I’ve noticed how my perceptions of movies have changed over the years; when I saw GEORGY GIRL as a teenager, I identified totally with the title character, but upon watching it 30 years later, I felt much more in common with James Mason’s character.
LAST TANGO IN PARIS, which I saw when I was the same age as the female lead, Maria Schneider. I was amazed when I watched the film again in the mid-90s, to find that instead of empathizing with her, I felt for Marlon Brando’s character. The same was true when I revisited NETWORK after a couple decades.
Since its release in 1973, I’ve probably watched THE WAY WE WERE at least a half dozen times, swept away with the “romance” and soaring (and Oscar-winning!) title song/score, and empathizing with Barbra’s character. Supposedly the lovers’ “political views and convictions drive them apart”, but upon my latest viewing, I don’t see it that way any more. What I DO see is how brittle and insufferably humorless our heroine is – and wonder how Redford could abide her for even 10 minutes!? She doesn’t truly love him “the way he is/was” because she keeps trying to change him! Conversely, she doesn’t exist as a real, whole person to him – I don’t believe he even likes, let alone loves her for who she is!?
Okay – it’s only a movie. I get that. But these are the stories we all grew up on at our collective movie-theater-campfire. As unsettling as it may be to see them for what they truly are, isn’t it better to know what we’ve been fed and been feeding ourselves, than to remain ignorant of how these stories inform our lives?