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, WEREWOLF OF LONDON, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (Paramount but in the Uni lib now), THE WOLF MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE, etc, at least 50-75 (very conservative, especially for the material 1931-35) times all the way through over the years, each one. This doesn't count the times I've drifted off while watching them and not finished them. I love all the variety of sequels including the monster mashers like FRANK vs WOLF MAN, HOUSE OF/GHOST OF/SON OF Frankenstein & Dracula. TOWER OF LONDON, DRACS DAUGHTER, MUMMY sequels w Turhan Bey etc. There is something magical about the combination of the class A cinematography and art direction creating genuine quasi-German gothic gloom & menace, with characters who never seem to have to hold down jobs, fall in love in the purest of manners, the mixtures of innocence and malevolence and hyper-simplified scripts-- something about the combination is very pure and lends itself well to continual revisitation.. and a kind of comfort. Despite a thousand attempts to imitate there are very few worthy contenders. I can think of a very few: Strayer's VAMPIRE BAT, some of the MGM & RKO material like MAD LOVE, FREAKS & MARK OF VAMPIRE, MOST DANGEROUS GAME, MYSTERY WAX MUSEUM...

There are films whose greatness are SO great, or intensity just speaks to my sensibility, which get regularly revisited and probably will until I kick the bucket-- going back to my teenaged years, films like the Murnaus, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, an avalanche of foreign masterpieces, noirs, etc-- but this is not the kind of material I mean. The revisitation isn't as regular and nonchalont. Nor do I mean those films which blow one away, one goes through an intense period of watching and rewatching for days, weeks, which then ends as one moves on to new discoveries. I'm talking about a kind of consistency which is virtually unending, where burnout is virtually impossible.

Most interesting is that in many cases, one can never predict from first viewing that a film will wind up turning into this for you. I would never in a thousand years predict, upon my first viewing, that I'd keep revisiting the mildly silly IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE-- but I do. This is why as a rule-- and this goes far beyond the sentimental subject of "nightlights"-- it's a good idea to give a second chance to those extraordinarily well-regarded films which might not have stricken one very pleasurably upon first viewing.

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Tommaso
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#2 Post by Tommaso » Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:03 am

Most interesting, Schreck. I appreciate your liking for the Universal Sci-Fi and Horror movies of the old time, and for me they might qualify as well as 'nightlights', simply because one is so familiar with these things since youth and can always revel in their inventiveness despite of them being easy to follow and not placing overly intellectual demands (unlike most of the things in the CCollection or other received 'masterworks').

I very much like to isolate special parts of longer films that can stand on its own for repeated viewings. Thus my favourite 'nightlight' in your sense is clearly the ballet sequence from "The red shoes". I don't know how often I watched it on its own. It manages to encapsulate the whole film and Powell's philosophy on art in just 15 minutes, and of course I watch it to simply revel in the sheer beauty of Moira Shearer. Same goes for the individual acts of "Tales of Hoffmann" which I also tend to watch in bits over and over again. Precisely the place of revisitation/escapism you describe.
Another one that I tend to rewatch and almost inhabit is the world of Cocteau's "Orphée", perhaps for similar reasons. There must be a special attraction in a film which has nothing to do with camera techniques or overall greatness but just with a specific atmosphere one wants to enter in again and again. Here, as in "The red shoes", it's the main actress for me, but also of course the way Cocteau evokes his whole way of thinking on art and poetry in just almost every scene.
And other films would be those which are non-narrative, anyway. Most of what is in Kino's avant garde set, for example, and of course my all time favourite, "The man with a movie camera". Reasons should be obvious here.

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skuhn8
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#3 Post by skuhn8 » Sun Apr 01, 2007 6:01 am

I can't really think of any film that I could watch several times a week, so perhaps I shouldn't be posting...but there are a few films that I have to restrain myself from watching for fear of tiring of them. These are films that I know will catch me and put a smile of instant gratification on my face. Owning some 600 DVDs now I often have a hard time deciding just what to watch when I have the privilege of a couple free hours. Again, these are the 'reserves' that stand ready and at attention when I'm ready to give up.

