Putting the Romance into Romantic Movies

After seeing The Grandmaster recently and viewing three other recommended Wong Kar-wai films this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes me experience a given movie as romantic.

There are a couple of lines in the (very romantic) Leonard Cohen song “Ain’t No Cure For Love” that keep coming into my head:

“I need to see you naked

In your body and your thought”

The emphasis is really on seeing and on thought because without those two elements, little else matters as much as it should.  In this context, body is a bonus, an expression of deeper connections and feelings.

There are plenty of romantic movies that contain great sex scenes (The Painted Veil, Henry and June, The Big Easy, Say Anything, The Piano, I Am Love, The Song Catcher, etc.) but that is not what makes them romantic because there are plenty of other romantic films with limited sex or even no sex scenes at all (The Secret In Their Eyes, Last of the Mohicans, Casablanca, In The Mood for Love, Bright Star, Dr. Zhivago, Before Sunset, Adam’s Rib, etc.) that are equally powerful and romantic and, yes, erotic.

The Grandmaster, which sparked this line of thinking for me, is in the latter category, a beautiful story of unrequited love.

It is the act of two people really seeing one another and connecting in a mystical and knowing way that is what brings the deep romance to these films and sparks my enduring love for certain movies, including those listed above.

My heart beats a little faster just thinking about them.

In another case, The Last Picture Show, the connection is so strong and evocative that we never see these characters perform their love for one another but get the power of their past connection nonetheless.  Just hearing Sam the Lion talk about Lois Farrow and hearing her talk about him is enough to know how deeply they connected with one another years before and how persistent the feeling remains for both of them.

I started to post some lines from the scene between Lois and Sonny when they talk about her relationship with Sam, who has recently died, but I’d rather you just see the film (or see it again) instead.

Well, okay, here are a couple of lines:  “I’ll tell you, Sonny, it’s terrible to only meet one man in your whole life who knows what you’re worth. Just terrible. I’ve looked, too. You wouldn’t believe how I’ve looked.”

I couldn’t resist sharing those lines, and I have to amend what Lois says.  It’s only terrible if the situation is as impossible as theirs was.

Or, to amend my amendment, maybe what’s terrible is if the connection – the seeing and the knowing – never happens at all.

The Last Picture Show Lois


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