February is the month for lovers. Perhaps you plan to snuggle up on Valentine’s Day and enjoy a movie in the comfort and privacy of your den. (No, not that kind of movie. Shame on you for even thinking that way!) We are talking of movies of romance and true love; perhaps something with Tom Hanks such as Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail. Any actor who can build a relationship with a volleyball that tugs at your heartstrings when they must part should bring even more when an actual woman is involved. Unfortunately I have seen neither of those films.
If it is out and out romance you seek, then Sabrina comes to mind. I saw the original (1954) when it came to the big screen. It is about a poor Chauffeur’s daughter who goes to Paris and comes home a sophisticated beauty who attracts the eyes of two rich brothers. Considering I was only 13 at the time and still liked this romantic triangle says something for its power or perhaps I was just swept away in my adolescence by Audrey Hepburn. This film was remade in the 1990s with Harrison Ford in the Humphrey Bogart part and reviews say it was true to the first film, but brought it up to date. Both can be found on DVD.
Speaking of love and Bogart, The African Queen, with Katherine Hepburn this time, shows the blooming of love between two unlikely mates. Bogart is the grimy river boat captain rescuing Hepburn, the ultra-clean missionary from the Nazis This is a rousing good movie and the DVD comes with extras, including commentary by the cinematographer of the film, Jack Cardiff.
Actually, considering Bogart film image as the hard as nails tough guy, he seems to pop up in a lot of romantic parts, probably none more romantic than Rick in Casablanca. You must remember this one makes everyone’s list of all time great films and it sizzles with the doomed love smoldering between Bogart and Ingrid Bergman (who could blame him), proving that a kiss isn’t just a kiss after all. The DVD comes with a documentary by Lauren Bacall and outtakes. This is a movie that can have the men cheering and the women weeping and everyone feeling patriotic.
Another flick that is surprisingly warm and romantic, as well as hilarious, with well drawn characters if you get my drift, is Shrek The DVD comes in a two disc set with a lot of bonus material, so if the humor overwhelms the romance you have plenty of material to fill up your evening.
Although the season is over and the movie is done to death every December, It’s a Wonderful Life is also a wonderful love story. Despite critics who find it sentimental, it does a pretty good job at capturing the essence of once-upon-a-time small town America. It contains many human foibles and emotions, from the lust expressed by George, Bert and Ernie (not the Sesame Street Bert & Ernie) over Vi’s “This old thing” dress and hair flip to the heavy-breathing rant of George to Mary that ends with teeth-loosing kisses. A nice documentary on the DVD explains that three pages of dialogue were skipped by the actors in the heat of doing this scene.
Let me reveal my secret love of DVDs – the bonus features, especially commentaries by the director. These last three DVDs contain some of the best commentaries and that is why they are showing up on a Valentine Day list. Still, they do contain their own scenes of passion, romance and love.
Fight Club contains some very steamy scenes of passion in its schizophrenic world. Helena Bonham Carter is exotically sensual in this film. I realize nut cases beating each other up and making soap from human fat stolen from the trash bins of a Liposuction clinic may not be everyone’s definition of romance, but I will tell you this DVD is full of great commentaries, by the director, writer and actors.
Perhaps there is a touch of schizophrenics in all these three. Pollack is certainly a man split between great talent and inner demons. He tried to heighten the first and lost the second through alcohol consumption. This is a movie of a woman’s true love as well as the self-destructive path of an artist. Pollack’s paramour and wife defend him, suppress her own brilliant career to boost his and only leaves him with deep regret. The movie does a great job of showing a love in which the lover recognizes the tragedy it encompasses, as well as the finest portrayal of the creative processes of the mind I’ve seen on film. Ed Harris’s commentary is of great interest to anyone interested in how scenes are build and actor’s inner feelings can be presented visually. (Harris was both Director and Star.)
A Beautiful Mind contains one beautifully romantic scene. This is when John Nash demonstrates to Alicia how easily he sees patterns. How more romantic can we get than him holding her close to direct her hand to see the images he sees in the star filled sky? This film deals directly with schizophrenia, but throughout it presents a love of a strong woman for a very troubled man. There are several fine bonus features on this DVD, but the true treasure is Ron Howard’s commentary. Here is true insight in what kind of decisions a director has to make to keep the flow of a movie consistent and convincing. It also answers why certain events have to be overlooked, such as the separation between the real Nash and Alicia and his child by another woman.
So if Valentine Day doesn’t work out romantically for you, at least with these DVDs you can enrich your mind and fill your time.