For character/atmosphere:
Sideways: coming from California and missing it immensely there certainly is the element of setting here for me, but it's the well-drawn characters, their foibles, that brings me back again and again...plus it's my favorite film to enjoy some fine wine and cheese with. "I'm not drinking Merlot!"
Royal Tenenbaums--didn't like this the first time I saw it, still think Rushmore is a better film, but somehow the characters and the quick cutting between them, along with a great soundtrack, just pulls me in like a vortex. "I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum."

Transported to a 'better time', cut loose--ahem--lowbrow fun:
Dazed and Confused, Almost Famous, The Monterey Pop Festival--music music music. Really wish I could've been there, especially the latter two.

Setting:
Manhattan--I could probably watch this once a week. The images, the streets that are teeming with life, the discussions.

And just great friggin' cinema that works so well in every way:
I Know Where I'm Going, Vertigo--the first just moves so perfectly, pulling me right along with it, while the latter hypnotizes me from it's opening Saul Bass credits, the curiously empty streets of a curious Technicolor San Francisco, the missions with their misty photography, a treat that I watch probably five times a year.

I don't know if I would call these my favorite films, but they are utterly reliable, great friends. These are my opiates, a little on the lowbrow side, antidotes to otherwise heavier fare.

Apologies if this is not exactly what you were driving at.

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david hare
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#4 Post by david hare » Sun Apr 01, 2007 6:42 am

Well I cant speak for Shkunovich but.

Funny Face....

I watch it twice a week, disfunctionally, but, someone here had mentioned the Kitchen Sink routine relating I guess to throwing everything into the mix. I had not, but decided to watch the Think Pink routine again, if only for KayThompson. Of course youre always greeted with this flawless setup and number. But to hear Kay bark "I loathe pink" after saying everythying but the kitchen sink". etc...

Other constant repeater is Friendly Star - the print is gorgeous and If you feel you never were sure about Judy (or youreslf) at 50 odd she wipes out all doubt. And Walter's direction is so beautiful he reminds you to watch Dreyer again. Simply to see people talking and moving. And dancing.

Dracula's Duaghter - for the scene with Gloria Holden at the piano with "attendant" Irving Pichel (who looks like hes been dipping into Madame's makeup) in which she asks - "Shall I go out again tonight"? While she pounds thru a CHopin Etude he has already gathered her gown and set her up for anther nights cruising for jejeune SAphhic babes. Before this, of course she cries - sublimely - "I feel RELEASE"

Which leads to Crawford and Connie Veidt in A Woman's Face when she comes to seal the deal on thier mutual blackmaill routine. (This scene was supposedly part written by Chirstopher Isherwood.) She sits down to play the piano (conveniently located next to some highliters which CUkor sublimely incpororates into the shot with a more than usual deluxe track) and Connie says "My dear.. so talented.. also a musician." She syas I love Chopin, before Georges Sand turned him into a sentimental fool." He says: SO you love music my dear?" She says.. "Oh most oncertos, some symphonies."

Not to mention the hunkoid Chuck Heston as the bastard gigolo Confronting Yma Sumac - face to face - in Jerry Hopper's terrific Secret opf the INcas (with dreary Mylene Dymengeot and Robert Young carrying on the bourgeois romance routine out the back.) THat fucking Les Baxter Score kills!!. MAN!!!!

THese are some of my favorite things.

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Mr Sausage
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#5 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Apr 01, 2007 12:47 pm

In this category Schreck and I have a lot of similarities (in fact his first post so nails me in a number of ways that it feels a bit uncanny).
HerrSchreck wrote:I've noticed on my end that Universal Horror films are the kings of my "nightlight library". I've seen DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, WEREWOLF OF LONDON, ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (Paramount but in the Uni lib now), THE WOLF MAN, THE INVISIBLE MAN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE, etc, at least 50-75 (very conservative, especially for the material 1931-35) times all the way through over the years, each one. This doesn't count the times I've drifted off while watching them and not finished them. I love all the variety of sequels including the monster mashers like FRANK vs WOLF MAN, HOUSE OF/GHOST OF/SON OF Frankenstein & Dracula. TOWER OF LONDON, DRACS DAUGHTER, MUMMY sequels w Turhan Bey etc.
This almost exactly applies to me. Some of the first films I ever fell in love with were the Universal monster movies, which I discovered when I was about six or seven and refused to stop watching. I'd check out books about them from the library and spend whole afternoons reading about them (oddly enough, even tho' I'd seen a film I'd still read and reread its plot summary with glee) and poring over pictures. My favourite was always the Frankenstein series (although I never did see House of Dracula until much later), but I also had a very special place for Dracula and Son of Dracula, The Wolf-man, The Mummy, and Creature From the Black Lagoon.

