I’m trying to cobble together an “abandonment theory” about movie-watching. It’s basically about a syndrome in which you enjoy and admire the hell out of a film when it first comes out but then you start to go cold on it once the “wrong” people (i.e., unwashed megaplex hordes) start embracing it big-time. This hasn’t happened with any regularity, and in fact has occured hardly at all. But it has happened once in a blue moon.
The most recent incident didn’t concern a film but a piece of music — Peter Tchaikovsky‘s “Piano Concerto No. 1.” Black Swan inspired me to buy a few Tchaikovsky tracks on iTunes a couple of months ago, and that was fine. But on 12.26 I read Frank Rich‘s N.Y. Times piece about “Disneyland Dream,” a short film about a 1956 trip to Disneyland made by middle-class family man Robbin Barstow. This led me to watch “Disneyland Dream,” which to my shock and regret begins with “Piano Concerto No. 1.”
I know this makes me sound like an aesthetic reactionary, but the Barstow association killed my Tchaikovsky feelings. Suddenly the revered Russian wasn’t a Darren Aronofsky-endorsed composer but a favorite of some middle-class Connecticut dad who could have been the father of Dennis the Menace, and the instant I heard Tchaikovsky’s French horns at the beginning of Barstow’s film, I bailed. I said to myself, “Okay, that’s it…I can’t be on the same boat as Barstow…Tchaikovsky may drift back into my head down the road but right now he’s over….sorry.”
A kind of reverse abandonment situation has happened with True Grit. I didn’t emotionally care for the Coen Brothers film when I first saw it in a screening room, but I might have eased up if it had failed commercially. I might have watched it again and decided (who knows?) that it’s slightly more affecting or whatever. But now that it’s become a huge hit I can’t possibly watch it again with a more open attitude. Now I’m really against it. I can’t open myself up to a chilly western that the wrong people (i.e., ticket buyers) have made into a success and a possible awards contender. Game over. I was right the first time and that’s that.
I loved E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial when I saw it at an early screenings in ’82, and came to despise it once it become a megahit. But I didn’t abandon Titanic when it became the biggest hits of all time. The last 20 to 25 minutes of that film are so affecting that I’m still on-board with it. What others? Not many, I’m sure. My usual tendency is to hang tough when I like something, come hell or high water.