Films We Watch Versus Films We Study
Last year, when Sight & Sound shocked the film community by voting Vertigo (1958) the number one film of all time, it seemed as if we all had missed something. It was hard to believe that Vertigo could be the greatest film of all time, partly because we’ve all seen Vertigo and don’t remember it being that good (let’s be honest), and partly because we’ve all been so used to telling our less informed friends and family members that Citizen Kane (1941) is the greatest film of all time. We tell them to watch the film and notice the great deep focus cinematography (it was revolutionary after all!), the innovative narrative structure (how about those flashbacks!), and, of course, the star of the show, Orson Welles, who directed, co-wrote, and produced the film at the age of 25. So when our friends and family members report back to us and say that Citizen Kane is “no Shawshank,” we begin to wonder why we study cinema at all if no one will listen to us, and we ultimately question our existence on this planet.
Okay, maybe we don’t go that far, but the less than enthusiastic reactions to Citizen Kane by those in our lives who have never taken a film course do become discouraging. What is it that they are missing and that we are seeing? Why don’t they care as much as we do? Is it them or is it us?
Such questions are asked but rarely answered. Things became even more complicated, at least for me, when the latest Sight & Sound poll announced that Vertigo has toppled the classic Welles debut. My friends and family members would approach me and say, “See: Citizen Kane isn’t THAT great,” as if being the second greatest film of all time is somehow not an achievement. Then came the dreaded question that we all secretly love to be asked without necessarily being able to provide a suitable answer: “Do you agree?”
What they were asking me, ultimately, was whether or not Vertigo is the greatest film of all time. My opinion to them mattered, because I’m a film scholar and because (at least from their perspective) I’m supposed to know what I’m talking about. But their opinion of me as the so-called expert had already been waning. Remember, I’m the guy who told them to watch Citizen Kane, and I’m also the guy who told them to avoid The Dark Knight Rises (2012). Go figure that they would not “get” the former and “love” the latter.
In order to maintain my reputation as the film expert, I declined to offer my opinion. I told them to watch Vertigo and see for themselves whether or not it is the greatest film of all time. And so they did, and they reported back to me with a somewhat different reaction: “This is so much better than Citizen Kane.” I laughed and didn’t say anything. To be honest, I hadn’t seen the film in quite some time, so I re-watched it that night in an attempt to see if it was better than I had initially remembered it. It wasn’t. To me, Vertigo is good, but it’s no Kane. What had happened? Why did my friends and family members appreciate Vertigo more than me, and why did I think Citizen Kane is the greatest film of all time? Perhaps we can begin to answer this question by distinguishing their approach to cinema from mine.
Cinephilia can be understood as the love of cinema. Cinema, in my opinion, can be understood as the medium of moving images. So a cinephile is someone who loves moving images, including but not limited to narrative feature films, documentaries, television series, etc. The word love can be substituted for passion, and others might even describe it as an obsession. Cinephiles, above all, are consumers of content. Cinephiles have seen that movie from 1945 just to say to themselves that it has been seen, and cinephiles talk or write about that movie from 1945 to prove to others that it has been seen. Cinephiles collect DVDs and movie cards, and in the digital age, cinephiles have begun to bookmark those cinema-based websites and listen to those cinema-based podcasts. Not every cinephile has studied cinema at a university, but most have probably taken a film class, and even those who haven’t can still engage in debates about auteur theory, genre, and the male gaze. Cinephiles know who David Bordwell, Laura Mulvey, Christian Metz, Andrew Sarris, Pauline Kael, and Roger Ebert are, and cinephiles have strong opinions about each of these writers. Cinephiles create lists like “the best movies of the year” or “the best film endings of all time.” Cinephiles vote on IMDB and engage in discussion on the message boards. Cinephiles still go to the cinema, although more of them are beginning to see the benefit of online streaming and VOD. When Cinephiles go to the cinema, they shut off their phones and don’t talk, and when they watch content at home, they do the best they can to replicate the theatrical experience.
My name is Jon, and I am a cinephile. I have been one for at least 10 of my 22 years on this planet. There was a time, maybe in high school, when I wanted to do nothing else with my life but watch a film. In all likeliness this is because there were still so many films to see, so many experiences to gain, and so many conversations to be included in. It was in high school that I discovered Godard, Bergman, Scorsese, Tarantino, and Allen. How could it not have been wonderful?
