|Jeff Bridges, in King Kong (1976, top) and Heaven's Gate (1980)|
For instance, the weekend before last, I rented Steven Spielberg's Jaws, John Guillermin's 1976 version of King Kong and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. It occurred to me after I had returned home with the discs that I had almost rented the original version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three as well, which meant I would have had two 1970s films starring Robert Shaw, but that didn't even occur to me while I was at the video store. King Kong, of course, stars Jessica Lange, and we'd just finished watching season one of American Horror Story on NetFlix a few weeks before. Without really thinking about it, I'd watched Lange's first filmed performance shortly after seeing one of her most current. There had been other recent instances such as these, but I didn't pay much attention to them beyond an initial moment of surprise, chalking things up to pure coincidence.
The unexpected connections deepened this past weekend, when we watched, among other things, Michael Winner's The Sentinel, Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate, Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. The first two films were streamed on NetFlix, the last two were viewed on rented Blu-rays. The Sentinel, of course, highlights devilish goings-on in a New York City apartment building, as seen in Rosemary's Baby the weekend before, but strangely enough, both films also feature actresses who were once married to Frank Sinatra (Mia Farrow in Rosemary, Ava Gardner in Sentinel). The Sentinel also features a barely-there performance by a young Christopher Walken, who has a starring role in the very next film I watched, Heaven's Gate. I had been wanting to revisit the Cimino film ever since Criterion announced their restored director's cut Blu-ray release, so it was on my mind long before seeing Walken in The Sentinel. Another featured performer in Heaven's Gate is a young, bearded Jeff Bridges, who I'd just seen in King Kong. Heaven's Gate also showcases stunning views of Glacier National Park in Montana, as do the opening helicopter shots in The Shining, a fact I was completely unaware of until I looked it up on Wikipedia while watching the film.
The oddest connection of all was between the Indiana Jones film and The Shining, both of which have brief scenes in which one character expresses a desire to talk meaningfully with another, prompting the second character to ask facetiously what the first character would like to talk about, leading to an uncomfortable moment between the two. It's not necessarily an unusual type of scene to have in a film, but I'm not convinced that I would have noticed this juxtaposition had I not watched the two films back-to-back, and the strangeness of witnessing these oddly similar scenes in two disparate films, one right after the other, resonated with me. Just to bring things full circle and to make sure I was paying attention, a few of the documentaries that were featured on the Blu-ray of The Shining had interviews with - wait for it - Steven Spielberg.
I'm not sure if I simply didn't pick up on these connections before, or if I'm actually gravitating toward films that have something in common. I do think having films available to watch instantly plays a big part in it. While I may not have had a conscious desire to see two Christopher Walken films in a row, having both of them at my fingertips via NetFlix perhaps allowed me to indulge a subconscious desire without fully realizing it. Maybe after seeing the older (but still stunning) Jessica Lange in American Horror Story, part of me felt like traveling back through time via the magic of cinema to gaze upon her younger counterpart. Whatever's behind this, it'll be interesting to see if this trend continues, especially now that I'm fully aware of it.