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Romance

I Am Love (Io Sono L'Amore)

I Am Love

Of course you are, there's no doubting that

dir: Luca Guadagnino

You wouldn’t think a title like I Am Love would pack them into the multiplexes. I guess in Italian, if you’re not an Italian speaker, Io Sono L’Amore sounds that much more exotic and alluring. Despite these obvious obstacles, these wonderful people still thought they’d get together and create an exquisite flick about how passion makes idiots of otherwise rational people, as if the books Madam Bovary and Anna Karenina were never written, and no-one ever read them.

Honestly, I can’t recall the last time it was implied in a flick that women could have sex with someone outside of their marriage and that it didn’t result in death, murder, suicide or the end of the fucking world. Is it really that catastrophic? Male characters cheat constantly, and the world seems to keep turning, and yet whenever a female character, and a mother, no less, finds passion or solace in the arms of another, someone always ends up dead.

Of course it would be unfair of me to assert that this flick is going for anything close to a moralistic or judgemental tone in the slightest. It’s anything but what it sounds like I’ve described, because it’s an amazing construction. I rarely see flicks, and I’ve seen a bundle, so exquisitely and meticulously put together. It’s so intricately put together, from a cinematography, set design, sound, score and editing point of view, that there’s almost little room for the acting performances.

Almost, but not quite. This flick is an engine, or a machine at least. Not a single shot is taken simply when it can be done in a far more fussy and seemingly meaningful way. Even as I marveled at it from a distance, and realised I was more impressed with the construction that the content, I had to remind myself that it’s still about people. Rich people. Rich People With Problems.

Rating:

(500) Days of Summer

dir: Marc Webb
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There aren’t that many good romantic flicks. I don’t think it’s the boring case of “They just don’t make ‘em like they used to, and get off my lawn, you deadbeats” beyond the heyday of the Golden blah blah of Hollywood. Romantic flicks invariably suck because they’re invariably crappy, inhuman and lazy.

And yet romance infects its way into almost any other flick and genre you can think of. Romance on its own, though, without the ‘comedy’ support of being at least a romantic comedy? Oh, it’s fucking awful, almost 99 per cent of the time.

That figure is empirical fact, based on years of meticulous research, forensic testing and cross-matching with the FBI’s crime database.

I don’t think this flick is anywhere near up the top of the genre with the few decent romantic flicks of the last couple of decades or so, but it doesn’t completely and utterly suck.

We are told right from the start that though this is a story about love, that it is not a love story, and that it is more about the misery a failed relationship can bring rather than the sheer scope and magnitude of wonderfulness that can occur when everything goes right.

Rating:

Across The Universe

dir: Julie Taymor
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Julie Taymor, being Julie Taymor, delivers high concept drama-free colour-soaked movies rich in immaculate artistic design and acting little higher up on the relative scale compared to dinner theatre.

In Across the Universe, she delivers a musical using much of the Beatles better known back catalogue, which is more of a homage to the gullibility of audiences seeking a romantic fix mixed with 60s Americana clichés rather than honouring the Liverpudlian larrikins and their music.

Is it entertaining? Eh, if you like polished, sickly sweet musicals and karaoke versions of classic pop songs, then maybe it is. Maybe it is.

But otherwise the clearest thought that came into my mind was that this flick seriously reminded me, as most things remind me, of an episode of The Simpsons where trusty news anchor Kent Brockman starts a news story about the 1960s saying something like “And here’s a 60s montage.” Random cliché scenes of hippies, the National Guard popping skulls at Kent State, civil rights marches and Vietnam protests flick past to the accompaniment of All Along the Watchtower by Hendrix. At the end of the montage, Brockman intones in disgust “What a shrill and pointless decade.”

Well, Kent, feel free to describe this film in a similar fashion.

Rating:

Once

dir: John Carney
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How many times are you likely to watch this flick, if at all? Once. How many times will you listen to the CD? Once. How many times will you hear the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly that features in the film and is likely going to be used in every ad trying to sell everything from haemorrhoid creams to fighter jets and cheese-in-a-can? Probably dozens of times.

Once is a very simple, very unambitious flick that is nonetheless quite charming. It is billed as a romance, but really, it’s about two people who meet, sing and play some songs together, and that’s it. There’s really not much else to it.

The story, such as it is, looks at The Guy (Glen Hansard) who repairs vacuum cleaners in his dad’s shop. He also busks on the streets singing his own songs. In an amusing exchange to open proceedings, he spies a junkie who looks like he’s going to try to steal the change dropped on his guitar cover. When the junkie does what is expected of him, and The Guy has to chase him down, it seems like the junkie and the Guy know each other quite well.

Rating:

How Much Do You Love Me?

dir: Bertrand Blier
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This film is terrible even by the standards of French cinema. I’m no Gallophobe, disliking the French or their cinema by any stretch of the imagination, but this flick is appalling according to any criteria that I can think to apply.

Look, it’s not the acting. The actors are, I’m sure, doing the best they can with the material. And many a French film possesses a certain arch or pretentious sensibility that would be ridiculed in flicks from any other culture. But here, the scripting, the plotting and the editing combine to produce an absolutely shithouse result that knows no borders.

It’s not unpleasant to watch for most of the time, with the sound and subtitles turned off. Any film that has Monica Bellucci in it has at least two good reasons to watch it, whether lingerie clad or not. And the great advantage that this film has over, say, Irreversible, is that the audience isn’t subjected to watching her being subjected to the most horrendous assault imaginable over a prolonged period of time.

