If You’ve Seen What I’ve Seen…

I’ve only been a cinephile of sorts for almost two years. I’ve have read several film encyclopedias and textbooks and made careful note of where to find each film. So far, my journey has had several twists and turns that I haven’t thought of before until recently. Why do I go out of my way to find and watch movies that I’ve never heard of, only to be surprised or disappointed when all is said and done? I do it to challenge myself.

Before I became a film major, I wasn’t too thrilled about seeing films that were beyond my comfort zone. I stuck to the Disney/Pixar/DreamWorks style because it was where I thought I would be. Things changed and I wanted to do something more. In order to do that, I knew that I had to become film literate.

That spring semester, I took a class on Film as Art and editing. Just glancing through the films listed in the back of the book, I recognized a handful just from previous viewings. There were several that I had heard of but never seen, while the rest were completely new to me. My mind figured that they had to be important enough to be listed so I tried to find them. This led to the “365 films in one year” resolution that I’ve kept last year and close to keeping this year.

I purchased several film encyclopedias, including 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. Browsing through that alone, I came across some films that would be difficult to sit through. After one viewing of said films, I became angry at what I saw because a book said it was a “must-see”. I saw them and I wanted nothing to do with them.

The problem is how I reacted. Some of those reviews have cropped up on this site, based on my initial feelings and minimal post-research. In retrospect, I should have distanced myself from the first viewing and waited my usual six months/one year before returning to it.

I admit that I don’t go out to see current movies much and only go if I decide that the trip is really worth it. This leads to another obstacle when I talk with friends. I get gasps and some playful reprimands when I say that I haven’t seen a specific recent movie that the majority of my peers have, even months after the DVD release. At the same time, I ask if they’ve seen a film that most haven’t seen (if only for the fact that it’s out of their perceived comfort zone). 95% of the time is a “no” but when the 5% respond “yes”, I get excited because of this common experience.

I’ve exposed my friends to some interesting material, like Rabbits, Quasi at the Quackadero, One Got Fat; films and shorts that I felt comfortable showing people without too much trouble. Others are only mentioned in discussion, like Eyes Wide Shut, Eraserhead, and Salo; I can only hint at what goes on and that they should watch these films at their own discretion (well, maybe not Salo…). The more adult films like the aforementioned are talked about like scars from a traumatic battle (if you’ve seen what I’ve seen…).

But why so serious? It’s a way of saying that I’m not afraid to go beyond my comfort level. I don’t do it a bragging style; it’s not how I do things. Rather, I relate my experience and let people glean from that what they want. I do my best to recommend them (even some of the bad ones), but I can’t make them watch what they don’t want to. The initiative has to come from within.

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