What is it to be for Valentine Day viewing? A new romcom? or a classic? BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S now seems to be THE classic for Valentine's day, my local art-house is showing it with champagne and chocolates ! For pure schmalz you can hardly beat a Fox double bill of AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER and LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDOURED THING. That would leave one limp and with not a dry eye in the house... ditto Sirk's ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS.
The latest romcom I like is THE PROPOSAL, which was actually the in-flight movie on a trip to Greece last summer, but I liked so much I got the dvd. Sandra Bullock is about the only romcom queen I like and she is perfect here, and the guy is cute and there is Mary Steenburgen whom I love, now in the Mom phase of her career. It's well put together and it works, what's not to like? I also have that recent Gerard Butler effort THE UGLY TRUTH to look at .... one I will be giving a big miss to is this excruciating sounding VALENTINE'S DAY with that current crop of the younger crowd, and even Shirley McLaine included - there is even a token gay relationship I understand. It seems to be trying to be a new LOVE ACTUALLY [though that snipped out the gay (lesbian) relationship, though it is included on the dvd - maybe the women (Anne Reid and Frances De La Tour) were too old and one of them dying? - though Emma Thompson refers to them later in the film], but LOVE ACTUALLY was bad enough, without a Gerry Marshall imitation.
The romantic classics I like for Valentine's Day are those Ophuls: LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, LA RONDE and MADAME DE. There is also a Roger Vadim 1964 LA RONDE with a young Jane Fonda and some interesting French players (Anna Karina, Jean Sorel, Maurice Ronet etc) but the one that works is Max Ophuls 1950 one which is perfection with that cast of Signoret, Walbrook, Darrieux, Gerard Philipe etc).
Then there is my new favourite, a discovery from last year: David Lean's 1949 romantic drama THE PASSIONATE FRIENDS, which should be as well known as BRIEF ENCOUNTER. This is a delirious romance, perfectly orchestrated by Lean, with the usually glacial Ann Todd re-discovering her lost love Trevor Howard on an alpine holiday, but she has married rich, possessive Claude Rains in the meantime. It's wonderfully worked out with great locations (you can sense Lean making the most of the Alpine shoot, as he did with Venice in SUMMERTIME) and there is that marvellous scene where jealous Rains cannot contain his anger any longer as he confronts the lovers with the theatre programme for the show they did not attend. The three players are at their best here and its a richly romantic treat with that perfect late '40s ambience.
Getting back to BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S that ending (the opposite of how Capote's novella ends) with Audrey and Peppard in the rain (did any couple ever look better wet?) as the heavenly chorus sings "Moon River" and cat is found .... they embrace with the damp cat squeezed between them .... movie perfection! Tears all round.... My theory about TIFFANY'S is that Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly in the style of the recently departed Kay Kendall who died in 1959. It's a perfect Kendall role and Audrey knew the Kendall sisters when they were all chorus girls in early '50s London. One can just imagine the Kay of LES GIRLS or THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE as a perfect Holly... TIFFANY'S though remains a great New York film and an early 60s classic.
Martin Ritt's THE BLACK ORCHID from 1958/59 is a perfect romantic treat too, as widow Sophia Loren is wooed by widower Anthony Quinn - quite lovable here. He has a disapproving daughter and Sophia (aged 24 with just a hint of grey in her hair) is the mother of teenage tearaway. Its all nicely resolved at the breakfast table and must surely have influenced Cher's MOONSTRUCK, a nice romcom pastiche.
A very nice '40s romance is the 1945 Alexander Korda VACATION FROM MARRIAGE [or PERFECT STRANGERS] where bored young newly weds Robert Donat and Deborah Kerr each get drafted into the wartime services and re-discover themselves and each other. Its utterly charming, with nice roles too for Glynis Johns and Ann Todd.