I naturally left childhood and moved on to other movies (I never owned these movies beyond my favourite, the first Frankenstein, ostensibly because I never had money as a kid and when I did eventually get money these were not easy to find); and although I left these films along with my childhood self I always retained vivid memories of them and a special warmth for them. A mix, perhaps, of nostalgia and a dim connection to whatever it was deep in myself that formed this early attraction to the gothic and gruesome.

Nevertheless, a few years ago, when I had reformed that serious attraction to film I earlier had, I suddenly felt the urge to see the movies of my childhood again (spurred on by seeing first Ed Wood, which touched me, and Son of Frankenstein on tv, which had me wired with glee). Naturally, I bought them all on DVD in those large Legacy collections, and, much like Schreck, they are the DVDs I revisit most and which get anything like continuous play. Every few months or so I sit down and rewatch the entire chunk of 'em (barring the sequels I never saw as a kid, like the Invisible Man ones), and it sustains me through a dreary day knowing that they await me at home.
Herr Schreck wrote:Karloff is a perfect example (speaking of K, BODY SNATCHER is coming on Chiller channel as I write), and his portrayal of Dr Niemann in HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN exerted a pull on me in the years 1999-2001 where I watched that film relentlessly. I was going thru a wrenching breakup after 7 1/2 yrs, was buried in heavy historical research, and I'd unwind 2 or 3 times a week watching that film for reasons I didn't fully understand.
Again, uncanny (I don't intend the pun, but it's appropriate). I think I probably watched this movie more than any other as a kid (with only Frankenstein and Creature making any competition). I borrowed it from a family friend and literally watched it two times a day for what seemed like two weeks or so. And I still watch it the most out of the rest of the Universals. There is something comforting in seeing Karloff, Chaney jr., and the ever dependable Lionel Atwill--in seeing all of those great Universal elements--together in that one picture as sort of the epitome of the whole thing that forms its special attraction. And now, as when I was young, if I see Karloff, or Chaney jr., or Lugosi, or Atwill, or Claude Rains in a movie everything starts to feel familiar and comfortable.
Herr Schreck wrote:I've discovered via limited discussion that Criterion-level masterpieces of Heavy Cinema rarely become nightlights.
That is true with me in a lot of cases too. At least they are often such rigorous pieces of art that one wants something like their entire concentration in order to appreciate them and get out of them that deep but often more difficult pleasure they offer. There are exceptions, tho':

Contempt: I can oddly enough watch this on any level, be it difficult or easy, and feel at home there.

Seven Samurai: still my favourite movie and again one in which I can feel perfectly at ease in any mood.

Juliet of the Spirits: Fellini is always a lot of fun, I find, in addition to that whole perfect artistic control, ect.

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colinr0380
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#6 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:00 pm

This is a very interesting thread. I often reach out to 'comfort' films i.e. those films that I've got a long standing relationship with and have watched many, many times. I've been trying to consider what makes a film so constantly repeatable and haven't come up with many answers. I'm not sure that just being a 'great' or 'high brow' film makes a comfort film (but at the same time I don't think it prevents it either).

I'm not sure that the content of the film itself decides whether someone uses it as a comfort film or not. Many of my comfort films are 'Big idea' films or films meant to unsettle such as horrors. For example, and this goes against Schreck's earlier post a little, I got caught up in 2004 watching both Solaris and Contempt almost every weekend. They brought back the memories of first seeing the films in the early 90s and I was very excited to discover that they hadn't lost anything for me over the years. The strange thing was that I never got tired of them - after a certain point I was able to recite certain sections of dialogue or replay certain scenes in my head they had become so familiar. But rather than destroying the power of the films, remembering them just made me more excited about seeing them over again! I'd liken it to having a favourite song that you play over and over again - you know exactly where the chorus comes, or where a certain line that touched you is said, or where a great guitar riff plays and rather than being bored with it you wait expectantly and get pleasure from hearing it play out just as you remembered it!

