My first experience with Woody Allen’s Annie Hall was in the autumn of last year. I wasn’t entirely won over. I had seen bits and pieces of Allen’s oeuvre prior to the 1977 classic, and perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. While delighted and charmed by the romantic tale it was slightly unsatisfying.
We’re now back in autumn, and since last November I’ve seen Annie Hall a total of 10 times – and it has become my favorite film. Interspersed with romanticism, wit, and heartbreak, I’ve yet to witness a motion picture deliver the familiar story of two people falling in and out of love with as much care and affection.
I mention Annie Hall because it’s a prime example of my emotions towards a piece of art evolving over a series of repeated viewings.There haven’t been many occasions when my opinion of a particular film radically altered. However, I write here now knowing that my stance on a certain film has, indeed, changed.
For those unaware, in attending this year’s Toronto International Film Festival I published (to my knowledge) the first negative review of Rian Johnson’s latest endeavor Looper.
That column was met with a flurry of blind rage once linked to Rotten Tomatoes. The comments, which are now at 167 and counting, ranged from grammatically incorrect death threats to incoherent ad-hominem attacks.
The vile messages left by those few individuals who spend far too much time obsessing over the positive critical percentage of a movie didn’t bother me as much as their intolerance for criticism. Although few critics on the infamous website will actually defend their opinions in the comment section (I can’t blame them), I went ahead and spoke out against my indignant detractors.
In response, I wrote I was inclined to see Looper once more because of my unabashed admiration of Johnson’s 2006 modern-noir masterpiece Brick. After the unmitigated hostility towards my review continued with seemingly no conclusion, I started to contemplate the concept of opinions and how film critics seem to authoritatively wield them. One’s opinions, no matter the subject matter, should never be definitive. Especially when it comes to something as dense, enigmatic, and multi-faceted as cinema.
And so last night I re-watched Looper with an open mind, hoping that I’d be satisfied and that my past criticisms would go by the wayside. Much to my surprise, my wish was granted. After two hours of being immersed in the atmospheric dystopian future Johnson had created, my initial opinion that the film failed to emotionally connect vanished. That’s not to say all my past criticisms are now invalid. But what I realized toward the back half of Looper is that I deeply misread some of the ideas and images on the screen.
Rian Johnson’s third directorial effort is not a Sci-fi film, it’s a human one. Yes, the characters operate in a world in which time travel is possible and a miniature Magneto-esque individual rules society. However, younger Joe’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) dream of paradise in France, older Joe’s (Bruce Willis) devotion to his lover, and Sara’s (Emily Blunt) commitment to her supernatural child are bound together by palpable emotion.
For every action there is a reaction. Through Looper Johnson perpetuates the philosophy that where we derive from influences who we are and what we’ll become. Even when the film spirals out of control, echoing the rhythms and designs of futuristic masterworks like Blade Runner and Minority Report, Looper always remains both intellectually stimulating and mystifying.
This will not be the last time a piece of filmmaking that will ignite polarizing responses upon repeated viewings. Nor would I want it to be. Film has the unique ability to evolve and devolve — influence and mold what we think and who we are. Some of my favorite films have become my favorite films by virtue of re-watching them. Imagine the vast amount of great works you or I may have missed out on if not for our practice of giving thoughtful films another chance?
For the record, I have no regret for my initial negative review of Looper. I have faith that what I wrote was a honest representation of how I felt towards the film at that moment. Writing about the movies isn’t easy and does not come natural. Being true to yourself should.