Then college came and I began to take film classes, study film theorists, and understand who was in the canon and who was not. It always shocked me, for instance, to learn that Altman and Godard are more respected within the academy than Allen and Fellini, and that every film course I’ve ever taken would show Breathless (1960) but not one would screen Annie Hall (1977) or 8 1/2 (1963). Now that I am a graduate student, the disconnect between films we study and films we watch has only become clearer to me. For instance, we study Renoir, Godard, Murnau, and Welles, whereas we watch Chaplin, Fellini, Wilder, and Allen. I still find it surprising to this day that the academy deems McCabe & Mrs Miller (1971) a more important film than Network (1976). And maybe it is, but why do I enjoy Network more?
I suppose what I’m leading to is the focus of this article–cinephilia–and why it has in many ways ruined the way we approach movies. By we, I mean the collective cinephiles of the world who express a deep, passionate love of cinema, but I also refer to those who aren’t as in the know. An assumption of this article is that in order to be a cinephile, one has to have an understanding of the film cannon. One must, for example, know that Citizen Kane is considered the best film of all time, and one must also be in a position to explain why. Moreover, one must be able to describe why the films of, say, Michael Bay are not canonical. That is, a cinephile understands that certain films are significant and certain films are not, and a true, self-respecting cinephile has taken the time to see those films that the canon deems worthy and relevant.
The problem with the canon, however, is that it suggests that all films are created equal, which is to say that we should approach each film within the canon in a similar, serious way. What I want to argue in this article, however, is that we need to make distinctions within the canon between films that we study and films that we watch, and we should know when and how to approach each of them.
It is not easy to make such distinctions, I don’t think, unless one has taken a film course. Film Theory 101, for instance, will at least start us off by showing that Sunrise (1927), The Rules of the Game (1939), L’avventura (1960), and The Son (2002) are films within the canon that we should study, whereas City Lights (1931), Casablanca (1942), The Godfather (1972), and Pulp Fiction (1994) are films within the cannon that we should watch. Obviously there are exceptions since every professor, film school, and film course is different, but most of them are more inclined to screen the former films for their students to study than they are to screen the latter. At the start of many films classes, for example, the professor will tell me to watch The Godfather on my own time because “more can be gained by studying Tokyo Story.”
So what, then, is the difference between a film we study and a film we watch? What I want to propose–understanding that this is just an idea and not a definitive claim–is that films we study are films that can only be appreciated from the perspective of a film theorist or film historian, which is to say that they can only be admired from an intellectual perspective, whereas films we watch are important films that can be enjoyed without necessarily having an awareness of film theory or film history. Sometimes a film can be both, as The Godfather is a completely watchable film that can (and maybe should) be studied, but the difference is that anyone can enjoy The Godfather while only the film theorist or historian can get something out of Godard’s Breathless.
This is why Citizen Kane is only the greatest film of all time if we stress that it is a film that should be studied. It is certainly watchable on its own without an understanding of film theory or film history, but most non-cinephiles who watch it are not as impressed as those who can appreciate the importance of deep focus cinematography. So when people say that Kane is no Shawshank, what they mean is that The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is a film that can be enjoyed and appreciated without any film studies background. The Shawshank Redemption is in the canon like Kane, but ultimately Shawshank is a film we watch and Kane is a film we study. Vertigo, I think, is also a film that can be watched without a film studies background, which is why I am shocked to find that it was voted number one by Sight & Sound, but maybe not so shocked to discover that my friends and family members prefer it to Kane.
I think it is important to make this distinction because it allows us to understand that canonical films can be approached from different perspectives, and a particular film might demand one perspective over another in order to be fully appreciated. We all agree that everyone should watch Godard’s Breathless, but I’m willing to admit to my friends and family that they might find it boring or pointless if they don’t have an understanding of what the French New Wave is and why it is important. Another way to explain this might be to say that Breathless is the kind of film that is more enjoyable to read about and talk about than it is to actually watch. Contrast Breathless to Goodfellas (1990), a canonical film by Martin Scorsese, and we can the difference. One does not need to know who Martin Scorsese is, the term postmodernism, or even the technical brilliance of the Copacabana steadicam shot in order to be entertained by Goodfellas. A knowledge of this certainly helps and may enhance the experience, but it does not make or break Goodfellas like it does Breathless.
