(What is it with director's cuts and theatrical releases, anyway? I've rarely seen a director's cut that wasn't a significant improvement on the edited-down full release. Immediately leaping to mind are Bladerunner, Dune and Lord of the Rings.)
Every time I watch it, and last night was perhaps my tenth viewing, I see new details in that film. At a minimum, the sheer density and crunchiness of the production design is well worth studying. The way that the background details in almost every shot foreshadow and feed the story can be breathtaking, if one watches with that critical eye.
In 1985 I was in my junior and senior years of college. My direct political and cultural memory stretches roughly back to Watergate and very end of the Vietnam War, while the entire post-WWII/Cold War era counts as recent history to me. This is the dialectic of the movie. Everything from the music of this movie to the Woodward and Bernstein reference midway through pushes my buttons bigtime. But that dialectic is absolutely opaque to a fourteen year old who was born in 1997 and is only now beginning to develop meaningful wider political and cultural awareness. Her buttons don't exist to be pushed.
So we spent a lot of time pausing or talking over the movie to discuss who the historical figures were. Why was it so unnerving to have a world where Richard Nixon was still in office in 1985. What Woodward and Bernstein had done in real life and what the Comedian meant with his throwaway line about them. Why I love the song "99 Luftballons" so much. Not to mention all the story-specific issues such as tying Rorschach to the little man with the end times sign, discussing why the heroes had gone underground, parsing the rape scene between the Comedian and Sally Jupiter and how that in turn fed the complexity of Laurie Jupiter's life, what the possible significance is of the Gunga Diner blimp and why a pokey little restaurant could afford such a thing, how Dan Dreiberg managed to both locate and afford to keep such a huge underground complex beneath a normal townhouse. And so on and so on and so on.
It was a weird kind of double vision, walking through the politics and culture of my childhood and the first years of my young adulthood with my daughter while simultaneously breaking down the film's plot, setting and design elements. She asked a lot of smart questions, and had some good insights.
Times like this, I really love being a parent.