Theater of romance

Late last year, Tony Scott passed away and it stirred a brief exchange with N (fellow movie buff) about True Romance, the director’s 1993 crime-thriller — screenplay written by Quentin Tarantino (then amassing cult status).

N declared he was going to watch True Romance (again) in honor of Tony Scott because the film, is an all time favorite. So being a naysayer [of all things Tony Scott], I’d deliberately cave to the praise and landed a copy. Predictably, my reaction was vastly different from his.

I guess things were hindered by confirmation bias because even today, I’m still plagued by a nagging suspicion that I only saw True Romance just so I could promptly dismiss it later. In retrospect, it does contain one of the corniest but also one of the sweetest scenes ever conceived by Hollywood: when both meet happenstance during a Bruce Lee flick. Maybe one day, I’ll watch it again just to be more mature about the whole thing. 😛

Until then, Badlands shall remain the most admired hoodlum of road-romance because unlike Clarence and Alabama, Kit and Holly inevitably went their separate ways. Although both couples began as doomed lovers, there is something more poignant in sad endings. Ill-fated romance makes this film by Terence Malick far more compelling.

But what would Freud or Ainsworth say about this propensity for mischance and insatiable longing for impossible things? Perhaps my doleful preference for Marvellian tragedy is driven by unhealthy need for miserablist cliches and antics. The false dichotomy in motivation and possession (wanting what I cannot have) only exists in the figment of pessimistic neurosis. This certainly explains why some of the most unforgettable films I consider truly romantic, are magnified first by sweet rapture before being immortalized next by irrevocable separation.

No. 15 >>> BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Brokeback Mountain EnnisBased on a short story by Annie Proulx, this drama portrays evasive romance between Ennis and Jack. In the beginning, both are acquainted with a life of hardship and poverty. Something good finally happens when they meet and find solace in being together — alone and far away from the world up in Brokeback Mountain. But Jack’s wandering soul and wanton disregard for homophobic intolerance waned against Ennis’s stoic repression. Duality in natures that first drew both to each other, thus became the very same basis for enduring pain spanning twenty years.

No. 14 >>> CLOSER

Closer MovieIn this cinematic re-telling of a stage play written by Patrick Marber, four beautiful strangers meet and trade blows in a complex narrative not about love — but ruthless spite and pathetic desire. Director Mike Nichols, whose clinical dissection [on concepts such as life and death in Wit for example] is always on-point, decries overrated romanticism in this film through the flaws of Larry, Anna, Dan and Alice. All characters are shallow and obnoxious but against the hectic rhythm of cold, urban existence; toxic sex and relationships resonate with its target audience. Watch out for Clive Owen’s dynamite performance as well.

No. 13 >>> LOWER CITY (Cidade Baixa)

Lower CityExplicit, primitive violence is the main chemical coursing through this passionate film by Sérgio Machado. Three young natives who breathe and thrive in the underbelly of Salvador, Brazil experience the paradoxical stigmata of desire and pain. Two friends meet a dancer- prostitute Karina, and this messed-up love triangle finds its ultimate raw expression in a cruel sequence depicting two dying roosters pecking away during a cockfight. It’s a very difficult image to watch, but also powerful as an analogy to the possesive rage and savage impulse that will finally consume both men.

No. 12 >>> I AM LOVE (Lo sono l’amore)

I Am LoveA bold, vibrant and exotic drama starring Tilda Swinton as Emma: dutiful Russian wife and outlier in a noble Italian patriarch. Emma succumbs to the temptation of forbidden love in a risky affair [with an unlikely character who first appeared in Act One]. Mid-life awakening and liberating encounters in her lover’s secret garden may also speak to cougars hiding in their closets.

No. 11 >>> STARDUST MEMORIES

Stardust MemoriesAn unlikely choice. But Woody Allen’s dramatic comedy satirizing his fans’ demand for those “earlier, funnier films” resonates with me because of one scene between central character Sandy, and his girlfriend Dorrie. I too, remember simple moments of happiness etched in fragments of memories like this…

It was one of those great spring days, it was Sunday, and you knew summer would be coming soon. And I remember that morning Dorrie and I had gone for a walk in the park and come back to the apartment. We were just sort of sitting around and I put on a record of Louis Armstrong which was music I grew up with and it was very, very pretty, and I happened to glance over and I saw Dorrie sitting there.

And I remember thinking to myself how terrific she was and how much I loved her. And I don’t know, I guess it was a combination of everything, the sound of the music, and the breeze, and how beautiful Dorrie looked to me and for one brief moment everything just seemed to come together perfectly and I felt happy, almost indestructible in a way.

It’s funny, that simple little moment of contact moved me in a very, very profound way.

to be continued…

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