But this film is still appalling. Even with Bellucci, and Gerard Depardieu, that giant of French cinema in more ways than one, in this flick, it’s still unwatchably stupid.

Rating:

Brokeback Mountain

dir: Ang Lee
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It’s strange that such a big deal is being made about this film. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautifully shot, well-acted, with a touching, sad story to tell.

But it’s such a low-key story, regardless of all the controversy surrounding it. And let’s not skimp on the praise here, it’s utterly ridiculous that such subject matter can still get so many people’s girdles in a twist in this day and age.

Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) work as shepherds in the mountain region of Wyoming one summer in 1963. They talk like Texans, and dress like the Marlboro Man, so I guess they must be cowboys. They’re really not cowboys, though. So those, like me, who were expecting two hours of gay cowboys eating pudding, will be disappointed. Instead of proving the old South Park gag about all arthouse films, they subverted it, the bastards.

Their job on the mountain is to let the sheep graze, and to protect them at night from coyotes and other predators. And though it be 1963, the place is still a pristine wilderness. As such, depicted in relatively modern times, the place has an air of unreality to it, as if it is some fabled realm, of nature unspoiled, where man doesn’t really belong. So two men, up there, all alone on Brokeback Mountain; cold nights, flowing whisky, sleeping in a tent together, what else would you expect, eh?

Rating:

9 Songs

dir: Michael Winterbottom
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The film is exactly 69 minutes long. It consists of a smattering of banal dialogue between two people, they also do some drugs, squabble a bit, and they go to some great gigs. They also fuck. They fuck a lot. The weird thing is, they really are having sex. We see it in all its messy glory.

This isn’t meant to be a porn film. And it’s not a porn film, really. Most porn films have better production values. But their soundtracks usually aren’t this enjoyable. And they don’t usually have scenes from actual gigs at Brixton Academy, the Forum, Hammersmith Odeon, or the Empire in between the sex scenes.

I’ve used this gag many times in my reviews and conversations with people about films, where I say stuff like, “By Lucifer’s beard, the plot of that film was so bad that even porn films have better and more coherent plots”. Now I’m going to officially retire that gag and never use it again. I realised that porn films haven’t had plots for years, and anyone that watches them thinks “What the fuck you talkin’ about, Willis?” whenever I say it in a review.

Rating:

Before Sunset

dir: Richard Linklater
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I'm not a fan, even remotely, of romantic movies. Romantic movies generally have the same effect on me intellectually as Draino would have on a human's gastrointestinal system upon consumption. I doubt anyone's going to be surprised by that. Hey, I'm not some stoic, repressed, unemotional automaton. I don't work in an abattoir nailgunning creatures in the head day in day out for a living or for fun; I haven't 'shut down' emotionally because of my second tour of duty in 'Nam where I put my hand in a pile of goo that used to be my best friend's face. I am, in short, a product of the current age, not overly apathetic about stuff, but not too interested in getting sweaty over anything either.

All in all, I am clearly not the demographic intended for anything explicitly shelved under the Romance section of the local franchise video rental chain. You know where I mean, be it your local Burstblocker or LeproZYDVD, where they have over fifty copies of the latest Adam Sandler / Drew Barrymore flick, and no copies of any films by Federico Fellini. Yeah, I know, I'm a snob when it comes to movies, so sue me.

Rating:

2046

dir: Wong Kar Wai
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2046 is a lush, beautifully filmed movie with an aching coldness at its heart. It’s a complementary film to In the Mood for Love, but it’s so much of a mutated yet ‘faithful’ continuation that calling it a sequel feels inaccurate.

In the Mood for Love was about two people clearly in love with each other trapped by circumstances and their apartments into never being together. 2046 has the male character, Chow Mo Wan (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) continue on his way whilst doing an autopsy on himself the whole time. It is essentially about how screwed up he is as a person now that he refuses to open his heart ever again after ‘losing’ Su Li Zhen (Maggie Cheung) from the first film.

So, even though he swans about with his cool pimp moustache and looks the dapper dandy, inside, his heart is dead. Women are in ready supply and close proximity, but he uses them solely for sex and keeps them a million miles away emotionally. The ones that want him repulse him, the ones that he thinks he might want, were he not an amputee from the result of dwelling permanently in the past, don’t want or care about him at all.

Rating:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

dir: Michel Gondry
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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a rarity in this day and age: a film that has elements of romance, drama and comedy without being hampered or paralysed by any of those aspects. In truth this film is beyond a rarity: it's a gem that stars, inexplicably, Jim ‘Ham on Rye' Carrey and Kate 'Let Me Get The Twins Out' Winslet playing two oddball characters that don't pander, don't beg us to love how cute they are and therefore circumvent the natural expectations that an audience member might have of a scriptwriter having to create a story we could possibly care about. One that doesn't ploddingly, predictably, stagger from point A to point B to point Zzzzz.

Let's face it romantic comedies are about as popular as syphilis to those of us that don't think Maid in Manhattan, the Wedding Singer and Pretty Woman are the pinnacle of the cinematic experience. Sure, I understand, we're ungrateful, but some of us aspire to something more out of film and of life. With that in mind when something comes along that's clever and sweet it seems fuckstruckingly out of place. What? It's funny AND romantic? Are the seas boiling? Is that sky falling? Isn't this one of the signs of the forthcoming Apocalypse?

Rating:

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