Thursday, January 24, 2008


My wife and I watched Notorious last night, which is supposed to be one of the greatest Hitchcock films. I actually wasn't that impressed (disclaimer: I'm not that big of a fan of the ole H-cock) but its inexplicable love story got me thinking about love in the movies. I'm going to try and run through all the different ways the movies show us romantic love developing (not disintegrating or strengthening or anything that implies it was always there. just how it starts) from lamest to least lame. I'd love to hear what you think about this, and if there are some you think I've missed. Use the comment button, damn it!

1.Duh. The internal logic for this one goes something like this: they're the leading man and leading lady, of course they're in love! Featured in Notorious and, most egregiously, in The Maltese Falcon. In the latter (and I don't recall the actual dialogue) Bogey has just discovered that the dame in question has double-crossed him, double-crossed her partners, and is now in desperate straits, and he should justifiably cover his ass. Instead, he gets her out of the predicament. Why? Well, he says it's because he loves her. Why does he love her? The movie provides no reasons for this. Your guess is as good as mine.
2.Oh Mr. Darcy I hate, er, love you! You know this one as well. He's insufferable! She's stuck up! That beast! That prude! (insert face-sucking here). As the lovable T-Rex has told us, this one seems to be on the rocks a bit, but it's a classic. Our lad and lady can't stand each other - then can't get enough of each other. Usually in the same scene.
3. I'm A Believer. He (and it's usually he) sees her, and that's it. The filmmakers usually try to let us in on the developing love; she's usually shot in a high angle shot, wearing something to accentuate her figure, the lens goes to soft-focus, and some music that's supposed to indicate desire plays. This one shows up big time in American Graffiti, even if he never gets the girl (or even speaks to her face to face).
4.Zing! Sometimes indistinguishable from #2, love here is at least the product of a conversation. Because of the Hays Production code, sex was taboo, so in screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s, our participants had to do all of their thrusting verbally. And yeah, sometimes they're at each other throats, but it's a more sophisticated back and forth, often good-natured and always fun to listen to (#2 often has super annoying tantrums). And eventually, in the course of this, they open to each other, and voila. It Happened One Night pretty much invented this on film; see also The Awful Truth and (my favorite) The Lady Eve.
5.Love. Boy meets girl. They talk. They both have insecurities, histories, uncertainties, likes and dislikes. Nevertheless, they keep seeing each other, talking to each other, getting to know each other, changing and developing each other, possibly having sex, depending on whether or not the Production Code is in effect. At some point, their shared knowledge of each other develops into something more. It's called love. It's never been done better than in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Wes Anderson knows something about it, as does Wong-Kar Wai, as does Woody Allen in some of his finer moments.This year, Once has it, as does Waitress. Waitress has it beautifully - Waitress does 1,2,3 and maybe even 4 before finally making it clear that those are just stages at best, and some point you've got to reach 5. And it does.

1 comment:

hilizzle said...

Even though remarriage comedies imply pre-existing love, I still think they should be counted - they incorporate #4 and #5 at their best, and often #2 as well... Although I guess you did list some in your examples...