Archive for the ‘Romantic Countdown’ Category

A couple of weeks ago, a meme made its way around Twitter, in which film fans were tagged and asked to post a movie still that they considered a “perfect” shot. I didn’t participate at the time, but I’d like to go ahead and post my choice here today: the final image from Charlie Chaplin’s magnificent City Lights (1931).

city lights

by Brandie Ashe

This, to me, is one of the most transcendent images from all of cinema: the whole of the human experience etched on a most unexpected face. Chaplin’s expression here–to borrow an expression from Walt Whitman–contains multitudes: there is love commingled with joy, warring with the fear of rejection and tinged with nervous energy. The Tramp’s face is vital, alive with feeling. It is not exactly an attractive face, ravaged as it is by the itinerant lifestyle he’s led and the months he has recently spent in prison, but for all that it has been through, it is still an innocent face, and a lovable one. It is the face of a man who has loved purely and well, while expecting absolutely nothing in return, and there are few things more heartrendingly beautiful than that.

There are ostensibly two romances at work in City Lights–both of which admittedly play backseat to the comedic elements that dominate the majority of the film (the movie is not subtitled “A Comedy Romance in Pantomime” for nothing)–and neither exactly promises a happy ending for our two main characters. There is the adoration that the Tramp feels for the Flower Girl (Virginia Cherrill), defined by a sincere desire to help her in any way he can, be it taking an undesirable job or subjected himself to a boxing match in hopes of winning a big payday. The Tramp’s love for the Flower Girl is based in large part on his sympathy for her, for he cannot help but identify with her on some level; like him, she clings to the bottom rungs of a heartless society, subjected to the whims of a cruel fate, though her disability makes her far less resourceful than he at the mere act of survival. But even as he strives to find a way to get the money to restore her sight, he does so with the full knowledge that the cure will also mean the end of the budding relationship between them, and so there’s a decided heaviness that underlies the Tramp’s infatuation. (more…)


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By Stephen Mullen

There is a strange irony to love stories. To be stories, something has to change – and so it seems if you want the film to end with lovers together, happily ever after, they have to spend the bulk of the film apart. Enemies, even. And on the other side – if you show the lovers together, show their happiness in the film, the story demands that something changes – they have to be parted. And so the irony – the most powerful depictions of love and desire in films are often in the doomed love affairs, while in films with happy endings, lovers spend the whole show fighting – a merry war perhaps – but war, any any case… Tragedies and romantic comedies – Romeo and Juliet; and Much Ado About Nothing – the models for so many love stories, in their broad shape at least. Blissful lovers parted; bickering enemies united.

But that offers a challenge to a clever storyteller – how do you show people in love and still have a happy ending? How do you honor the conventions of romantic comedy (about what keeps people who belong together apart), while showing them actually in love? I suppose there are as many ways to do this as there are romantic comedies – mistaken identities, amnesia, class expectations, the comedy of remarriage – or – this one. What if the lovers are pen pals? what if they have never met, but have fallen in love with one another in words, two lonely, clever people stuck in their hard lives in the big city – who find they have a bond? What about that? And then – they meet in the real world – and take a dislike to one another – and – then you’ll have a story! You’ll have a story where they are in love with one another from the start, and enemies from the start; they can be as romantic as they want; they can bicker and fight and put each other down to their heart’s content. (And cleverly – well enough they start to be impressed with their mutual nastiness.) Yes – then, you just have to play it out, the revelations, the consequences of lies and truths and self-deception – until, of course, it all comes together. (more…)

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by Jaimie Grijalba

When I first saw this film, directed by Michel Gondry, I thought that it was an ok film, as I was influenced by some other people who knew it and loved it. Those people hyped it beyond any reasoning and made me weary of liking it, as they were so obsessed with it, that they thought the message of the film was something completely different than was originally intended.

People obsessed with film are all over the world, and they are kind folk, the internet community can come together to honor a filmmaker, an actor, cry and laugh together. Like Wonders, a gorgeous community of people obsessed with film, that talk through comments and pieces about every element of films, and maybe this romantic countdown has been one of the most impressive in regards of participation and how passionate people have been defending the films they like. (more…)

