"French Kiss," while perhaps in the second tier of great romantic comedies of the 90s AFTER the greats of, say, "Sleepless in Seattle," "When Harry Met Sally," etc., is, I think, MY favorite alongside "Before Sunrise." There is a certain innocence inherent to this film, one that gives you faith that if you just follow your heart and really be your quirky, irrational, irascible self, everything will work itself out and love will TRIUMPH!
I ask myself, though, WHY this movie? WHY does THIS movie stay with me more than any other Meg Ryan flick? She has so many greats- and ones that I just LOVE. I love Sleepless in Seattle, I love City of Angels, I love You've Got Mail. But for me, French Kiss takes the cake. (Or shall I say, "gateau." I won't lie- the soundtrack is a huge part of why I love this movie. I also have a passion for caper films and this movie has caper elements.
Maybe I love it because Kevin Kline is SUCH a bad boy, and then it turns out, he was never a bad boy at all, just a wronged and misunderstood boy, who, with the proper opportunity and love (and they go hand in hand in this film), doesn't exactly REFORM, but, um, well, learns a balance between the two...
Although I like to think of myself as a Meg Ryan, I'm pretty aware that I come off as more of a femme fatale. I have more Sharon Stone in me than Meg Ryan, but if I'm completely honest, romantic comedies are my favorite genre. I suppose we don't have as many Jean Harlows today (I'm raising my hand!) by which I mean, bad girls in romantic comedies. Well, I guess, we just don't have too many romantic comedies lately. Am I wrong?
Vogue recently included a list of its top 15 all-time romantic comedies... I have a feeling the author is obsessed with Audrey Hepburn (what fashionista in her right mind isn't!?) but I felt the list was like an hors d'ouevres... and, like so many "all time best" lists, focusing more on projects of recent times and not truly of all time. So I am adding some of MY top Romantic Comedies from recent times through the beginnings of film. I am not saying I am going to be anymore rounded out in my choices than the Vogue author. I was just inspired to use a list of some GREATS to talk about WHY WE LOVE ROMANTIC COMEDIES, especially in our 2015, rather post-innocence, everything-is-cycnical-if-not-satirical world.
I would add plays... but I intend for this blog to take you a few minutes to enjoy, not a few hours to pore over... I already keep thinking of other films to add to this list... and some of these films are movies special to ME because of the moment in time during which I saw them, instead of because of their "quality" as films... But when we make a "best" or "favorite" list, we are just inspiring others to fall in love- no pun intended! So, if you haven't seen any of the following on MY list, please seek these films out and fall in love. :)
ALSO, some of these might err toward the side of dramedies. I am not including favorite romantic dramas, such as "Out of Africa," although, trust me, I WANT to. But a few of these films do not fit into the category of romantic COMEDY quite so nice and neatly... so.
Only Lovers Left Alive
by Jim Jarmusch, starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston
Adam and Eve are vampires whose love has already lasted centuries... although I am not particularly one for the vampire genre of stories, THIS one had me sitting in the theater loving the way an old married couple (but who are eternally young and beautiful) have to keep finding reasons to get up every day... er... night... and love each other. Swinton and Hiddleston have a chemistry that reminds me of Hepburn and... a depressed Tracy, and while most romantic comedies of the last few years seem to want to insult the intelligence of the viewer and pretend that we don't live in a culture of fear but of tremendous denial, THIS film ventures into deeper, and darker mysteries.
WHY I LOVE IT:
One of the reasons these two have TRUE LOVE is because they are two of the only true lovers, true artists, true hearted people left alive... and they understand the world, and love, and art and music and living, in a way no one else does.
Chico Y Rita
animated feature film
Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey - in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero - brings heartache and torment.
Seriously, this is a film about another lifelong love relationship that withstands not only drama and heartache, music and passion, but also separation and communism. But don't let that be the definition! This movie is one of the sexiest films I ever saw- NOT pornographic style sexy, but smouldering, sultry, seduction sexy. And the music is incredible.
Directed by Danny Boyle
A Mumbai teen, who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.
I have spent time in India, not a ton, and I'm no master Yogi. But I am a human who keeps her eyes wide open and does what's in front of her... the indomitable spirit of Dev Patel's character reminded me of a young boy I met in Varanasi, who took me on a tour of the hidden secrets of this amazing Indian city. He was around 8, and a muslim boy, and he showed me abandoned forts and villas, trees of parakeets, and what it was like to make your way on your own in a world against you. This movie is fiction... maybe. Maybe not.
Above, a few of the kids I met on one of my journeys to India. Photo by my friend Rick Canter.
by John Carney
A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.
Once, Glen Hansard (the star) hit on my 18 year old sister at a Damien Rice concert. That was fun. Anyway, aside from that little brush with fame, or as Glen would later admonish at the Oscars, "art," this film is stunning. A beautiful little gem that connects the pieces of love and hope even in the face of impossibility. Not all love is meant to last forever, but by happening "once," it remains in the stories of eternity, and therefore happens for all time as well as its own. This is one of those stories.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
by Michel Gondry, written by Charlie Kaufman
"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot! The world forgetting, by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd." -- Alexander Pope
I think this is not only a film about love, but a film about waking up, spiritual enlightenment, and the working through the idea that even if we are spiritually awakened beings, we still have the workings and trappings of humanity unless we transcend the body and are absolved into heaven directly. And so, if we are, as I believe, born to be exactly who we are, some people become Ma, or Amma, or Jesus. And some people become mothers and lovers and fathers and sisters and brothers as well as saints. And what is a saint?
"What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love."
Well, I took a turn for the esoteric, as I usually do, and so now I am happy to dive into a TRIO that is a wonderful conversation about all these questions of love: pure love, true love, corporeal love, the love of the mind and the love of the heart, anger, resentment, possibility, and a desire to stay suspended forever, stardust as we are:
Of course, I am talking about the "BEFORE" trilogy- those wonderful films with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke and directed by Richard Linklater.
Before Sunrise (1995)
The film follows Jesse (Ethan Hawke), a young American man, and Céline (Julie Delpy), a young French woman, who meet on a train and disembark in Vienna, where they spend the night walking around the city and getting to know each other.
Before Sunset (2004)
he film picks up the story in Before Sunrise of the young American man (Hawke) and French woman (Delpy) who spent a passionate night together in Vienna. Their paths intersect nine years later in Paris, and the film appears to take place in real time as they spend an afternoon together.
Before Midnight (2013)
Co-written by Linklater, Hawke and Delpy, the film picks up the story nine years after the events of Before Sunset; Jesse (Hawke) and Céline (Delpy) spend a summer vacation together in Greece.
I'd love to talk about each one individually, because they all mean so much to me, but as I am nearing the end of Part One, I will just talk about the trilogy itself. For the record, so far, my favorite among the three is Before Sunset. I think the reason is that I love the idea that love can redeem itself. And so, I will close out this part one by not really talking about the trilogy at all, but including a clip from youtube that captures the beauty of these films. Warning: CONTAINS SPOILERS
Okay, guys. Next installment includes:
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Bringing Up Baby
It Happened One Night
until next time...
Here's looking at you, kid!
Wait. That's a drama.
Okay. How about...
"Baby, you are gonna miss that plane."