The problem with the IMDB top 250, the Sight & Sound list discussed above, and other lists like They Shoot Pictures Don’t They is that there isn’t a distinction between the films we should study and the films we should watch. All of the films on these lists are worth taking time to see, to be sure, and I hope that everyone realizes their significance, regardless of whether or not they consider themselves to be a cinephile. But the lists unrealistically assume that anyone can watch any of these films in any way and appreciate them, and this is simply not true.
Let’s not kid ourselves, cinephiles. We all know that our mothers and fathers (or whoever else we know that embodies the “ordinary” person that lacks the film knowledge we have) will not enjoy Battleship Potempkin (1925). Hell, we don’t even enjoy Battleship Potempkin. But I don’t think we’re supposed to. We’re supposed to study Battleship Potempkin. We’re supposed to appreciate the film on an intellectual level, with an awareness of Soviet Cinema and its impact on the medium. If someone has never read an article by Eisenstein or listened to a lecture about Marxist film theory, they are not going to get anything out of Battleship Potempkin. They’re going to be bored out of their mind, wondering why they aren’t watching The Shawshank Redemption.
Last week I made the mistake of watching Cleo From 5 to 7 (1962) and Yojimbo (1961) on a lazy afternoon. Those films are rightfully in the canon, and I hadn’t seen them, and they were available to stream on Hulu Plus (the Criterion Collection is worth the subscription alone), so I decided to enhance my knowledge of cinema and watch them. This was the worst decision I could have made. I should have known better. It wasn’t until that evening when I realized that I was in the mood to watch a film but instead I selected two films that needed to be studied. I was bored and disinterested, and when it was all over, I felt as if I had wasted the day, and I even wondered what was wrong with me for not enjoying two significant films that are in the canon. In order to make up for what felt like a waste, I read about the films and gained an admiration for them within the evolution of film history. That is, I ended up studying the films because that was the only way I could appreciate them.
What I have since realized, of course, is that nothing is wrong with me for not enjoying those films, because I’m not supposed to enjoy them. I am supposed to think about them. And while thinking as an intellectual exercise can be enjoyable, and doing our homework can enrich our lives in ways that we never imagined, there comes a time when we must walk away from the encyclopedia and go outside and play. There is a reason why we have summer vacation as school children–we need to be able to distinguish between work and play at an early age, and we need to be able to approach work and play differently.
This distinction, I think, can apply to cinema. It is wonderful to take film courses and talk about movies and study the significance of Soviet Cinema or the French New Wave, but sometimes it is necessary to sit back, relax, and enjoy a film. The good thing is that there are many classic, canonical films that are indeed watchable without a film studies background (the work of Scorsese, Chaplin, Hitchcock all come to mind), but the difficulty is in finding these films and being able to separate them from the other films in the canon that can only be appreciated when they are studied. It takes a few disappointing afternoons of Cleo From 5 to 7 and Yojimbo to catch on, but eventually you get there.
I am not saying that there isn’t any value in thinking about and studying films. What I’m saying is that the value is different from, say, the enjoyment that comes with feeling films. All of the canonical films are worthy of our attention, but the films we study are the lobster and caviar whereas the films we watch are the cheeseburger and fries. And don’t get me wrong–I love lobster and caviar, but only on certain occasions, and mostly just to experience the unique taste. Sometimes I just want a cheeseburger and fries because it fills me up and makes me feel good about myself.
I appreciate Citizen Kane as much as any other cinephile, but sometimes I can’t help but think that it is no The Shawshank Redemption.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I think the age of a film, and where it came in the timeline of the history of movies, makes a big difference on a film’s acclaim. Like films that broke new ground and started something innovative in visual story-telling.
Nice read Jon.
I’ve heard quite a few people say that CK is a boring movie or that it’s hard to understand its value unless you went to film school – so I can totally understand the existence of this fine article. I personally have 0 film studies and yet believe CK is one of the best movies American cinematography has to offer and a visual masterpiece.
