Anyone who’s been to a film with a friend or friends and hung around afterwards to talk about it knows — as much as those of us who write about films on the internet — that some films are easier and more interesting to talk about than others. There’s the way we experience a movie when we are actually in the cinema auditorium, and then there’s the way it grows or shrinks or changes upon further reflection afterwards.
And it’s not just good movies that provoke good discussions: some of my favourite film discussions have been around confusing, misguided or just plain stupid films. I still remember many happy hours spent in a coffee shop after seeing Mission: Impossible back in 1996, talking incredulously with my best friend about the many gaping plot holes in what was probably not an objectively great film (though my assessment of it is clouded by that fondly-recalled post-film experience). I spent a bit of time recently talking in similar terms about Star Trek Into Darkness. In fact, sometimes it’s the really ‘good’ films that leave you with the least to say.
The fact is, though, that our assessment of films comes not just from what we see on the screen, but from how we grapple with them afterwards. To take one example, about 10 years ago I had the opportunity to watch all of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster cycle (1994-2002), totalling around seven hours of avant-garde cinema that was at times breathtakingly visual but for long stretches tediously and frustratingly opaque. However, the last film was followed by a lengthy Q&A with the director, during which some of the ideas presented by the films started to coalesce, even make some semblance of sense. As I didn’t write it down at the time, I will probably never now recapture that fleeting connection with Barney’s meaning, but it is certain that without the chance for that reflection, I would have written that time off as seven wasted hours of my life.
Clearly there are other films over the years that I’ve not connected with, that might easily have been improved by further discussion had I seen those films with friends (or had they been followed by a director Q&A), just as there are ‘bad’ films which I also hold inordinate fondness for due to their extra-cinematic associations.
Are there any films that you may have disliked while watching them, but which improved on further reflection (or vice versa)? I’m pretty sure, for example, that if it hadn’t been for trying to write a review of it, I would have had a much lower opinion of Spring Breakers, a film I found pretty boring to actually sit through.