The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Could you stomach seeing the same movie 128 times?

with 28 comments

A friend of mine has seen the same movie 127 times since he saw it for the first time at the age of eight. The movie in question is The Third Man. He claims this is the best movie ever made, and that it’s absolutely flawless.

The idea of it is intriguing. How can a movie where you know every line by heart still be enjoyable? Perhaps it’s a different kind of enjoyment? It’s not about storytelling anymore; it’s more like a ritual or a session of meditation Instead of brooding on your breathing or the “ooohhmmmm” sound, you let your mind rest in the images of The Third Man. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Ivanhoe
I can’t tell for sure which movie I’ve seen most times. I reckon it’s one of my children’s old favorites, probably a Disney movie or one of the screen adaptions of the the books by the children author Astrid LIndgren.

If we restrict ourselves to movies intended for adults, I guess Ivanhoe from 1982 starring Anthony Andrews would be a good candidate. They show it on the Swedish television every year around New Year and I’ve ended up watching it quite a few times by now (still getting annoyed since he always picks the wrong girl, even after all those years, ditching Olivia Hussey for a blond bimbo princess).

However the reason why I’ve seen it repeatedly has very little to do with quality. It isn’t a particularly good movie; it just happens to be around at the right time, when people are a little bored, recovering from the excesses of drinking, eating and socializing with the family. But I would rather have seen It’s a Wonderful Life every year, as they do in other places. A way better choice.

Another movie I’ve seen several times is Groundhog Day, which is kind of ironic considering its plot about a man who is reliving the same day over and over and over again. Unlike the case of The Third Man I can’t claim it’s the Best Movie Ever Made. However it’s one of those movies that feel “OK” to watch one more time if you’re mindlessly swapping between the TV-channels and it happens to be on or when you’re on an airplane and the film supply is limited.

My conclusion is that not all movies which are suitable for several views are masterpieces. But it goes the other way round: Not all masterpieces are the kind of movies you want to see over and over again.

Pan’s Labyrinth
For instance I recently found Naked by Mike Leigh quite remarkable, not like anything I’d seen before, but at the same time I had a horrible watching it and I definitely don’t want to go through that again, ever.

The same goes with Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a fantastic movie in many ways – imaginative and engaging, – but it’s also something of the worst, the most brutal and scary I’ve seen on a screen.  I closed my eyes from time to time, covering my face with my hands because it was so unbearable (not to speak of how awful I felt after the movie, since my 15 year daughter was even more devastated than I was, crying all the way home, making me feel like a BAD mother. How could I know? I thought it was more or less an ordinary fantasy movie!). If you ask me to rate it, it’s brilliant, but I wouldn’t give it a second time. And most certainly not a 128th.

Rather than rewatching good but unpleasant movies I think I should try find some time to see The Third Man.

I’ve never had the heart to tell my friend who is obsessing over it, but the sad truth is that I’ve never seen it. Not even once.

Written by Jessica

July 27, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

28 Responses

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  1. I think my most watched would be Raids of the Lost Ark, only because it was the first film we “dubbed” from VHS, and I could watch t anytime without going to the video store to hire another vhs film. The tape was destroyed by re-use, so we dubbed it again. My age at the time too was one where I was happy to be mindlessly entertained by repeat content, and there was a lack of other options. I can’t think of a recent film that was so good I’d watch it more than 5-6 times.
    Fight Club, Usual Suspects, and 12 Monkeys are other films I’ve watched more than 3-4 times.

    typhoonandrew

    July 27, 2011 at 1:22 am

    • Oh, I love 12 Monkeys. I think I’ve seen it twice, but it would easily hold for another few viewings.
      And yes, I agree, I think our tolerence for repetition was far higher back in the days when the technology was new and shiny and we were happy with whatever we could get.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 7:43 am

  2. My patience for watching a movie again has faded some with age. I recall sitting in my apartment back in college with my roommate watching “Better Off Dead” three times running in the same afternoon/evening. Every time we finished, somebody else showed up, so we would watch it again. It seemed like a good time back then. Now I am not sure I could do that.

    I used to watch “Catch-22” every so often just to see the beautiful cinematography. It just looks so good, plus I enjoy the movie, though it never quite captures the full essence of the book. (Which I have also read several times.)

    For movies I have seen many times (maybe a dozen or times over the year… nowhere near 127) I often find it amusing to change to a foreign language. For example, I watched “Full Metal Jacket” in French with French subtitles. I am shaky in the language, but know enough, and know the movie well enough, to understand it. It can be quite amusing to see how they change a memorable turn of phrase in another language. (And that is a movie with many memorable lines.)

