Friday, November 13, 2009

Familiarity breeds contempt, or affection?

I recently have been watching some movies by one of my favorite filmmakers, Woody Allen. I saw my first film of his, Sweet and Lowdown, in probably 2000 or 2001 and really liked it. Over the years, as I've become more familiar with Allen's films, and having seen this particular movie multiple times, I find myself generally enjoying Allen's movies more now than I did when I first exposed myself to them. Now when I watch Sweet and Lowdown, I don't just marvel at the masterful performances from Sean Penn and Samantha Morton, but at Allen's camerawork, his sharp as ever writing, and his general style of directing a movie. I find that my familiarity with his work not only doesn't make his repeated stylistic tendencies tiresome, but sort of endearing. Even when a particular movie isn't up to the highest standard that Allen has set, seeing some of his work just fills me with a certain comfortability of viewing that is very nice.

Allen isn't the only filmmaker of which this is true. Going through the oeuvres of Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa, Steven Spielberg, Buster Keaton or anyone of that status, I find my familiarity with their work to actually help in my enjoyment of them. I can sit back and think "Ah, ok, here's Scorsese's big tracking shot" or "Hey, there's Hitchcock's MacGuffin" and so on. The phrase familiarity breeds contempt I find to be completely untrue in this situation. Perhaps it's the fact that all of those filmmakers have those signature moves (or whatever you'd like to refer to them as) while making movies that I enjoy, which turns what could be contempt into affection. Regardless, this is a subject I've been thinking about lately.

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