I don't think this happens with all films, as it doesn't happen with all music. It seems to be a deeply personal thing - I could describe how amazed I was by a certain piece of acting, or a great edit, or a beautiful use of music and it might completely disinterest someone else, and vice versa.

I actually had to forcefully wean myself off Solaris and Contempt (in 2003 it was In The Mood For Love!), not because I was worried about being bored by the films, or by making them meaningless by watching them too much, but more because I'd ended up with a pile of films I hadn't yet seen, and I wanted to get some of them watched!

I'd be fascinated to hear what someone with a background in psychology would say about it. In some ways it is like being stuck in a loop of interest in a particular piece of work - mental masturbation, watching something you love again to produce those same feelings.

But that feels like such a perjorative term for activities which, after all, are meant to be enjoyable. I think there are so many reasons for why particular films become comfort films: the memories associated with it (where you were when you first saw it, who you were with, how you felt, what was happening in your life around the time you first saw the film. I think repeat viewings can also add layers to these memories - for example you might remember watching the film the first time in the cinema, the second time when it was shown on television and be able to remember all those times, and what was happening around them, vividly. Or would you remember that you watched a particular film on a balmy summer's evening, or another film in mid-November, late at night with snow outside and the heating up enough so you were snug and warm? I think there can also be bad associated experiences too. In a personal example I first found out my previous cat was ill and had to be put down at the time I first saw the Jim Carrey Mask film and Woody Allen's Love and Death. It is no fault of the films for the coincidence, but watching them adds that extra resonance for me)

Other reasons for choosing particular comfort films could be them just being there. There are a lot of times when I scan my shelf thinking "what should I watch?" and end up choosing a film that I'm very familiar with, because I have some idea of what I will get out of seeing it again.

I think that leads into issues of control. It is fun to feel in control of the images that are being shown and perhaps have more understanding than the characters because you know how events will unfold. There is a good deal of comfort in knowing, for example, that the good guys win in the end, but at the same time watching a familiar film in which the good guys loose also allows us to come to terms with that ending and helps us deal with that failure.

I don't know how far living in an uncertain world would feed into this, but looking at the state of television trying not to shake up people's preconceptions of the world, I'd guess a lot! (While I think it is important to have comforting films and programmes there also needs to be 'uncomfortable' ones as well! I think too much of one or the other can unbalance things a bit!)

I think that one of the things we search for in films is the perfect experience. It might be impossible to create something that pleases everybody so I think it comes down to the individual viewer to find their own 'perfect film experiences' as much as it comes down to them to find their favourite music or book. Seeing, listening or reading to these things can also help recharge the batteries and let us sit through the next twenty or thirty films, or songs, or books that we don't find as enthralling until we find something that is!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sun Apr 01, 2007 2:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Michael
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#7 Post by Michael » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:18 pm

Very fascinating!

For me, it's a jumble of Bette Davis, Italian Horror, Fellini and the Beales.

I have no idea how many times I've watched 8 1/2. Most likely at least 50 times. No film makes me smile through my tears as much as this one does. 8 1/2 instantly put me in a great mood every time. Listening to Fellini's sparkly dialogues and Rota's music can't be bad before heading to bed. Plus beautiful women! A perfect film to end the night with the boy playing flute eternally into the night air.

Amarcord makes another fabulous "nightlight".

I never get sick of Bette Davis. Depending on my mood, I watch Now, Voyager, All About Eve, or Baby Jane any night. I just love hearing her talk.

Grey Gardens makes great company. Whenever I feel lonely at night, I give this film a whirl. The other night, my partner's mother who stayed overnight said to me "Again?" when I felt like having a little nightcap with the Beales.

Italian Horror - I find myself pulling out Bavas and Argentos many nights when I feel like watching something beautiful in the dark room. Their films are like Christmas lights twinkling in the dark. They simply don't work if watched in daylight.