    I have never seen “The Third Man” either, at least not to my recollection. However, it is available on NetFlix streaming and has been in my instant queue for a while now. Perhaps I should go watch it before your friend gets to 130.

    Wilhelm Arcturus

    July 27, 2011 at 1:33 am

    • I’ve never switched to foreign languages unless by accident, but then I hate the practice of dubbing they have in certain countries. It’s a violation, it gives me rashes all over the body so to say. However, as an experiement for a movie you know by heart… maybe.

      And the things we did in our youth… We had a different perspective on time management back then I suppose. 🙂

      I feel a little bad about never seeing The Third Man. But yesterday I paid a visit to our local library and saw that they have it. I can borrow it for free for a week. So I guess I don’t have any excuse not to watch it.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 7:48 am

  3. I’ve said that Pan’s Labyrinth has the most gruesome thing in it I’ve ever seen. Forget all the stupid blood and gore of “terror” movies (they’re not horrifying, as there’s no a psychological component. They’re terrifying because they’re just shock and scare appeal), the wine bottle scene in Pan’s Labyrinth is horrific. I really like Del Toro and the film, but that scene has stuck with me.

    On top of that, my wife and I had a huge fight about the morality of execution, so that movie’s become a bit tainted due to it; I doubt we could watch it together again. I won’t get into the who said what, but the argument revolved around whether murdering a defenseless person is ever justified, regardless of their previous actions.

    As for your actual topic, there were some movies that I watched over and over in my day. I probably watched Shawshank Redemption 100 times during my college years. Magnolia, Fight Club, and Amelie I probably watched 50 times. I used to be a huge movie collector, but since Netflix became available, that dwindled. For that reason, I don’t watch movies more than once hardly at all any more. There have been a few exceptions, such as … shoot I can’t remember the name. One second. Ah, Primer (which if you haven’t seen I’d recommend seeing, but be prepared to watch it twice within a few days).

    Stubborn

    July 27, 2011 at 2:20 am

    • The entire movie is gruesome, but I agree about the bottle scene, that’s the worst of all. It eats its way into your mind, you never get rid of it. And I think the swipping back and forward between fantasy and reality somehow enhanced it.

      That’s quite impressive watching numbers you have for those movies as well. But yes, time was different back then. Endless sort of. Nowadays I don’t have time to see everything I’d like to even once.

      I haven’t seen Primer, but I’ll make a mental note about it.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 7:51 am

  4. You should definitely check out The Third Man. While I can’t fathom the idea of seeing it 127 times, it’s still a good movie. Interesting post. I’m guessing that I’ve seen movies I watched when I was younger like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark many times, but I’m guessing it’s probably like 15 times at most. And nearly all of those were a while ago. There are so many films I’d like to revisit, but with a tighter schedule with work and family, I can barely keep up with first-time viewings. So it’s tough to go back, even to movies I love.

    Dan Heaton

    July 27, 2011 at 4:50 am

    • I’ve found it at my library, so I’ll most likely see it in a not too distant future. And I know what you mean about revisiting. It’s such a tough call, isn’t it? My problem is also that I’ve got such a horrendously bad memory. I forget movies I’ve seen pretty quickly. One reason actually why I’ve started to blog about them. It gives me something to hang up my memory on; I think it might help me to keep them in mind for at least a little bit longer.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 7:53 am

  5. Hmmm, 128 strikes me as somewhat excessive. in fact, I have a hard time believing that, lol. No matter how good a movie is, I doubt I would want to watch it that often – and as you say, often really good films are also heavy material. it would have to be a more lighthearted and entertaining movie that I could keep watching like that. what I frequently like to re-watch is fantasy/scifi-cult films (lotr, matrix etc.), comedy à la Big Lebowski or then cartoons. I certainly re-watch films often and there’s some books I read at least once a year. that still does not bring me close to that number, though!

    Syl

    July 27, 2011 at 11:16 am

    • I don’t know if it’s impossible though…. He’s in his 40s, so it inly takes about four watches a year. 🙂
      I’m curious about what books you read at least once a year. I re-read LOTR about every third years and I consider that a bit on the extreme tbh.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 12:40 pm

  6. I still have about 50 good movies laying around that I haven’t seen yet.

    So I rarely watch the same movie twice. Or it has to be an excellent movie that I haven’t seen in five years.

    Carra

    July 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    • If it was only 50… I just discovered that my library has about 3 000 great DVD movies I can borrow for free. So much to watch, so little time!

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

  7. Hi there, you all. I’m Bellis. I’m the man who has seen The Third Man not 3, not 127, but 128 times.

    First off, let me tell you that I was born into a film family. My father Andreas Bellis is a cinematographer, actor, and lighting designer. My mother Aina Bellis founded the European Film Academy and the European Film Award, after having worked directly under Harry Schein at The Swedish Film Institute as CEO for foreign markets. Of their achievements I am justly proud.

