With Valentine's Day looming, my thoughts have turned toward those first blushes of young love. My first stirrings of passion were for car chases, debonair spies in sharp tuxedos and humor derived from bodily functions. Cinematically speaking, I was no fan of the "mushy stuff."
But as I've grown older my tastes have changed. I still love the visceral thrill of fast cars, James Bond and the bean scene in Blazing Saddles, but I'm also willing to spend a little time with an on-screen couple making out under sympathetic lighting.
So, here are some of my favorite on-screen romances, because nothing says Valentine's Day as well as two movie stars pretending to be in love for an absurd amount of money.
HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971): Making a movie about the inevitability of death, but one that still makes people feel a little warm and fuzzy takes a deft touch. Director Hal Ashby and his two stars, Bud Cort and the charismatic Ruth Gordon, handle the black comedy about a May/very late December romance with admirable aplomb. And while the film's climax may not conform to the fade-out-on-a-lingering-kiss cinematic standard, Harold and Maude offers a small slice of romantic optimism in an often-jaded cinematic world.
WINGS OF DESIRE (1987): Director Wim Wender's metaphysical masterpiece asks the question, "What price for love?" In the case of Damiel, an angel who has spent eternity observing life, death and the passage of time in Berlin, the price is his immortality and a really nifty set of wings. Much more than a love story, Wings of Desire is about the history of a city, the nature of humanity and the things that make us, as humans, feel alive.
THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947): For me, the most affecting loves are those about impossible relationships. In The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, all that stands between the widow Muir and true love is the fact that her paramour has been dead for several decades. The lovely Gene Tierney plays Mrs. Muir and Rex Harrison her sea-hardened ghost lover in a movie that transcends its supernatural silly setup and tugs at the heartstrings.
SAY ANYTHING (1989): Watching most teen love stories unfold is usually the cinematic equivalent of thumb screws. There is nothing more irritating than watching a couple of twenty-somethings pretend they are 16, but oh, so worldly, while dimwitted parents watch from the wings. That's what makes Say Anything so amazing. Certainly, John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler and Ione Skye's Diane Court are smart - Diane is, after all, her class valedictorian. But so were Diane's father and Lloyd's older sister. This is a well-crafted movie about smart people falling in love for all the right reasons and staying in love despite life's flaws.
AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957): I may have to surrender my Guy's Club membership card for this, but An Affair to Remember is a great movie. Unlike many other love stories, it harbors no illusions that it has a message more important than the love shared by Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. And, although I don't tear up when the happy couple reunite, I might let out an audible sigh of relief if no one is around.
Some other great cinematic tales of love are the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby, the fractured fairy tale The Princess Bride and the tragic punk-rock biopic Sid and Nancy. To be avoided are the spineless Wings of Desire remake City of Angels, the excruciating Pretty Woman and anything starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org