And Pink Narcissus!
Last edited by Michael on Sun Apr 01, 2007 2:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Belmondo
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#8 Post by Belmondo » Sun Apr 01, 2007 1:54 pm

When I was a young boy, I used to take the subway over to the Brattle theater in Cambridge and watch CASABLANCA with an audience of mostly Harvard students. I didn't know why they were talking back to the screen, or why they were laughing "in all the wrong places", but when we all got up and cheered as the refugees drowned out the Germans by singing "La Marseillaise", I knew, even as a boy, that this movie would stay with me. Sure, it's the obvious choice, but it contains the "few constants" described above and it can be enjoyed on just about any level - big ideas, romance, intrigue and wonderful characters played by wonderful actors. Comforting, indeed. Here's looking at us, kid.

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Matt
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#9 Post by Matt » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:01 pm

Since I've spent the last few years doggedly trying to keep my yet-to-be-watched pile of DVDs, I haven't given in to my "nightlights" very much. One that still holds fast, however, is the first half-hour or so of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Everything from Howard Keel's opening bars of "Bless Yore Beautiful Hide" to the finish of the barn-raising sequence is like a big dish of ice cream to me. I love it so much and I love even more that I have a knack for always catching it by chance when its shown on TCM. The last time was a few weeks ago when I was getting ready for work. I was so furious that I had to work and couldn't stay to watch it that I actually welled up with tears.

The strangest thing is that I don't really know why I love it so much. I find the remainder of the movie dreadfully boring and I don't have any fond childhood memories attached to watching the film.

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Jeff
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#10 Post by Jeff » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:31 pm

Many of the films I mentioned here are still cinematic comfort food twenty years later, even though many of them are undeniably awful. My biggest night light these days is surely North by Northwest. I guess I've probably watched it once every couple of months for the past ten years. Then I'll go around humming Herrmann's bombastic score for a couple of days, much to the chagrin of my friends and coworkers.
Last edited by Jeff on Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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tryavna
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#11 Post by tryavna » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:44 pm

Funnily enough, I had a conversation about this phenomenon with a couple of friends earlier this week when we went to see North by Northwest in a local theater -- NxNW being exactly the kind of movie that Schreck is describing. It's one of those movies that I've lost track of the total number of times I've seen, and yet I still sit through it whenever I catch it on TV, no matter how far along it may be.

I have to confess, however, that I rarely own these "nightlight" movies on DVD. For some reason, I much prefer to catch them on the fly whenever they happen to come on TV -- though with TCM one can count on them appearing about once every month or so. My own personal addictions are these:

Most of Howard Hawks' movies, especially those he made with Bogart and John Wayne: I literally grew up on these movies, since they were particular favorites of mine and my brothers'. These films definitely fit into Scheck's category second category. What young boy wouldn't want to grow up to be a Hawks hero? Or once grown, what fella wouldn't want to hang out drinking and joking with Hawksian men and (especially) women?

As far as "comfort films" (as Colin wonderfully puts it) go, I feel a great fondness for lots of British films made during the immediate post-war years (i.e., 1945-52). Especially the Ealing films, but also some of the lesser-known ones. I guess this is largely due to my own anglophilia, which I've never gotten rid of, but I find these movies immensely and uniquely charming. These are the kinds of movies I do own and play just before bedtime or when I've got a spare 80 minutes to kill on a rainy weekend afternoon, preferably just after lunch.

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Jeff
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#12 Post by Jeff » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:52 pm

tryavna wrote:Most of Howard Hawks' movies, especially those he made with Bogart and John Wayne: I literally grew up on these movies, since they were particular favorites of mine and my brothers'. These films definitely fit into Scheck's category second category. What young boy wouldn't want to grow up to be a Hawks hero? Or once grown, what fella wouldn't want to hang out drinking and joking with Hawksian men and (especially) women?
You're right! I think Hawks made a career out of making "night light pictures." Rio Bravo, His Girl Friday, and The Big Sleep would be right after North by Northwest on my list.

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Steven H
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#13 Post by Steven H » Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:03 pm

I have a thing for certain animation. I would consider Miyazaki's Nausicaa, The Valley of the Wind endlessly rewatchable. I saw it when I was a kid and liked it so much I was sure I'd dreamt it, until I found out it really existed a few years later. I might have the whole thing memorized, backwards and forewords. It would be nigh impossible putting a price on giving it up forever, and even harder having to think of something bad to say about it at all. Kondo's Whispers of the Heart, Back's The Man Who Planted Trees, Lai Ming's Uproar In Heaven, and Norstein's Hedgehog in the Fog are all more recent additions, but in many ways equal to Nausicaa as far as rewatchability is concerned.