    With such parents, and hardly surprising, I grew up eating celluloid for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    Now, Jessica slightly misses the point. It’s not a matter of letting your mind rest in the images of The Third Man, because I never do. I see this most remarkable movie with intense attention every time, just the same as I see any movie at any time, be it the first or the tenth or the twentieth. The reason is far simpler than she supposes. I enjoy The Third Man in the same way I enjoy a good piece of music (like Lady In Black by Uriah Heep or the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven) that I’ve heard hundreds or in some cases thousands of times (and how many times have you people heard your favourite songs?), I enjoy it the same way I’ve always enjoyed the paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn, I enjoy it the same way I’ve always enjoyed The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe or Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling – to mention just a very few works of art of all those I constantly return to.

    The Third Man is, as a film, flawless and innovative and in some instances unsurpassed till this day. It is a most remarkable work of art. To enjoy and admire such a work of art, you don’t let your mind rest. You watch it with rapt attention.

    If you think this sounds nerdy, well – how many times have you had your favourite dish or favourite wine, and did you not always at least try to enjoy the taste to the fullest?

    What’s the difference?

    Drive a hard,
    Bellis

    Bellis

    July 27, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    • I knew you’d take the bite. 🙂
      If you watch them attentively I think it’s even more impressive. But yeah, I suppose I get what you mean. If I like a certain sort of wine I’m happy to enjoy that wine again.

      However – for my own part I have way too many movies I’m curious about and would love to see – including The Third Man – to spend endless of hours rewatching old ones.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 2:28 pm

  8. While we don’t have films that we’ve watched that often, I will admit to having watched Groundhog Day a few times myself, it’s one of those films that himself and I can watch and snuggle up. Oddly we also feel the same way about Twister, which we saw at the cinema when it first came out. They may not be iconic, perfectly shot movies, but they’re a couple of “our” films, films that we associate with enjoying together.

    I generally will watch a good film a few times, there are subtleties we can often miss the first time around. As for films I’d rewatch over and over? The all-time winner for me, one which I’ve seen about 16 times or more (albeit sometimes at parties) is The Princess Bride. As for himself, I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s watched Jaws. It’s his default snuggle up under a duvet when he’s feeling ill film.

    This has made me think about why we rewatch films. Sometimes we want to savour them, as Bellis states, others we want to watch them for nostalgic reasons, other times, we just want to switch off and go for a cinematic ride. And sometimes we watch them purely for the epic duelling scene and highly quoatable lines!

    Alq

    July 27, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    • 16 times! Not bad! I would have several candiates to snuggle up with under a duvet if I’m ill. Recently I comforted myself with Mamma Mia and Muriel’s wedding when I was on a low. It helped. But there are many others. I’ve seen LOTR several times and could easily enjoy watching them again. One movie I’d love to revist right now is Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind. Seen it twice, but I’d happily see it again.

      Oh, and Gregory’s Girl! I’ve seen that one several times and will never really grow tired of it, for some reason. So full of charm. And any movie based on Jane Austen’s novels will always be a treat.

      I think you’re right about the different reasons we may have for rewatching movies. And don’t underestimate the comfort one! The right movie when you’re in a certain mood can be quite therepeutic to watch.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 8:14 pm

  9. I’ve watched a number of movies over and over again. Gone with the Wind, The Sound of Music, L.A Confidential, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Some like it Hot, to name a few. Before my fiance and I moved in together I’d always put a movie on before I went to bed, so I racked up a lot of views (though probably not close to 128).

    I agree with you though, there are some films I consider excellent but have no real desire to view them again. Pan’s Laybrinth is one of them. Though I’m happy I saw the movie once, I’d much prefer to re-watch something less traumatizing.

    Jasyla

    July 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    • Hey Jasyla, thanks for stopping by! Oh, musicals are actually good for rewatching I think. Often more than in the case of ordinary movies. There’s a reason why sing-a-longs have been so succesful!

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 9:55 pm

  10. While I haven’t kept count, it wouldn’t shock me if I was told I had watched the pilot episode of “Arrested Developement” 70 or 80 times. Not a movie, but still something I dust off the DvD rack I put on several times a year.

    Kierbuu

    July 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    • Good heavens. I’ve never even heard of it! But yeah, some pilots can be more or less like movies.

      Jessica

      July 27, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      • Then you would have fit right in with the regular American television viewing audience. For the 3 years it was on the air, “Arrested Development” was considered the funniest show on tv that nobody is watching.

