Our theme for February is ‘love and lust’ which is of course very apt for Valentines Day and also represents the beginning of our Seven Deadly Sins theme which we will cover over 2015.
When choosing films to represent love and lust it is all too easy to think why not just focus on recent romantic comedies? However, I think that films that embody this theme should still make you think and feel like you’ve learnt something new or be able to consider something from a different viewpoint. All of these films have strong female characters and highlight the ways in which love and lust are such complex emotions across different times and places. The unifying factor across all of these films though is the ‘spark’ and ‘connection’ between the main characters that bests identifies love and lust.
In The Mood for Love by Wong Kar-Wai (2000)
If you are in the mood for getting lost in some sumptuous cinematic viewing,then you can’t go wrong with ‘In The Mood for Love’ by Wong Kar-Wai.
In The Mood for Love is one of my favourite films. The film tells the story of two neighbours (Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung) in adjacent rooms in a 1960s Hong Kong apartment. They grow closer together after suspecting that their respective spouses are having an affair with each other. The more time that they spend in each others’ company the more that they feel that passion for each other grows. This passion is all the more enhanced as it is repressed and constrained in accordance with the societal values of the time and place (similar to the relationship in Brief Encounter). You really get a sense of the tension between the natural passion that the characters feel towards each other, versus the expected behaviour of married men and women in 1960s Hong Kong.
The stunning cinematography by Christopher Doyle make the piece appear like a beautiful painting emphasising the depth and richness of colour with stunning sets and costumes. The period soundtrack further adds to the piece with a repeating ‘Perhaps’ song by Nat King Cole sung gently in Spanish which almost sounds as if it is whispered at times.
The heightened tension and emotion is further enhanced by the amazing sets that are used which are mostly interiors or enclosed exterior sets that are used as a metaphor for the restricted society that the characters inhabit. Doyle uses slow motion to further allow us to view the sumptuous visual detail of the film as the couple pass each other on staircases and encounter each other in deserted streets (where the lighting is reminiscent of The Third Man).
Wong Kar-Wai did not use a script making the scenes feel naturalistic but also dreamy and heightened, similar in some ways to Sophia Coppola’s work. You really root for the main leads and hope that they end up together (you’ll have to watch the film to find out if they do!).
The Awful Truth by Leo McCarey (1937)
This film is a great choice if you’ve had a bad day and need cheering up, or just if you are not in the mood for anything too heavy or serious as it is a light, fluffy ball of fun!
The Awful Truth is a witty fast paced two hander with a bickering couple (Cary Grant playing Jerry and Irene Dunne playing Lucy) believing that they are on the road to a final divorce after incompatibility caused by alleged adultery, lies and a lack of trust. It also includes a custody disagreement over their dog Mr Smith (who is reminiscent of Uggie in The Artist).
This film was also developed largely on an improvisational basis which accounts for the incredible comic timing, especially from Irene Dunne who was nominated for an Oscar in this role.
The chemistry between the two leads sparkle as they get into more and more ridiculous situations hampered by new love interests entering their lives which of course makes them both behave in a jealous manner and then they try to outwit and embarrass each other as the film goes on. What is interesting about this film is that though it was made in 1937 many of the comedic scenes stand the test of time and the strong role that Irene Dunne’s character Lucy has is refreshing and enlightening to watch in a film of this age.
Of course we know that they are really meant for each other and should not have got divorced in the first place but you’ll have to watch it to see if it has a happy ending!
Before Sunset by Richard Linklater (2004)
If you want to watch an intelligent film that is also deeply romantic without being cheesy then you can’t go wrong with this film.
If you haven’t watched the prequel to this Before Sunrise, then I suggest that you do before you see Before Sunset. I love all of the ‘Before‘ films but out of the three so far, the second film Before Sunset is my favourite.
Before Sunset is set nine years after Before Sunrise when the characters first meet by chance on a train in Vienna and spend a day and night together. They haven’t seen each other since that time and their lives have changed as they have got older but they still share the same instant connection that they had before.
Once again, this film has naturalistic dialogue and acting and the script was developed in a close collaboration between the films lead actors Ethan Hawke playing ‘Jesse’ and Julie Delphy as ‘Céline’. Before Sunset is set in Paris and this setting could have struck up a number of clichés as Paris is well known as “the city of love” but instead of using the Louvre and going up the Eiffel Tower as set pieces the director uses the more intimate settings of cafés, bookshops, apartments and a boat on the river Seine. We are a silent observer of the characters as they take a long walk around the city. This enables us to focus on the development of the characters themselves and their growing relationship with each other. The chemistry between Jesse and Céline is electrifying and they have an easy, flirty way of communicating with each other, we get the impression that the more easy-going and jovial Jesse is good for the more serious Céline.
This film also has one of the most clever and enigmatic endings ever, I won’t spoil it for you but you will want to watch the third film Before Midnight almost instantly afterwards!
As you can see here are three of my most apt films for the theme of love and lust, they may edge towards the more ‘love’ end of the spectrum but I think they are great films for this theme and would be interested to know what other people’s favourites are?