Here are my (completely uneducated) reasons:
1) It was like 20 years before its time, through the tabu topics and techniques used – it was only appreciated after the American Film Noir era of the 1950s. Take into consideration that this was Wells’ first directed movie (he was 24) – he was given this unbelievably rare opportunity for total artistic freedom – produced, directed and even starred in his movie. (as a side-note, I also think that this was not Wells’ only amazing hit – The Third Man is a serious Film Noir gem, actually one of my favourite movies)
2) Probably the most often heard complaint is that it has a slow narrative pace or maybe too simple a story. But so is life, isn’t it?! I highly doubt Bill Gates battled Transformers while making his millions. The main character is based on William Randolph Hearst, one of the most famous newspaper publishers of all time (sort of the 1940s lovechild between Donald Trump and Richard Branson). Hearst actually tried to prevent the film’s release, claiming it defamed his reputation, and offered to buy all the negatives to have them destroyed and refused to allow the film to be advertised in his papers.
3)The movie is an extremely well narrated tale of ambition and human evolution. I would say it deals with de-humanisation, but I don’t think Kane became dehumanised at any point in his life. I believe he had a linear evolution, he works for himself from the start, his biggest sin actually being the fact that he DIDN’T change.
4)(and my favourite part) The cinematography is STUNNING (i’m really faaar from being an expert in this field, but one scene that sticks to mind is when Kane walks to a window that seems normal in size, but as he approaches it it becomes obvious that the window is much taller and bigger than initially thought, making Kane seem much smaller – serious symbolic value in that one too). The movie influenced a LOT of directors that went on to become ground-breakers as well (think Terry Gilliam, who lists it as his favourite movie).
Wow sharing this!
I have to say, I do not appreciate the fact of your using “we” as if all people who love films will agree with everything you say. I watched “Yojimbo,” for example, when I was in high school, rented from the video store (back in the day), and I loved it. I was totally engaged the entire time. Meanwhile, although I love Goodfellas and Taxi Driver, there are Scorsese movies that bore the hell out of me. I think the best films are the ones about which you cannot make that “study” / “learn” distinction. From the list you gave, it seems you prefer American movies (you listed Chaplin, Scorsese, and Hitchcock) while it’s more of a task for you to watch people like Kurosawa and Bergman. But that’s on you – not cinephiles. Shawshank Redemption is a fine film that is worth a watch, but it is no Vertigo or 8 1/2 or Persona. The latter are meant to be watched over and over again– not just endless to study but to enjoy.
You raise an interesting point and one that I obviously challenge in this piece. I can’t disagree with your own experience so I’ll let other readers comment on this and we can decide whether or not you’re an exception or I’m making generalizations and most moviegoers in the world find as much enjoyment in an art house film as they do mainstream entertainment. I doubt this for many reasons. I argue that a film like Battleship Potempkin can only be appreciated and enjoyed with a film studies background from an intellectual perspective whereas you’re suggesting that anyone can find it entertaining. Let’s hear what other users on this site have to say.
‘we’ve all seen Vertigo and don’t remember it being that good (let’s be honest)’
Actually, Vertigo is one of my all-time favourites and it became so before I read any essays or books on it. I first watched it when I was 16, before I became really interested in film. It’s an odd film because I like it when I first watched it, but could not pinpoint why. Every few months I would watch it again. By the time that poll came out I had watched it more than five times and my appreciation for it grows every time I watch it.
If you break it down on a rational basis, Vertigo falls apart faster than a house of cards in a hurricane. The story relies on a ridiculous amount of convenient occurrences at every turn. But underneath all the ridiculousness, Vertigo has something that gets under your skin. Hitchcock, Herrmann, Coppel, Bass and Stewart were all somehow on the same page and were able to put together a package that was greater than the sum of its parts. I think Scorcese described his obsession with Vertigo as “being sucked into a vortex”. The score, Bass’ artwork, the story, they all have that same spiraling, repetitive, hypnotic pattern that convey the inner workings of the protagonist’s obsession.
Another enviable aspect for filmmakers is how well the story is told with very little dialogue. Hitchcock believed in “pure cinema” and even went as far as saying that “talkies ruined cinema” because now movies had been reduced to “pictures of people talking”. He was old school, learned his craft during the silent film era and maintained that films should be able to tell the whole story without a single word of dialogue uttered. He often did just that… take the crop duster scene in North by Northwest. It goes on for like 10 minutes, there’s no music and the only dialogue is a short exchange with a guy who’s waiting for the bus. Yet it’s suspenseful as hell.