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 © 2014 by James Clark

      The intricacies of Anton Corbijn’s film, A Most Wanted Man (2014), come down, it seems to me, to the readily ignored grace note of solitude. (For that matter, Jonathan Glazer’s Birth [2004] also exposes that elusive treasure.) In the Corbijn film it is only intimated by the disaster in its absence and the rumor of its presence in the sailing we hear about (once) but never see. On having, over the past four years, gathered together what sometimes seems to be a filmic mountain of exigencies painfully including that possibility of quiet, I think it is time to pay specific attention to three films from the dawn of contrarian go-for-broke, quite well-known but not widely enough cherished for their daring—namely, Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Last Year at Marienbad (1961) and Marguerite Duras’ India Song (1975). Generally understood as instances of a filmic tsunami of ennui and distemper triggered by a World War palpably obviating the allure of the kind of heroics which had served for so long as a cogent grace note, the choreographic imperatives of those hugely alienated creations have been substantively overlooked—in itself a powerful revelation of the hardness of the crisis they address. (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

The film of  West Side Story produces the same brilliant effect as the play.  This does not mean that the stage show has merely been duplicated; on the contrary, to get the same effect, it had to be effectively translated into a second medium.  Because of the quality of the original materials and of the translation, the result is the best film musical ever made.              -Stanley Kauffmann, The New Republic

West Side Story, a cultural institution with a legacy to match any American film in the musical genre or otherwise, is also a curiosity.  Though it originally ran for 732 performances on Broadway starting in 1957 -an impressive number by any barometer – it did not reach the zenith of theatrical and musical fulfillment until it was transferred to the screen  four year later.  The original show is now seen as much more than a classic musical, indeed one of the very few works that fundamentally changed the form of the musical.  One of the greatest of the influences was in the theatricality of its presentation – the seamlessness and cinematic flow of its staging and the integration of script, song, dance and set.  The operatic score by Leonard Bernstein, with book and lyrics from Stephen Sondheim is arguably one of the two greatest ever written for the musical theater – the other is Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat, which also represented a radical departure in musical storytelling.  Almost every song from that score is now considered a standard and most of them are regularly performed in concerts, nightclubs and updated recordings.  Cast albums have been produced all over the world in places like the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Sweden and Italy among others, and in various styles, instrumentation and interpretations.   The play continues to be mounted frequently in high schools, universities, community and regional theaters, and in successful revivals around the globe.  The libretto has been translated in over 26 languages, and in high school English classes it has been taught as a companion piece to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the timeless romantic work upon which it was based. (more…)

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1 troubleinparadise WitD

By Duane Porter

In the darkness, light filters through the glass panes of a closed door. A man steps up and takes hold of a garbage can that has been left outside the door. He carries it to the edge of a canal and adds it’s contents to the already huge pile of garbage in his waiting gondola. Setting down the empty can, he exuberantly breaks into song with “O Sole Mio” as he pushes off on his way down the canal. This is Ernst Lubitsch’s Venice.

Having just pulled off an audacious robbery, master thief Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall), posing as some sort of baron, is making plans to have a most romantic dinner with a beautiful visiting countess.

“It must be the most marvelous supper. We may not eat it, but it must be marvelous.”

“And, waiter. You see that moon?”

“Yes, Baron.”

“I want to see that moon in the champagne.”

The countess arrives in a fluster, worried that she has been seen entering his rooms and that, surely, a scandal will ensue. His suave soothing manner seems to put her at ease and they start the evening with a kiss and a cocktail. She is Lily Vautier (Miriam Hopkins), but she is no more a countess than he is a baron. As the evening progresses, they each become aware that neither is who they purport to be. She has lifted a wallet from his pocket and guesses it to be from the earlier robbery, news of which has traveled very fast. Not easily taken unaware, Gaston now knows that his guest is a charming little pickpocket. He grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her until the wallet falls to the floor. He picks it up, puts it in his pocket, and resumes his dinner. Delighted, they begin returning various items they have taken from each other. He has her pin. She has his watch. They are surprised and excited by the other’s prowess. (more…)

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by Brandie Ashe

Animation—when it’s done well—has its own special sense of lyricism. That is due in large part to the form itself, for animation can do a myriad of things that we mere mortals cannot physically recreate. There is a magic to the movement of a cartoon, a fluidity that can feel almost otherworldly, yet comfortably grounded, as you watch the characters slide across the screen. Combine that with an effective and engaging story, and you have not only a great cartoon, but a great film, period. And few in the animation field today understand this as much as Pixar.

