How To Sit Through An Art Film

Now I realize watching an art film can be challenging. Sitting down for a three hour silent film on the sexual awakening of a French taxidermist isn’t for everyone. (If you can name that movie, you get a sticker.) The key is too not think of them as homework, or some kind of punishment. Instead, think of them as an axe to chop people down intellectually. I absolutely loathe 70% of the films I watch. But the feelings of superiority I gain are more than worth it. Trust me. Nobody will want to socialize with you, if all of your favorite movies star The Rock. You need “culture” in your life. That’s why I’m here to walk you through the process. I know the Criterion Collection like the back of my violin case. If you follow these tips below, you’re guaranteed to be a hit at your next dinner party.


1. Play I spy – “I Spy,” if you’re unfamiliar, is a game where one player calls out something to look for, and the other must find it. For example, if I was watching an art film, I might say “I spy a metaphor for the communist revolution disguised as a bakery scene”. Then the other player has to look for it. Doing this will help you pay attention, and have you constantly looking for clues. Circus clowns, extremely long pauses in dialogue, and crying are also safe bets to look for.


2. Watch in installments – No one needs to know that it took you almost two weeks to watch an hour and a half movie. Yes you may forget what you watched a week ago, but that’s what wikipedia is for. Plus, you probably wouldn’t have understood the movie you’re watching in one sitting anyway. And will the reward of bragging and being pretentious be any less sweet if you cheated? Hardly.

TV Gut

3. Drink alcohol – If you think for a second that whatever Russian epic your watching wasn’t filmed by an angry drunk director in subfreezing temperatures, you’re kidding yourself. By consuming large amounts of alcohol while watching the film, you’re not lessening the effect. You’re actually enhancing it! Think of it as “method viewing”. Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino have nothing on you!

bowl of popcorn and beer

4. Exercise – Watching an art film is the equivalent of doing 100 mental sit ups. So why not have your body match your new culturally strengthened mind? Not to mention it’ll keep your heart rate up and stop you from falling asleep.


5. Take notes – Odds are you won’t retain much. But you need talking points, or otherwise this will all be for nothing. So take notes and practice things you’ll want to say. For example – “Yeah, I’m definitely going through an Acid Western phase. El Topo was fantastic”. Or “I only watch films from the Pre-Code Hollywood Era. Nobody takes chances anymore.” You know stuff like that. Follow these tips and you’ll be a certified film snob in no time!



79 thoughts on “How To Sit Through An Art Film

    • Yeah you’re right. There is a lot of good ones. I was doing this more as a commentary on people that watch these just to talk about them. I watch a ton of movies, and a lot of them do make my brain hurt. But I always get something from them. It’s good to try and watch new things.

    • Well remember, this is only part of the equation. There’s still a lot more. But this will at least get you started.

      P.S.- How was bf bachelor party? I drunkenly hung out of the emergency hatch of a party bus, and ate dinner a table across from Jimmey Kimmel. No Hangerover 3, but still overall successful I think. Any good stories?

      • Glad to hear, sounds fun! He sent me numerous photos from a rooftop pool in Vegas of a large, very tan man in an orange speedo flexing his muscles–so I’d say he had a good time as well. From what I understand, the fanny pack came in super handy!

  1. I have no idea what movie you’re referring to, with the sexual awakening of a French taxidermist. It sounds very foreign and pretentious, though. You had me at “like the back of my violin case” and your version of the I-SPY game, but the piece-de-resistance was “method viewing.”

    • Well then my mission was successful. Because I made that movie up. But it sounded accurate right? And now I have to go check out all the suggested movie titles I got in response. I heart the Internet.

      P.S.- Your Lincoln post was amazing. There’s not enough history comedy out there. Between that and Hot Dead People, you have me hooked.

    • Yeah super crazy movie, but definitely worth a watch. Jodorowsky also does comics. I don’t know how big of a nerd you are, but they’re awesome.

    • That was my logic. Also I need to pick your brain someday about horror movies. I saw that big list you had a while back. But I need to narrow it down. It’s a blank section in my movie repertoire.

      • I hope you don’t mind me adding my thoughts here, alienredqueen…

        If Andrew hasn’t dabbled in horror thus far, I think it’s important that he sees some well-made modern day horrors as well as some classics. That way, he’ll get an appreciation of the genre from different angles.

        Andrew, watch some of the following to get an appreciation of how wide the horror genre can be:

        The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922), Frankenstein (1931), Psycho (1960), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Carrie (1976), The Omen (1976), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Halloween (1978), Alien (1979), The Shining (1980), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982), The Hitcher (1986), The Fly (1986), Jacob’s Ladder (1990), The Blair Witch Project (1999), Ginger Snaps (2000), The Ring (2002), 28 Days Later… (2002), Wrong Turn (2003), High Tension (2003), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Descent (2005), Martyrs (2008), Let the Right One In (2008) and Thirst (2009).

        I rate all of the above as good or great films. My favourites from that list are Halloween (1978), Alien (1979), The Shining (1980),The Thing (1982) and Let the Right One In (2008).

        I hope this helps. I’m sure alienredqueen has different suggestions too!

      • I’ve seen a handful of these. Nosferatu and Let the Right One in, were amazing. And who doesn’t love The Thing. But there’s a ton that I just let slip through the cracks. Mainly Halloween. I’m embarrassed I haven’t seen this yet. But this is a great list, and thanks for taking the time to put it together.

