I had a lot of fun putting together my ballot for The Solute’s Best of the Decade list, and while these sorts of rankings are mostly arbitrary and meaningless, I still spent a lot of time wrestling over the placement of completely incomparable films. This often came down to a conflict between two contradictory questions. How did I feel about this movie when I saw it? And how do I feel about it now?
Memory transforms a film. Sometimes it boils an uneven, mediocre movie down to a few iconic moments. Other times it completely washes away a solidly crafted genre exercise. Poor follow-ups can tarnish a strong debut. Learning too much about an artist’s behavior or politics can taint your relationship to their work. Sometimes the act of arguing about a movie can solidify opinions that were once much more nuanced, or a strong or consistent critique of a film can soften your enthusiasm for it. Sometimes time reveals hidden depths. Or a movie just sticks with you in a way you didn’t expect it to. Other times you really do just “figure it out” and can’t be sure of why it didn’t click sooner. And the opposite can happen. Ugly themes can become more prominent, clunky scenes can overwhelm your memory. But then sometimes clunky scenes become endearing, and a film’s flaws become an inseparable part of its charm.
David Lynch, for me, is always one of the starkest examples of this phenomenon. I hardly ever enjoy watching his movies, but I always enjoy having watched them. I have a great deal of affection for his work, and he has crafted plenty of scenes and moments and moods that have seared themselves into my psyche, even if it generally takes him an hour or so to get from one of those moments to the next.
Sometimes, though, the transformation is more genuine. That is, my opinion holds even after a rewatch. Most of the great directors fall into this category. Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Jim Jarmusch, Michael Mann. Great films reward deeper thought, and deeper thought rewards further viewing. Some filmmakers make movies that are meant to be watched once, and some filmmakers make movies that are meant to be watched over and over across years and decades.
What matters most to you about a movie, the experience of watching it or how much it sticks with you? Does it matter to you if a movie was “forgettable” if you had fun watching it, or are you more drawn to less competent oddities? Are there any movies you’ve changed your mind on without rewatching? And if you did revisit them, did your new opinion hold?