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chaddoli
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#14 Post by chaddoli » Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:29 pm

perhaps a cliche, but it is wonderful falling asleep to waking life....

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kinjitsu
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#15 Post by kinjitsu » Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:45 pm

I would hasten to add Red River to the list of Hawks films since it always manages to pull me in. Adding to that, Good Morning, The Lady from Shanghai, and Sunset Blvd.. And I'm in agreement with skuhn on I Know Where I'm Going and Vertigo.

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Steven H
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#16 Post by Steven H » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:00 pm

chaddoli wrote:perhaps a cliche, but it is wonderful falling asleep to waking life....
And then Kinjitsu falls asleep to "Good Morning".

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kinjitsu
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#17 Post by kinjitsu » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:09 pm

Steven H wrote:
chaddoli wrote:perhaps a cliche, but it is wonderful falling asleep to waking life....
And then Kinjitsu falls asleep to "Good Morning".
Happily, I might add, although the films I mentioned fall more into the comfort film category, and it always takes a while for me to drift off since I'm something of an insomniac.

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Mr Sausage
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#18 Post by Mr Sausage » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:35 pm

I love how for most of us "comfort films" tend to be entirely old Hollywood.

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zedz
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#19 Post by zedz » Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:43 pm

This is a really interesting thread, but I feel sort of like an alien lifeform posting in it, since I have a completely different relationship to my favourite films. There are lots of films for which I feel a really strong attraction similar to what's described here (and, with a few exceptions - A Canterbury Tale, I Know Where I'm Going, Rear Window, The Band Wagon - they tend to be arthouse mood pieces that are more like pieces of music than chunks of narrative, like Mirror, Colour of Pomegranates, Nenette et Boni or Goodbye, Dragon Inn, which may be the ultimate 'nightlight' movie), but I don't revisit any film with that much regularity.

I don't think there's any film that I would have seen more than ten times. I've probably seen Rear Window six times over about twenty-five years (never even bothered to watch it on DVD) and Mirror seven or eight (but I was writing a thesis on it). The number of films I've seen four or more times is probably less than 20. I don't know whether DVD is going to change that viewing pattern in the future, but right now there's still an ocean of unseen films that are claiming priority.

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HerrSchreck
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#20 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Apr 02, 2007 1:12 am

colinr0380 wrote:not because I was worried about being bored by the films, or by making them meaningless by watching them too much, but more because I'd ended up with a pile of films I hadn't yet seen, and I wanted to get some of them watched!

In some ways it is like being stuck in a loop of interest in a particular piece of work - mental masturbation, watching something you love again to produce those same feelings.
On the first quote, I don't know how many times that's happened to me: I pull out some disc I've seen a kajillion times, and I give myself the benefit of my own parental wisdom (complete with slight edge to my Brain Voice):

"Listen young man; now I don't know whether or not you're aware of this but all these (waves arm about room at approx 1000 DVDs plus wasteland of vhs) cost money. They were bought for you. And as long as you're in this house you are going to watch the movies you decide you are going to spend my small fortune on..." whereby I trace my eyes along the inumerable MOC's, CC's, BFI''s, Kino's.... then flick my eyes down to the Dwain Esper klunker or HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN I'm holding, and say,

"I will... Tomorrow."

On the second quote I'd say:

If that's masturbation (I'm not saying this is your opinion, I'm speaking hypothetically to whomever would say this is masturbation), then so is repeated lifetime listening to music... in my case Beethoven's 9th, Stravinsky's RITE, "Greggary Peccary" or "The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution" by Zappa, "1983" by Hendrix (most of Hendrix & Zappa actually); so is in a sense sticking with the same woman vs relentless (admittedly enjoyable in a time and place) philandery, etc.

The point I'm leading up to is we have simply applied the "music" concept to film. We have found a way to get things out of film that other folks don't (though I don't see why, if they can--understandably-- watch LUCY or HONEYMOONERS reruns endlessly there's nothing wrong with doing the same with a few great films). Folks listen to certain piece of music for their whole lives. They reinforce their days putting on their clothes or makeup, taking the train to work, smoking a cig at lunch, working out after work, listening to the same tune relentlessly, the same dance or pop tune twenty times a day. I live next door to a woman who plays the same Barry White song back to back to back almost every day.

