tongue-tied lightning

Breathless and The Impact of Expectations
May 24, 2010, 8:23 PM
Filed under: film

To what extent do expectations color our reactions to things?  I’ve often found I’m more receptive to a film on a second viewing than I am on the first.  This could owe to the expectations I brought with me to the first viewing or it could owe to having a greater understanding of something having been through it twice.   I understand this realization is nothing new but it’s interesting to ponder.

What has me pondering it at the moment is Breathless.  I just watched it for the second time and my reaction couldn’t have possibly been more different from the first time I saw it.  When I first approached it 6 or 7 years ago I had read about it’s impact on world cinema, everything you’ve already heard, and I was expecting it to have the same impact on me.  Imagine my disappointment when I was greeted with a moderately amusing but relatively generic crime thriller.

Today I decided to give it another go.  I went in with little to no expectations.  I read an article about it’s 50th anniversary and was looking for something light to kill some time and thought “Hey, maybe I was wrong.”  Was I ever.  This time I saw the film I had been expecting the first time I watched it.  It was fresh, funny, exciting.  Those who have hailed it as the birth of modern cinema no longer seemed hyperbolic.

This could owe to the difference in my expectations, but I suppose it could also owe to how much my knowledge of film has grown over the last 6 or 7 years.  Having an intellectual understanding of formalism now as opposed to only the intuition I possesed then.  It does seem as I continue my education in film the disparity between a first viewing and second becomes less drastic, so perhaps expectations don’t even enter into it.  Yet it makes me wonder how many other films I’ve been wrong about.


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