Film For a good long while It's A Wonderful Life was in the "necessary five", my favourite films of all time, but has subsequently been nudged out by In The Bleak Midwinter as the Christmas film of choice (the other four on the list are When Harry Met Sally, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Seventh Seal and Star Wars (although having seen Whip It and Frozen again recently that coveted Ferris slot look a bit shaky). Why the change? Well, quite simply because it's so, so depressing and to such an extent it's become very difficult to watch. One of the key elements of that list is that I'd be happy watch any of those films right now and the idea of seeing Life in that context doesn't exist.
For a while it also had special status. With annual appearances at cinemas, I decided that I would never own a copy of my own and would only be able to see it in auditoria, so it is the film which I've seen most on the big screen, at the ABC on Lime Street, the Cornerhouse in Manchester a couple of times, the Odeon on London Road and FACT Liverpool (which I hope I haven't jinxed based on that track record). Initially these were 35mm prints which looked like they'd seen many festive seasons but eventually they were replaced with restored digital copies. For over ten years, it was as much a part of the tradition of Christmas for me as visiting the continental market in Manchester.
The only occasion my vehemence about seeing the film in cinemas became a problem was when asked during my film studies course to write an essay about Frank Capra's film and the extent to which the climaxes of his films with their apparent dip towards tragedy before a last minute restitution was a result of his auteurism as a director or his writers, especially his early collaborator Robert Riskin. Life is a key example of this and so would require me to watch it closely, yet I decided to write about it from memory anyway which is just how film studies historians worked anyway before the emergence of VHS, unless their university happened to have a print themselves.
Then Mum bought me the blu-ray for Christmas and that was that. Not because owning the film would necessarily negate seeing it projected, but watching the events unfold alone in my room, isolated, somehow put a new perspective on what happens in the film, George's sacrifices and what now looked like a false catharsis at the end which seems like it has the potential to last until the horrors of dealing with New Year's Eve filled me with dread for reasons to emotionally lengthy to put into words here, but suffice to say it meant I was done with It's A Wonderful Life as a favourite film, or indeed something I could just watch whenever. But we'll reconvene at some point I'm sure.