I actually do the same things not only with movies but books as well; there are some books I revisit regularly (Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Joyce, Burroughs, Robert E Howard, Poe) like elder generations would revisit the Bible.

What I think this links into, at least in some cases (and anyone who reads my goofball blog could predict this), is the following:

The world is forever is never is it's permanent version. The condition of life is once you get used to the time and place you are living in, the world is off and running with a new young generation which seems frivolous (as we were when we were their age and former gens looked at us) and is completely oblivious to all the paradigms and flagships of that prior version of the social world. I've never been one for copying hair & clothing styles so the passing of a lot of this frivolous stuff doesn't bother me. But I do get attached to physical & psychological characteristics of a NYC that is disappearing before my eyes.

I think "nightlight" or "comfort" films offer us a chance to locate an idealized image of the world which is pleasurable to repeat with rocklike repetition versus the transitory state of life, youth, and society. In a certain sense we're all Swansons in SUNSET BOULEVARD, Davis' in BABY JANE (this time the irony is that as I'm posting this JANE just came on Chiller), revelling in our relationship with something idealized and almost as romantic in a sense as a loved one, whom we also return to for the same service, at least in a certain sense of psychological intercourse. It's just a healthy (so long as you have a life and you don't cripple your little sister and serve her dead birds pulling out the phone) building of your nest, decorating it with the things you like to see. Coctaeu may indeed have said "Habit is the enemy of creativity," but someone else also said "Keep your life secure and orderly so you may be wild and unpredictable in your art." I try to avoid too much creative habit, but in my downtime I want relaxation, and sometimes when you've got an hour or two before you fall out.. or sleet is hammering at the window outside and you've got a grilled cheese sandwich and milkshake... security is a very good thing.

zedz I'm sort of surprised at your reply-- you are one of my comrade exponents of the tenet to keep returning to a film which may have eluded you at first viewing, and I recall you saying that certain films just get better and better as you keep watching them (I think you were talking about the Epstein Poe and MENILMONTANT).

Matt-- I totally relate to watching something whose sum total doesn't even do it for you over & over again.. the way you said BRIDES/BROTHERS falls flat for you after a certain point. I went through a phase of watching WW2 and JFK assassination docs habitually during corresponding periods of heavy research, simply to see certain parts in each that shook me up or gave me the creeps... yet each time I'd insist on watching the whole thing rather than just cut to the chase.

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jt
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#21 Post by jt » Mon Apr 02, 2007 3:28 am

I find that my comfort films, like many others on this board, were created in a similar way to my comfort albums, when I was young. When I would buy music 15/20 years ago, I would have to save up pocket-money and wash cars in order to fund one album a fortnight. I would then listen to said pink floyd/ radiohead/ pearl jam album 30 times in two weeks before repeating the whole process. Each cd tape/ cd would seem special in a way that new albums don't anymore.

Similarly, we would rent films maybe twice a week and with my brother and sister, I'd watch them 3, 4, 5 times in two days before taking them back. And although I've bought relatively few of these on dvd, I feel a childlike glee whenever films like Back to the Future, Groundhog Day or Rear Window are shown on TV.

I have the same problem as many on this board, that choosing a film when faced with nearly 1000 options becomes almost stressful. Often the film I've been looking forward to for days, knowing I'd have a few hours spare, is no longer the film I feel in the mood for now. Added to the fact that I buy films at least as fast as I can watch them, so there is always a huge to-watch list that I feel duty bound to get through, means that I don't tend to watch films multiple times any more, certainly not to the level or daily/ weekly.

And while I don't tend to fall asleep to films (that job is left to books), a couple of films or recent years have re-ignited the flame of my inner child and allowed me to feel like a 10 year old again, sitting close to the screen, grinning from ear-to-ear for 90 minutes. The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) and The Incredibles are films I can see myself watching 5 or 6 times a year for a long time. To me, they're just 90 minutes of undiluted joy.

