Last week I was on vacation from work, taking a little bit of time off so that I could concentrate on my first week back at university. On Thursday, after attending an early-morning tutorial, running some errands and meeting my husband for lunch, I found myself back at home with a little over a half hour to kill before picking my kids up from school. I turned on the TV and started flipping around when I saw that Titanic was playing, and it was at around the halfway point.
I turned the movie on and found myself at the scene where Rose is at the party in steerage, standing en pointe for the big tough men. I continued to watch as Rose’s fiance threatened her, and Rose’s mother made astute observations about the condition of women while tightening her daughter’s corset. I saw Jack sneak on to the first-class deck and make Rose feel as if she was flying. I watched as Jack sketched Rose, and as they found the old motor car, and just before they proceeded to make good use of the car I turned off the movie and picked up the kids.
As I walked up to the school I thought about just how much I love re-watching old movies. If I hadn’t seen Titanic before, I wouldn’t have enjoyed catching 35-ish minutes at the midway point of the film. I also wouldn’t have had the experience of delightful nostalgia as I recalled going to see the movie for the theatre the first time, or watching it a few more times over the years. I wouldn’t have been able to walk away as easily, without being able to find out what happened next, either. (Spoiler alert! The boat sinks.)
I am not someone who particularly enjoys the feeling of suspense. I read the last pages of a book first, especially if I’m anxious about the outcome. Because I already know what happens when I re-watch an old movie, in many ways the experience is much more comfortable for me. I don’t have to worry about the characters, because I know just what comes next for them. I can relax and enjoy what’s happening now, laughing over the jokes and smiling at the sentimentality, rather than feeling preoccupied over what may or may not happen next.
There are some movies that I seem to happen upon far more often than others. I’m sure I’ve seen Steel Magnolias, Forrest Gump, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Titanic 15 times over, but mostly in bits and pieces, rather than all at once (though I have watched each of those movies all the way through a couple of times at least). When I see that one of them is playing, it’s almost like an unexpected visit from an old friend. I can dip in and out of them at ease, only half paying attention sometimes and not missing anything, and never worrying when things get tense. None of those movies are necessarily my most favourite films, but I harbour a special affection for them nonetheless, formed over the dozens of times I’ve happened across them in the TV schedule.
Some of the movies that I find myself re-watching again and again are seasonal. Over the holidays I’m more likely to watch It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story, or old TV specials featuring Charlie Brown. For the longest time it was Edward Scissorhands at Halloween, though I haven’t seen that one for a number of years now. And of course at Easter movies with Biblical plots feature heavily, and I catch them in bits and snatches when I happen to be watching.
I know some people don’t enjoy re-reading books or re-watching movies. I am not one of those people. In fact, sometimes (maybe even often) I prefer re-treading old ground to covering new ground. It’s more familiar, it’s easier, and it reminds me of pieces of my past in a way that something new never could. If a new movie is a sexy dress, an old movie is a cozy sweater. I do love a cozy sweater – especially when a whole lot of other new things are happening in my life. Sometimes you want novelty, and sometimes you want comfort. Right now, I think, I’m in a comfort place.
Bring on Steel Magnolias.