David Thomson: watch it again

David Thomson’s utterly brilliant How to Watch a Movie:

For most of the medium’s history, movies were made to be seen once, or as many times as you could cram into a brief run… By 1955 I had been told about Citizen Kane; I had read of it in the few film books that existed back then. But [I] couldn’t see it: old films seldom came back. For all we knew they were lost.

But for at least thirty years now [technology] has turned movies into things that can be seen and seen again… If you see a movie just once, that keeps faith with it being sensational, sudden, yet as drastic as a road accident. But if you go back to watch it… many more times, you’re allowing that it may be art or ritual…

Film-makers can be so clever today: they can put references in that the viewer will only notice on the nth viewing (as Welles did, anachronistically). That’s liberated them as writers and directors, but the price of entry is that they have to make it worth their audiences’ time to watch it more than once. That’s the story of modern TV, right there.

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