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#22 Post by Cinesimilitude » Mon Apr 02, 2007 3:39 am

I find myself falling in love with a certain film, watching it countless times till I am sick of it, and then not watching it for months, sometimes years. They are mostly recent films; Moulin Rouge, I <3 Huckabees, Dumb and Dumber, The Full Monty, Folks!, Clerks, The Beach, Titanic, American Beauty, The Big Lebowski, Beauty and the beast, and the John Hughes comedies of the 80's (Although I haven't watched pretty in pink's last 10 minutes since my first viewing, I just watch the better one in my head). I won't ever sit down to watch a criterion or a classic film if I'm not ready to fully take it in, so the list I've provided are just instantly gratifying films I love or grew up with. One of my favorite things to do is to dial a random number on my cell phone, and ask people there favorite films, actors, or genre, and then make a decision of what I'm going to watch based on their answers.

EDIT: Two exceptions- The Sound of Music, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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devlinnn
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#23 Post by devlinnn » Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:32 am

Wonderful topic. I've always called it my Howard Hughes list, a few films that have slid into the slipstream. Sometimes all it takes is ten minutes here and there, 11pm screenings on the couch that strectch out to 4am with thanks to the repeat button and a double-gin, lightsleeping, images and more importantly sounds, voices (to paraphrase Norma, 'they had voices then') that drift into ones dreams. More so - the images, faces and movements live on way past the credit roll. I'm there with them, sometimes dangerously so, as reality just gets more fucked up by the year....

Notorious - the most intoxicating film about getting blindingly intoxicated; I visit often that street cafe where silence and self-hatred is the only thing on the menu; hide in that cellar, the darkness, hoping Ingrid brings the key and bottle opener, unlocking all desire, whispering, 'oh Dev, I forgot to bring glasses...'

The Seventh Victim - the perfect nightmare-dreamland, where the need to know and experience what goes on behind closed doors will never, ever be fulfilled. At least for those few precious hours I can pretend to be Tom Conway, who always seemed to be getting the best lays in movies.

In a Lonely Place / Out of the Past / Heat - apartment living, small bars, idiot 3am chichat, beautiful people you will never trust, good friends who can carry you home, bonds broken, hearts beaten. God I miss my 20s.

Contempt/Casino - the Saturday Night/Sunday Morning Velvets Special.

The Magnificent Ambersons/The House of Mirth - the Sunday late-night Dusty Springfield of movies. I can't even remember that last time I watched these two, as I just close my eyes, listen, and drift away....

Oh, and anything by Donen, '49-'67 - Funny Face and Two for the Road especially.

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#24 Post by colinr0380 » Mon Apr 02, 2007 11:26 am

HerrSchreck wrote:If that's masturbation (I'm not saying this is your opinion, I'm speaking hypothetically to whomever would say this is masturbation), then so is repeated lifetime listening to music...
I sort of agree with the idea of ‘mental masturbation' in the sense that it is a method by which someone is giving pleasure to themselves, and rewatching something that you love to experience is a way of recharging for seeing films that might not be so great (or even downright awful!)

Masturbation does have the ‘dirty and shameful secret' connotation though, which I don't agree with, but I've found my constantly rewatching films can inspire strange reactions from people who discover my ‘secret shame'! Similar to Michael's partner's mother saying “You aren't going to watch that again?â€

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zedz
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#25 Post by zedz » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:47 pm

HerrSchreck wrote: zedz I'm sort of surprised at your reply-- you are one of my comrade exponents of the tenet to keep returning to a film which may have eluded you at first viewing, and I recall you saying that certain films just get better and better as you keep watching them (I think you were talking about the Epstein Poe and MENILMONTANT).
I thought you might be appalled! Great films do get better on repeated viewings, but for me that doesn't extend into this realm of "comfort viewing" - in that halcyon discussion I was thinking about "active viewings", and about the small proportion of films that stand up to a fourth or fifth viewing without diminishing returns.

The music comparison is absolutely the right one, but I rarely watch movies in the same way that I listen to music. There are many times when I'll have the overwhelming urge to listen to In a Silent Way, Fear of a Black Planet, the first two Bartok Piano Concertos, Revolver, Mag Earwhig!, Pour Down like Silver or Sunny Border Blue for the hundredth time rather than tackle the latest purchase. With individual tracks, the compulsion can be even more sudden and extreme (I need to hear Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road right now!) There are times when I'll view part of a film in isolation (e.g. 'Dancing in the Dark' from The Band Wagon), but it's almost always to show it off to somebody else.

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