Sunday, February 13, 2011


Love is hard to capture on film.  I don’t think you can actually write love for the screen, the emotion has to come from the talent and chemistry of the actors, with some help from a skillful director.  Close-ups of eyes and lips and other body parts, while beautiful and interesting, don’t transmit the emotion and neither do most two-shots of actors staring into each others’ eyes.  Only if there’s some excellent acting between faces and bodies, do you get onscreen steam and smolder.  See Ralph Fiennes visually devouring Kristen Scott Thomas as they dance in The English Patient  and Laura Linney showing us the thrill of dancing with a loved one for the first time; the feel of his jacket, the smell of his hair in Love Actually.  Dancing adds tension to love scenes.  All the holding and touching and eye-gazing have to be contained because the dancers are in public. Look at Beast’s face in the ballroom sequence from Beauty and the Beast, some of Glen Keane’s best acting. 

Out of Africa is a wonderful love story and there is some real tenderness and spark between Meryl Streep and Klaus Maria Brandauer.  Unfortunately Robert Redford was too miscast to produce any fire.  He does best when asleep and gazed upon with unrequited adoration by Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were.  Nobody does unrequited love better than Barbra Streisand.   
Hiccup and Astrid shared a cooler, more Viking kind of love in How to Train Your Dragon and Rhett Butler’s love for Scarlett in Gone With the Wind is touching under the toughness.  His sweeping her up the stairs is a wonderful scene but more lusty than loving, lust being easier to portray on screen than love.
  And, for sheer heart-breaking love, there’s Ennis and Jack in Brokeback Mountain.

Other films are based on love, like West Side Story, but we don’t really feel it, other than the gut-wrenching last scene.  Casablanca delivers wonderful dialogue and story and a lot of noble sentiments but, despite Ingrid Bergman’s dewy-eyed performance, not much emotion.  Unless you count the feelings aroused by the playing of The Marseillaise, which gives me goose bumps every time.
Then there are less complex scenes involving kisses, smoldering stares and just plain sex:

Wonderful screen kisses:
* James Dean/Julie Harris in East of Eden.
* Burt Lancaster/Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity
* Grace Kelly kissing Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief.
* Dustin Hoffman/Anne Bancroft in The Graduate.

Smoldering Stares:
•    Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient.
•    Lawrence Olivier in Wuthering Heights.
•    Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire.
•    Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not.
•    Charlotte Rampling in Farewell My Lovely.

Screen sex:
•    Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.
•    Ralph Fiennes/Kristin Scott Thomas The English Patient.

By the way, no “Valentine’s Day” movie has a lick of love in it.  You’re better off watching one of the above with someone you love.     

1 comment:

The Good Wifehold said...

They're some of my favourite films! But I disagree about the Robert Redford/ Meryl Streep contingent... lots of fire. Thanks for the post. TGW