        …and after mentioning it this afternoon I’m now sitting at home watching it again.

        Kierbuu

        July 28, 2011 at 1:36 am

  11. Oh, we all loved that version of Ivanhoe so much at home! I hadn’t realised it was so popular abroad too. I think for me and my sisters, it was the sheer shock of a film which had a jewish heroine, because you don’t get that much growing up unless it’s a book/ film about the holocaust.

    I always mist up at that scene where she’s tied to the stake with de Bois-Gilbert prowling around on horseback and then Ivanhoe rides up and offers to fight for her and she says, “I accept you as my champion, who heaven has sent me.”

    spinks

    July 31, 2011 at 10:06 am

    • Oh, yes! You make me tear up just by mentioning it. That movie is a tradition since quite a few years here. Again, I’d rather go for It’s a wonderful life as christmas movie, but I do have a special spot for Ivanhoe in my heart. Lovely one.

      And I have no idea why your comment got stuck in a spam filter. Anyway: order is restored now. Welcome to the café!

      Jessica

      August 8, 2011 at 9:15 pm

  12. There are a handful of movies I could see myself watching past the 100 times mark. For me, these films are ones that I get more and more out of with each viewing, noticing little details and making connections that make the film even richer.

    James Blake Ewing

    August 6, 2011 at 2:09 am

    • … and now you make me curious of course! Which movies are on the “movies I could see +100 times list”?

      Jessica

      August 7, 2011 at 8:12 pm

  13. I can’t honestly say that I have, or have not, seen any one movie 100 times or more….I’ve never kept count. Being 42 years old though, I am sure I have watched a few at least 50+ times. Below I’ll break down, to the best of my knowledge, movies I’ve seen over and over (and could still watch again):

    Movies I’ve watched at least 50 times

    My Fair Lady
    Wizard of Oz
    Sound of Music
    Star Wars – A New Hope (the first in the original trilogy – saw it at least 20 times before it was no longer being shown at theaters after it’s initial release)

    Movies I’ve watched at least 15+ times

    Princess Bride
    Blazing Saddles
    Harry Potter (all that are on DVD)
    French Kiss
    Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Pitch Black
    The Chronicles of Riddick
    Phantom of the Opera (2004 version)
    Contact
    Stargate
    Hocus Pocus
    Sister Act (1 & 2)
    Man on Fire
    Lion King
    Who’s That Girl
    The Last Samurai
    Hackers
    Goonies
    Victor Victoria
    A Walk in the Clouds

    Movies I’ve watched 5+ times

    Chicago
    The Day After Tomorrow
    Lord of War
    Sahara
    Raiders of the Lost Ark (all in series)
    Tomb Raider (all in series)
    Addicted to Love
    I.Q.
    The Breakfast Club
    Unbreakable
    I, Robot
    Lord of the Rings (all in series)
    The Longest Yard (Adam Sandler’s version)
    SAW (the first one)
    Hellraiser (first one)
    Nightmare on Elm Street (first one)
    Goodfellas
    Matrix (all in series)
    Heart & Souls
    18 Again
    Fried Green Tomatoes
    Pump Up the Volume
    Pirates of the Caribbean (first & second one)
    National Treasure (both)

    …and many more not listed

    Ok, I’ll stop now, but I think you get the idea. There are MANY movies I could watch over and over and over. There are quite a few I did not list because my “wall of text” is big enough I think.

    I can’t say that any of these movies share anything other than the fact that they brought/bring me sheer enjoyment. I don’t delve on the “cinematic” aspects of movies. If I did, quite a few would probably be omitted from my list. I’m pretty simple, if I like it (for whatever reason) I’ll watch it again. I kinda have a motto – “I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it…third time’s a habit”.

    Oh, and if you’re wondering where I find the time to watch so many over and over, the job I’ve had for the last 5 years allows me to bring/use my laptop which affords me the time to watch movies…as well as play games like WoW, Rift and many others. There’s nothing like getting paid while watching movies/playing games….lol.

    Thelandira

    August 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm

    • Oh, comments can never be too long! Don’t worry about walls of text! If anyone’s guilty of them it’s me, but actually I don’t mind them, I think: “the more, the better”. So chat along!

      I suspect I’m not the only one after reading your comment thinking: “I want that job!” There are quite a few movies on your list that I definitely could watch more times, although probably not as many as you have. With all the time you have at hands by the way, I hope you also saw the extra material that came with the LOTR movies? There are SO many hours of it and it’s just awesome, among the best extras I’ve ever seen actually.

      Jessica

      August 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm

  14. […] the same sort of obsession as a friend of mine has with The Third Man and I’m a bit on the fence on how to react it. Should […]


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