First Viewing Woes.

There’s nothing like watching a film for the first time. It’s your very first experience with something, and after that one viewing, you won’t share the same feelings with it again. Maybe a surprise won’t jump at you or a kiss won’t thrill you as much because you know it’s coming. But lately I’ve noticed something else about first viewings—they can really suck. Sometimes I wish I could just skip the first time I see a film and go on to the second. For some reason, I just don’t seem to appreciate most films as much the first time as I do the second, third, and fourth time. I’ll give you some examples.

When I first saw SOME LIKE IT HOT, I barely laughed. I thought it was just okay. Luckily it was a Christmas present, so I decided to try it again. Oh my god. This movie was HILARIOUS. I couldn’t stop laughing out loud. I was able to catch running jokes and lines I had never heard the first time around. It still has that effect on me, and I’ve seen it at least 20 times.

Then there was DIAL M FOR MURDER. I was so stoked to watch a Hitchcock film with Grace Kelly. I wanted everything to be perfect. There was a storm going on, so I had the lights turned off to amplify the suspense. I even convinced my sister to watch it with me, which was a feat. Afterwards, I again thought the film was just okay. I mean, what was up with all that talking? Where was the suspense? And what was going on with that key? I didn’t get it. As with SOME LIKE IT HOT, DIAL M had been a present so I watched it again…and I love it more each time I watch it.

Looking back, I’ve realized the common factor in both experiences: I watched the films with my sister. My sister isn’t the biggest classic film fan. Sure, she loves Marilyn Monroe and Astaire & Rogers, and GONE WITH THE WIND is her favorite film, but more often than not, I have to fight her to get her to watch an old movie with me. And I think it’s because of that that I wasn’t able to enjoy SOME LIKE IT HOT and DIAL M more that first time. I kept worrying too much about my sister liking it. I didn’t realize how important it was to have the right audience around me. You want to be around people who will appreciate the experience somehow.

That’s why my first viewing of PSYCHO was fantastic. Believe it or not, my sister exposed me to it. She had a class about suspense literature and they had watched PSYCHO, and knowing how much I was beginning to love Hitchcock, she knew I had to see it. We had the perfect opportunity when my mom was flying home from Texas and wouldn’t be back until very late. We decided to wait up for her, then we turned out the lights and began PSYCHO. Luckily, I knew very little about the film, except for the shower scene, of course. It was one of the best film experiences I ever had. My sister was so enthusiastic about me seeing this film, and naturally Hitchcock didn’t disappoint. I mean, it was surprise after surprise. PSYCHO is one movie I wish I could see for the first time every time. A few years later I was in that same suspense literature class my sister was in, and I loved looking around the classroom and seeing people’s reactions to seeing PSYCHO for the first time. I was so pleased that Hitchcock was still having such an effect on people.

Now I feel like I’m rambling. The point is, first viewings are a wily bunch. You either have a great first experience, or an awful one, and you never can guess before the film what it’s going to be. If the circumstances aren’t just right, a film could totally miss its mark with you, which is a shame. If you had a bad experience, give the film another try—never totally shut it out. You’ll be doing yourself, and the film, a disservice.

So, what do you think, mes amis? Have you had any terrible first viewings? Did you try the film again? Or were you lucky and the film struck the right chord the first time out?

With love,


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