In Vertigo, it’s never more evident than in the scene where Judy, transformed once again into Fake Madeleine, steps out of the bathroom and Hermann’s score builds to a climax. After Scottie says “Judy, please…”, 3 minutes pass without any dialogue, and those 3 minutes are the best part of the whole film. The fact that the sickly green neon light makes her look like a semi-translucent ghost says more than a thousand words. She’s the ghost of the ghost who pretended to be possessed by a ghost… and then the kissing scene where the camera pans around the room to reveal that half of the set is the stables where they last kissed before she “died”… it’s just epic.
I think this “pure cinema” aspect is the main reason why other filmmakers love Hitchcock in general and Vertigo in particular. Ever noticed how the Academy are complete suckers for anything with a minimum of dialogue? They were giddy like schoolgirls over “The Artist” and poured Globes and Oscars over it (and Dujardin), they were enthralled by The Pianist and There Will Be Blood which both feature long-ass parts with just the protagonist on his own with nobody to talk to, they soiled their pants in delight over Jane Campion’s The Piano…
The plot in Vertigo -is- pretty ridiculous. I had a tough time getting past that. Citizen Kane is my choice too.
Just a couple of thoughts I’d like to leave. As a passionate fan of film who has never taken a film class, I found this article kind of alienating. Perhaps your aim was mostly a niche group of “film people”, but I honestly couldn’t tell.
I suppose it could have been helpful if you’d defined what you meant by “films we study”. For example, I have found that opening a discussion with friends wherein we think critically and break down films like Cloud Atlas or Watchmen into questions of their societal relevance or the implications of their popularity can be extremely fulfilling, but I don’t imagine that’s quite what you meant, even though that obviously goes beyond the watching phase of film appreciation.
From an editorial perspective, I’d say perhaps take a more careful eye as you’re proofing. Perhaps someone’s mentioned this already, but in a couple of instances you write “cannon” instead of “canon”, the former of course being the kind that shoots things. You also use a double negative about half way through, which could be a style choice, but maybe not.
Anyway, overall an interesting read. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
Yeah–my intention was to put some ideas out there and see where it goes. I don’t intend to make a definitive claim at all, but as for films we study, I tried to get across that those are the films that can only be appreciated with a film studies background. For instance, I just showed Chris Marker’s ‘Le Jetee’ to a friend who has no background in film studies (i.e. no understanding of film theory or film history), and he found it completely boring and insignificant. It wasn’t until he read about the film and realized its importance within the medium that he could appreciate it, but he still wasn’t entertained by it and he still didn’t “enjoy” it. By contrast, he is able to watch ‘Modern Times’ and be entertained without understanding anything about cinema.
As for the typos–such is the burden of writing in the early hours of the morning!
Hi Jon, this article was a great read for me, first and foremost because I recently wrote a very similar essay (although, I used the title of favourite films vs. best films) I also, utilize a similar writing style which leaves the debate open-ended to a large degree and allows typos and stream of consciousness some leeway. This year I will attend my first year of Film School and I just want to say that you have gave me a second wind of hope and excitement leading into the new year as a person who seemingly went in the same direction and appears to be interested and passionate about the same things, something “Freshers” Facebook pages never seem to do. Keep projecting your voice for the little guys, it’s a good thing someone does, Bob.
P.S I completely agree about The Dark Knight Rises and Vertigo but, Citizen Kane always did resonate with me, the idea of a bottomless pit at the center of a man, in my opinion resonates with any cinephile, just look at the number of Films we watch/study to entertain and find meaning within ourselves. Though, that isn’t a very nuanced response. Again, kind regards, Bob.
Hey Bob, thanks for your kind response and best of luck in film school! I think it’s a sentiment that rarely gets heard because a lot of film people are afraid to say certain so-called classic films are boring, so I’m glad you share similar feelings.
This is a really interesting article! I agree there needs to be a distinction between the two. It would definitely be helpful to have two separate lists of great movies to study and great movies just to watch and enjoy. I have fallen into the same trap as you by watching the former when I was really just wanting some plain and simple entertainment. I have somehow never seen Citzen Kane, even though I would count myself as one of the cinephiles, I will definitely need to watch it soon.
Your article has given me a lot to think about 🙂
Fantastic read! Films should be considered in this manner more often then they are. It takes a lot to call it “The greatest film of all time” and according to who or what criteria?
This was an excellent article.