        I will definitely be checking out your site on the regular.

      • Don’t be embarrassed. Last week I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) for the first time. And last month I watched Friday the 13th (1980) for the first time! For someone who loves horror, that’s CRAZY!!

      • Sometimes us horror fans get caught up in that “oh I don’t want to watch Nightmare on Elm Street because it’s probably not even scary, too kitschy”…or at least that’s me 😦

        But it’s those movies that are the best because you realize how awesome they were for their time. Like the original Halloween, that’s untouchable- one of my favorite films of all time. Watch those cult classics, you can learn a lot about the genre.

  2. One of the best articles I’ve ever read on cinema. Absolutely hilarious! Well done!!

    Sexual awakening of a French taxidermist: “The Orgasm Diaries” a.k.a. “Brilliantlove” (2010)? That’s the only close thing I could find on Google and I’m not confident it’s the correct answer.

    We’ve been on WordPress one and a half years now, and we’ve never reblogged anyone. That’s about to change!

  3. I don’t agree with this kind of approach on art films (and on films, and art in general). One does not sit through them simply because one has to or to gain culture. Art films (or any good film), are watched because their ingenuity and even passion. The appreciation is not appreciation at all if is regarded as a “have to” instead of “passion” and masterly conduct. The same way it is fake, and hypocritical to listen to Don Giovani just to gain some culture in music.

  4. Very good and soooo useful. Koyanasqatsi was my first experience of Philip Glass and although I now think it is great, when we first saw it in the cinema, I nearly walked out several times, but each time I was about to get up and go, the music changed, and so I carried on watching. Is that masterful timing or masterful torture? Btw I love Glass and Reich et al. … now!

    • Ha, yeah you really do need patience. I’ve watched a ton of movies where the last 10 minutes was amazing. 2 hours and 20 minutes before was hurtful. I feel like the more you watch of these type of movies the easier it gets. And congrats on the Glass and Reich!

      • Some years later I played Glass’ piano piece “Metamorphosis” for my Dad. After a little while he said “Does this ever change?” Of course it had been changing all along, subtly, like the title suggests – you just gotta listen. But listening is a skill that takes practice!

  5. These are hilarious but so true! I had a hard enough time trying to make sense of films like Suspiria and Human Centipede, let alone watching an “art” film and even pretending to understand what it was about. I think what helps for me when I have to sit through films I force myself to review is “I Spy” for sure. I try to think of everything as a symbol and see who else agrees/disagrees. It not only makes the film more interesting but it starts a conversation. One that would otherwise not happen because you’d probably sit there with your melted brain wondering why you wasted your time.

    • Totally! I overplay in the post of course. But I do always get something from all these movies I watch. Even if blood is coming out of my ears. Usually a theme, premise, character, or even just a piece of dialogue. It always ends up being worth it in the end.

  6. I’m going to admit I thought this was a post about the Seventh Seal which is a great movie….but I’m also going to admit that I mostly watch movies that have Arnold, the Rock and my all time favorite Stallone in it…..or Bruce Willis or just lots of fun actions scenes. The key to being an action flick junky, or a war movie junky, is to point out the beauty and depth of story in these movies to the film snobs when they think there movie is better. Don’t even get me started on Rambo 4 bringing to light the mass killing of Christians in another land. Or Expendables 1 being about a group of mercenaries finding their soul.
    See. You just gotta know how to talk about them….then you don’t have to watch the boring stuff. …but the Seventh Seal is pretty amazing. 🙂
    Thanks for the post!

  7. I will say, out of a lot of “art house” directors, Ingmar Bergman is the most palatable. Some of his movies, no matter how you slice it, are great movies. I do agree however, a lot of art house, indy, whatever you call it, you need to be in the right mood. I can’t go from Die Hard (imo the best action movie of all time) to watching 81/2. I’ll be bored out of my mind. Just like I wouldn’t be reading in depth philosophy by Jean-Paul Sartre then crack open a James Patterson novel. They just don’t mesh. – All Hail Bergman!- I don’t care if that makes me a snob, the man was a genius.

    • Oh yeah I totally agree. I actually liked Seventh Seal despite my use of the picture in the blog. A lot of those older art house directors are pretty amazing- Renoir, Godard, etc. But it doesn’t mean some of their movies weren’t hard to sit through at times. Even though, I still think it’s important to watch them because I get something from them every time. And lastly- ALL HAIL BERGMAN

  8. Pingback: Orphans of the Storm (1921) | timneath

  9. I have definitely played ‘I spy’ whilst enduring a few hours of highbrow entertainment. I’ve also made up alternative scripts in my head filled with expletives. That’s always fun.

  10. I remember being totally “taken” by the Blair Witch Project, which I saw at the now (and sadly) defunct Bridge Theatre in San Francisco when it was first releases. I had not read any reviews of it, had heard it was ‘good’ & thought anything about witches would be interesting. It was not till the last 20 minutes, or so, I finally figured out that it was NOT a documentary! That was a funny experience! Wonder what happened to the major players in that film? Would be fun for them to come here & do a meet & greet!

  11. Slience of the Lambs!!!

    No? Wrong sexual awakening movie?

    Haha, I love #2, and all of your advice. Working out, writing it down… fabulous. Now, if I could just sit down and watch “The Artist”… naw.

  12. I like to watch them on mute and then play an excellent album to it, like any Britney Spears album (you know how I love my Brit Brit) or some Lady Gaga or Nicki Minaj. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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