My first experience shopping the flash sale was undoubtedly the best. It was on Valentine's Day, and being romantically unattached, I was left with the welcome responsibility of treating myself. I bought two Ingmar Bergman box sets, effectively getting 8 films for $11 each. This is a bargain for Criterion movies, which aren't exactly crazy expensive, but they're way too fancy to ever be found, say, in the $5 DVD bin at Wal-Mart (I've gotten some pretty good deals there as well, though). I felt even better about my purchase because I bought both sets before they sold out, and before the site crashed due to the high volume of film snobs in search of retail therapy. In all honesty, I felt almost victorious, as if online shopping was a talent rather than a submission to one's weaknesses and desires.
Although during a flash sale a year later I splurged again and bought two films in order to qualify for free shipping, I now limit myself to just one. I justify the purchase with the only-once-in-a-great-while savings and the knowledge that a film is a gift that keeps on giving, but I also realize this means I'll have to cut back on the oh-hell-I'm-going-to-treat-myself spending for a while. I keep a wish list of films I love that I think have a high rewatch value, and I pick one from the list rather than make an impulse buy. During yesterday's sale, though, I didn't even have to consult the list. I knew immediately that I was buying Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977).
Earlier this year I realized that there was a set of strange trends among my favorite movies: they're about two women, and they feel like nightmares. I know this can be at least partially attributed to the first time I saw Persona, which was one of the most powerfully transformative experiences I have ever had, and not just film-wise. I know this is why I find myself attracted to films that offer a similar experience, like an addict attempting to replicate her first high. But while films like 3 Women, Persona, Vertigo, Mulholland Drive, and Melancholia have qualities in common, they are fundamentally distinct from each other, so I do not believe that I love them simply by virtue of their similarities. Yet the prevalence of the two-women motif can't be just a coincidence, either.
What is it about it that I find so affecting? I've developed a few theories, one being that my introversion has led me to believe that I am not one woman but two, a soul and a personality, and the second being that my love-and-sometimes-hate bond with my sister, probably the most important relationship of my life, has predetermined my aesthetic preferences. In each of these five films, the characters have pretty obvious identity issues. They hate being forced to choose roles, or they hate pretending for the sake of others. They despair that the person they dream of being might not be able to supplant reality, or they worry that identity is something so tenuous and transient that it can be stolen. And this situation is, literally or not, a nightmare. Who knows if this says anything about my psyche. Because I believe too much self-analysis is unhealthy, that's as far as I've ever gotten. I don't really like comparing art to my life, but I do believe that the questions our favorite artworks prompt us to ask say something incredibly vital and revealing, if not to others then to ourselves.
Like taking refuge in television, I become more invested in life by, on the surface, detaching myself from it. To become fully invested in this particular endeavor requires the limited resources of time and money, and while I can't always afford it, sometimes it's worth the splurge.