We all have films like these on our shelves that we know we are supposed to have, but how many of us have actually watched and enjoyed them? Citizen Kane is the classic example, but there are so many others, I’m surprised you were able to narrow things down.
Completely agree with you on this.
Knowing that you don’t necessarily need to enjoy “the films you study” in order to appreciate their existence was a refreshing realisation. I suppose I was quite lucky to go to a university where we studied both canonical and noncanonical films (The Devil Wears Prada comes to mind).
Really fascinating article. I found that a lot of your argument can be applied to the literature and the literary canon also.
I agree! I think Jon’s ideas here are very transferable. I used to have this idea that I should “study” the canon, whereas I had to look elsewhere if I wanted to read for pleasure. Now I read/watch the canon for pleasure and end up studying the works if I enjoy them on a personal level. I find this approach helps me identify more with my “work” and love what I do. Great article, Jon, and nice remark, Amelia.
I enjoyed this and your argument seems quite logical and concise – it is true that some films seem so much better if certain things are understood about them prior to watching, or even after watching. Sometimes reading a review about a film I’ve just watched revolutionizes my experience of it, so I definitely agree with your distinction between the two categories. Thanks for this read.
Personally, I think that maybe the idea of “studying” a film is extremely broad. We could look at Citizen Kane from a technical stance and be wowed by the narrative style and cinematography, but at the same time we can study it thematically for a different, more personal end. I don’t have experience in film studies at all, and all of my ideas have come simply from watching, reading and talking about films. I’m a Literature/Philosophy student, so I apply those ideas when deciphering what a film means to me. It’s all well and good that I can point out the technically impressive points of a film, but that doesn’t make it mean more to me. I am left scratching my head at why a film course would not show 8 1/2, for example…it seems that the study of film, judging by what you’ve written, leaves less room for emotional resonance/attachment? If that is the case, then I would find that somewhat disappointing – almost like it isn’t worth trying to enjoy a film you’d study and vice-versa. I’m not saying that’s what you’re getting at necessarily, but I can see how separating films into those categories could potentially dilute how we appreciate a film. I’m glad, then, that you made this point:
“All of the canonical films are worthy of our attention, but the films we study are the lobster and caviar whereas the films we watch are the cheeseburger and fries. And don’t get me wrong–I love lobster and caviar, but only on certain occasions, and mostly just to experience the unique taste. Sometimes I just want a cheeseburger and fries because it fills me up and makes me feel good about myself.”
This, for me, was probably the most interesting thing about this article, where I can see your opinion distilled down to a paragraph. It makes me think that you, like me, would allow for “wiggle room” when it comes to films we watch and films we study. I think there are films that fall neatly between those poles, with a fair portion of Kubrick’s work being the example foremost in my mind.
Literature is the same. We’re meant to study Joyce and enjoy Stephen King, but that doesn’t necessarily mean King isn’t worth studying. Some of the most interesting work I did at university was studying popular genres (horror, thriller, mystery etc); similarly I found myself enjoying work that was there primarily for study, like Naked Lunch. In my final year, rather than seeing study separate from reading for enjoyment, the lines were more blurred than ever. Ian McEwan is a good example, as his novel Saturday is hugely engaging, but is also bold in its narrative style, as well as a prime example of the technical prowess he possesses.
Ultimately, it’s impossible for me to truly separate study and enjoyment, as they so easily overlap. I love this article, it’s a real thought-provoker, and it’s interesting to see a self-confessed cinephile with such an open approach to this argument. Admitting that you didn’t enjoy Battleship Potempkin was refreshing; many of the so-called “cinephiles” who I have come into contact with will seemingly praise a canonical film with claims of how much they enjoyed it, when really the impression that they gave was that of a pretentious dick. You seem to have the maturity to admit when you aren’t over the moon for something in the canon, so well done for making this personal without being preachy. Looking forward to your next article!
Claiming Potemking should and perhaps can be only appreciated and studied intellectually is to show a gross ahistoricity. For one, it goes against Eisenstein’s express worldview and intention of making films. And then, vaunting ‘intellectualism’ above the affective experience is to transport us 50 years in the past in terms of philosophy, logic, and science of mind.
Seriously, dude. Outmoded critique.
Even though I personally enjoy watching Tokyo Story better, but yes, I have to say the point you brought up in the passage is worth thinking about.
For me, the Venn Diagram overlap for films we watch and films we study is fairly large.