Cinema Repeated: Films I Return To, Over and Over Again

In the three years since Match Cuts came online, I’ve found myself returning to certain recent films time and time again, trying to endlessly wrap my mind around them. It’s as if these select few works continue to challenge my understanding about filmmaking, writing, and the world around me, even after becoming incredibly familiar.  They’re often incomplete, mysterious, and confounding pieces, seemingly evolving over the course of time, and my repeat viewings are a direct confrontation with their shifting parts. Yet others resonate so perfectly despite their many flaws that the entertainment value actually increases with each viewing. These might not be masterpieces, or even the best films of their respective years, but they might just be some of my favorites since they continue to fascinate me no matter how many viewings. A small list follows, with thoughts for discussion in anticipation of further evolutions.

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Miami Vice (Mann, 2006) –  Michael Mann’s enigmatic cop film functions as a brilliant and cynical sign of the times, where subversive law enforcement factions fail to nab the big fish in the face of grave social danger, settling for a victorious return to the status quo. The strange digital artifice feels absolutely connected to the cold, blue hues of Mann’s stylized vision of moral ambiguity.

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Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (Tarantino, 2003) – The best modern action film, not simply because the fight scenes are exquisite, but because the entire narrative boils with cinematic intensity. Music, visuals, and dialogue fuse together forming a calculated, masochistic, and breathtaking postmodern mish-mash. The film is a striking first half of a twin genre juggernaut constantly at odds with itself.

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Just Friends (Kimble, 2005) – Makes me laugh like no other recent film. Maybe it’s Ryan Reynolds’ inspired performance, or Anna Faris’ nut-job pop princess, or the vintage slap stick wackiness, but it all adds up to something unique – a modern comedy devoted to character and smarts over gross out set pieces.

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Gangs of New York (Scorsese, 2002) – Brash, brutal, and abrasive, but undeniably compelling. A disturbing vision of our nation beginning from spoils of blood, sweat, and revenge. Scorsese’s strange slice of historiography changes with each viewing, equal parts epic, war film, and melodrama. It’s these shifty tones that force the viewer to re-address the work with different eyes.

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5 thoughts on “Cinema Repeated: Films I Return To, Over and Over Again

  1. Well, you’ve given me some stuff to mull over, Glenn. I loved KILL BILL but loathed the other three films. Walked out on Miami Vice (I am not generally a Michael Mann fan) and though I have come to think very highly of Ryan Reynolds and Anna Farris (the latter, always), I thought Just Friends sucked. As for Gangs, perhaps seeing some sort of fuller rendition someday rather than what the Weinsteins rushed into released to “qualify,” I must reserve judgment. I found what I did see at the time of its original DVD release pretty terrible — choppy, and full of overkill and under-characterization, though with plenty of long, boring sections that contributed little to the overall film. Im ight give VIce and Friends another try but will stay far away from Gangs until we get another version. (I despised The Departed, too.)

  2. Jim – Just Friends might be a personal pleasure- the film just gets me every time. As for Miami Vice, it was the inspiration for this post and I’m a devout Michael Mann enthusiast. Like you, I despised Gangs on initial viewing, but returned to it several years later, ignored the idiotic Cameron Diaz subplot, and focused primarily on the scope. It’s one of the few true epics of recent years. But if you didn’t like The Departed as well (which I loved), then its probably not worth re-visiting.

  3. These are the films you repeatedly go back to? Miami Vice not Collateral or Heat? Kill Bill 1 not Pulp Fiction? Gangs of New York and not… well just about any other film that Scorsese made? And what’s with Just Friends? Haven’t seen it but, seriously someone needs to knock the dust off their DVD collection. Miami Vice sucked, even Mann would admit he got suckered into it by Jamie Foxx.

  4. Scotten – Hell yeah they are. I watch these films over and over again. These films fascinate me for many different reasons. My point was that we all have films that keep digging into our side and we can’t ever let them rest. I think Pulp Fiction is the simplest of all Tarantino’s. Kill Bill is an amazing oddity. And Gangs, it’s just such a mess that I can’t help but re-visit it every year. And Vice, it gets better every time. I’d wager you only saw it once and stuck up your nose half way in! Come on, it’s Mann’s art film!

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