Now, you could argue that because Pixar’s output is computer-generated, it could be considered a sort of cheat, that it stands apart from traditional hand-drawn animation, that perhaps it’s somehow “easier” for computer animation to capture realistic yet fantastical movement. But that argument belies the brilliance of the animators who so lovingly craft these films. Even a cursory look at the Pixar canon demonstrates how these films excel at movement down to the finest details; something as seemingly negligible as hair is so finely crafted that it waves with a stunning realism as the characters shift across the screen. With a breathtaking precision that only grows more impressive over the years, Pixar has mastered the poetic melding of motion and story. It’s in the undulating, beautifully-rendered fish who swim their way through an emotional quest in Finding Nemo (2003); the realistic motivations and dynamic action of the heroic playthings in the Toy Story series and the superheroes of The Incredibles (2004); and the creatively creepy yet relatable creatures who populate the worlds of Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013). (more…)

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by Jaime Grijalba.

Just like Emmanuelle Riva in ‘Hiroshima mon amour’ (1959), I could swear that I knew Hiroshima, I say that I saw it, I saw Hiroshima, I saw this movie, but then along comes my mind, and like Eiji Okada in the same movie comes and tells me that I know nothing, nothing about this movie. I wanted to do something special for the review of this movie, so I turned to my girlfriend, since this is a romance countdown, and asked if she’d be willing to be in a video for a review for Wonders in the Dark, the conversation went as follows.

Gabriela (My girlfriend): A video? No.

Jaime: But, why not?

G: What do I need to do? My voice is cringe-worthy, do I need to speak in English? My English is awful, you know that, I went to the American British School but I know shit about how to speak it.

J: No, no, no. Look, you’d speak in Spanish, and I’ll put subtitles, and…

G: But I don’t want to speak!

J: But why not? Your voice is beautiful!

G: No, it’s not and you know it! (more…)

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by Judy Geater

There’s no mistaking the fact that ‘The African Queen’ was made on location – with all its breathtaking scenery, shot by Jack Cardiff in the most vivid Technicolor. I was lucky enough to see John Huston’s great film on the big screen when it was rereleased a few years ago, which was a memorable experience. And yet, how merciless the baking sun and bright colours are to the faces of the ageing Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

According to the featurette included on the UK Blu-ray, Bogart asked Cardiff not to do anything to make him look good, saying he had “worked to get this face”. Hepburn never looks remotely glamorous either, and is so painfully thin that you flinch when at one point Bogart sneers: “You skinny old maid”.

They’re not at all the sort of couple who would normally take centre stage in a major Hollywood romance, and you can see why studios were nervous. Or can you? Looking at it now, the sheer pace of the adventure seems as if it would always have guaranteed the film’s success. One threat and action sequence segues into another, as they shoot down the rapids or battle a plague of insects or leeches, showing the way forward to the non-stop blockbuster films of subsequent decades.


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by Sam Juliano

…. Because, in fact, I was too much of a coward to go and see my sister in June, 1940. I never made that journey to Balham. So the scene in which I confess to them is imagined…invented. Any of that could never have happened, because Robbie Turner died of septicemia at Bray Dunes on June 1st 1940, the last day of the evacuation and I was never able to put things right with my sister, Cecilia, because she was killed on the 15th of October, 1940, by the bomb that destroyed the gas and water mains of Balham tube station. So, my sister and Robbie were never able to have the time together they both so longed for and deserved. And which ever since, I’ve always felt I prevented. But, what sense of hope or satisfaction could a reader derive from an ending like that? So in the book I wanted to give Robbie and Cecilia what they lost out on in life. I’d like to think this isn’t weakness or evasion. But a final act of kindness I gave them: their happiness.

–  Briony Tallis (Vanessa Redgrave)

Ian McEwan’s 2001 novel Atonement has been justly proclaimed as one of the literary treasures of the new millennium.  Because the 2007 film version, directed by Joe Wright has largely been recipient to the same kind of critical praise, we can safely conclude that this trenchant examination of childhood, love and war in class-laden wartime England is a rarity – a great film made from a great novel.  Prior to this accomplishment one would have go back to Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day and the 1993 film made by Ismael Merchant and James Ivory to find a comparable achievement.  To be sure there have been other instances when the written word and the cinematic image have danced together in harmony, though as with just about everything else success is measured in the eye of the beholder.  For this author John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Graham Greene’s The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, Henry James’ The Heiress, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Charles Dickens’  A Christmas Carol and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest were all made into excellent films.  I might even be of a mind to include the likes of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, and Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, and even Stephen King’s The Shining in a more populist vein on a successful literature-to-film shortlist.  Fans of modern literature could certainly make a case for Cormac McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men or Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s List, and there is a subgenre of “truncated” successful films made from much longer great books.  i.e. Frank Norris’ McTeague (made into Greed),  Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, (made into the the three-part French film of 1934).  When one considers, however, that film is only a little over a hundred years old, the instances where the disparate forms line up are few and far in-between. (more…)

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