Here's the gist of it. My friend hates spoilers. I don't mind them. Maybe it's because so many films are predictable these days, cliche after cliche, that one can decipher a plot in the first 10 minutes of a movie or from its trailer. And the trailers make it easy because they tend to give away so many plot points or highlights of a film that why not just avoid the long lines and $12 ticket prices and wait for the DVD? I know, as a writer, I should want the integrity of a film to stay intact. Reading the end of a book is cheating and defeats the purpose of experiencing the artistic journey to get there. But I saw David Lean'sDr. Zhivago several times before I ever read Pasternak's novel, and this did not ruin the book for me and the film gets better each time I take the time to experience it from beginning to end with no interruption. I still hope Yuri and Lara will be together at the end, that somehow their fates will change. Of course if one knows the secret of The Sixth Sense or The Usual Suspects or The Prestige before seeing the film, it does lose the shock value. But is that all a good film is about... shock and awe? When I rented Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, I had to watch it again immediately because I knew I did not take in everything in that first viewing. It begged to be seen again and again.
My friend argued that the first time one sees a film, it is important to not know anything, to have one's view untainted and unspoiled so that there is suspension of disbelief, and an open investment in the film maker(s) intentions. I don't disagree, but I just don't care if I do have some knowledge beforehand. Spoilers sometimes help me decide whether I have an interest in seeing the film at all. And good films, whether they are pure fluff or high art, can wrap me up in the make believe and induce temporary amnesia about the outcome. I still have to take the journey, it's still my own experience that affects me and comes into my mind differently than someone else because of my references and my emotions and my life. It's that ride through the creator's words and expression that stays with me, makes me want to come back for more, not just the rush of the first time. The first time is exciting and new and it has to be good to make one return, but it only gets better when I can experience it over and over and see things I didn't see the first time and enjoy the familiar that rings a bell deep inside my psyche.
I don't mind spoilers but I certainly don't go out of my way to read them. So maybe I'm not saying anything different than my friend. Being open and naive to a film's story is ideal. I simply dislike the stress on the "first time" of anything being the most significant part of an experience. It's a bit of flash over substance. The constant barrage of quick sound bites of information, the short attention spans, the temporary relationship and the disposable love, the quick fix, the growing impatience of an over-populated planet... these times force me to want to shift focus. I apply this idea to the many basic and essential things in life that are about ritual and repetition. Every morning I look forward to a cup of coffee. I know what it will taste like, I've had it hundreds of time before, but I still long for that cup of coffee. (Is this a poor example since coffee is more of an addiction?) But many other things can thrill my senses and my mind each and every time I feel them... re-reading Richard Wilbur's translations of Moliere or Turgenev's Spring Torrents, riding the same roller coaster 3-times in a row, a favored meal at a favorite restaurant, a great cocktail, walking my dog every single day, a trip to the same beach or vacation spot every year, sex with the same partner, re-visiting Alma-Tadema's painting Spring at the Getty, re-watching The Wizard of Oz, It's A Wonderful Life, To Have and Have Not, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, ... and the list goes on and on.
That same Sunday evening my friend and I watched Flight of the Conchords episodes that we had seen before. They were just as entertaining and funny and rewarding the second time around. The term "never as good as the first time" is said often. But I say it's always as good as the first time and usually better.