The Romesh Ranganathan column: watching the same film over and over

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Romesh Ranganathan on the films that he goes back to again and again.

Romesh Ranganathan (@RomeshRanga)

On a recent edition of Radio Five Live’s Film Review programme, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo were discussing how many times they had each watched the original Mary Poppins, with Kermode announcing that he had watched it over 100 times. I was absolutely staggered by this, as I assumed that in order to have watched as many films as he had, you would have to do nothing but watch film after film, A Clockwork Orange style, once only. How the hell did he have time to watch any film more than that?

Read Romesh’s column every month in Film Stories magazine. Order the latest issue – where he talks Jurassic Park and more – here.

Then I remembered that I went through a phase of watching the animated Transformers movie multiple times as a child. I call it a phase – it was much of my childhood. My brother and I would not only say the lines along with characters, but repeat gags we had come up with while watching.

There’s a moment early on in the film, where Hot Rod is fishing with Daniel Witwicky. Hot Rod picks up a fish they’ve caught and says “Yep that’s a whopper all right.” My brother and I would then say in unison “Not to him!” and look to our friends for admiration, while in reality convincing them that coming round had indeed been a mistake. There was a genuine joy in going through all of the moments of that movie over and over again, that being able to predict every single frame was not an issue.

Plus, as children, you have no idea that the years are going to fly by and, before you know it, you’ll be a fat middle-aged man writing a column for a film magazine for a mate. I imagine. By the way, when Autobot City is under attack, if you don’t think Springer saying “I’ve got better things to do tonight than die” is one of the coolest things ever said in a movie, we probably can’t be mates.

So what’s the point of watching a movie repeatedly? Well, some films certainly reward repeated viewing, and sometimes I’ll watch a film again just to confirm whether my opinion is correct. I went to watch Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace three times just to confirm it was as shit as I had thought it was, which I suspect is the reason for most of its box office take.

It was Christmas that reminded me that there are films that I love watching over and over again, when the family and I settled down to watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the 100th time. Comedies typically reward repeated viewings the least, as jokes rely on surprise, but there’s something nice about knowing all of the gags and saying “oh man I love this next bit” repeatedly until your wife says “shall we just assume you love it all and watch quietly?” Repeated viewings have definitely not done the kidnap storyline in the final act any favours, but the rest of the film is note perfect.

It can also be frame of mind dependent. Upon having the choice recently of watching the excellent A Quiet Place for the first time or Thor: Ragnarok again, I opted for Ragnarok simply because I fancied a relaxed experience with no big surprises. Given the harrowing nature of the first five minutes of A Quiet Place, I made the right choice, but equally harrowing are the opening minutes of Ragnarok, where they lay the humour on just a bit too thick.

So, there are no firm conclusions, other than I realised, having initially been very dubious, that there are valid reasons to watch certain films many, many times. And there are other films you’ll be furious about wasting the precious hours that we have on this Earth watching even once. Overboard remake, I’m looking at you.

Romesh Ranganathan’s new book, Straight Outta Crawley, is available now

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