Lists

Top 10 Movie Romantic Moments #9 Amélie Poulain and Nino Quincampoix

amelie2-1Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) is a movie that comes up on everybody’s Top 10 lists, and not just for romance.  It’s an amazing movie, so it’s not surprising, but it did take me a while to think of, which is surprising.

For those who need a refresher… Amélie follows the life of a young, quirky, lonely, imaginative woman in Paris.  She was homeschooled because her father, a doctor, mistakenly thought she had a heart defect, and when she was six, her mother died, so she had no real childhood friends.  Now she has a few friends, and a mission in life to do good (in very roundabout ways).  The narrator assured us after a few disappointing experiences with boyfriends, she has no interest in more, but then the audience meets Nino, who had too many playmates while she had too few.  She has one job (a waitress), and he has two or three: at a porn shop, and as a skeleton in a haunted house ride.

But being Amélie, she can’t simply return his scrapbook to him when he forgets it at the Metro station– she makes it into a quest/scavenger hunt.  This cements their interest in each other, and keep up the scavenger hunt in order to meet.  All the while, they imagine what life will be like when they get together.  Unfortunately, when Nino does make it to the cafe where she works, she gets cold feet and pretends not to know who he is.  He then strikes up a conversation with her colleague Gina, and Amélie goes home to cry.  At home, she finds a tape her downstairs neighbor (the Glass Man) left for her telling her not to miss this chance with Nino.

She starts to go after Nino, only to find him at the front door.  What follows is one of the sweetest scenes in cinematic history.  It’s almost completely silent, too.  Nino and Amélie don’t speak– the only words come from the Glass Man telling Lucien (who had delivered the video tape) not to watch the lovers’ silhouettes.

Amelie and Nino don’t really know each other, and yet they do.  They are clearly cut from the same cloth, and they will probably do well together.  But their future really doesn’t matter.  This is a whimsical movie, a 21st century fairy tale, and this scene is the perfect closing note to an utterly romantic picture.

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Top 10 Movie Romantic Moments #10 Gomez and Morticia Addams

"Unhappy, darling?" "Oh, yes... completely."

“Unhappy, darling?”
“Oh, yes… completely.”

This couple had to appear on the list somewhere because they kind of epitomize affection, romance, and desire.  But it was hard to pick a scene that really stood out from The Addams Family, hence placing them near the bottom.  If I ranked couples, they’d be nearer the top.

But after a little thinking, it was clear that the scene where we first see them as a couple, when Morticia gets up in the morning, was the one to choose.  Just think about Gomez’s line: “Look at her… I would die for her.  I would kill for her.  Either way, what bliss!” And you know he absolutely means it. It’s romantic.  It’s creepy.  And mysteriously spooky, but you probably know the theme song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIC2aMlqEZk).

This scene sets the tone for not only this couple, but really, the rest of the movie.  The entire family is devoted to each other (even the two kids), and these two most of all.  When Morticia complains about the morning sun, Gomez enthusiastically closes the blinds with a sword, and we know he carries out every request of hers, great or small, with similar enthusiasm.  And similar… kookiness.

If we’re all completely honest, Gomez and Morticia are probably a relationship goal for most people.  They adore each other.  They tease each other.  They torment each other (and love it).  They have a lot of undisputably hot sex. And everything they do is met with enthusiasm from the other one.  And did I mention they adore each other? The entire checklist may be unrealistic for mere mortals who can’t be electrocuted and laugh it off (who hasn’t rolled their eyes at something their partner has said or done), but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy watching them.

Huston and Julia have perfect chemistry, too.  One wishes they’d done more together.  They’d be positively ooky.

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Top 10 Romantic Movie Moments Honorable Mention: Geraldine and Stern Headmistress, Love Actually (2003)

Deleted SceneI love this scene from Love Actually. I’d actually rate it above a bunch of others on the list, but the deal-breaker is, it’s a deleted scene from the actual movie.  (Seriously, couldn’t they have cut the Colin storyline to make room for this?)

The arc of this storyline would have related to the Emma Thompson character… the movie establishes early on that she has two kids: Daisy and Bernard.  We know Daisy plays First Lobster in the school Christmas pageant, and nothing about Bernard.  Originally, however, he would have been a difficult child, and his arc would be solved over his offensive essay about his Christmas wish to see people’s farts.  The essay gets him sent to the Stern Headmistress (we never find out her name), and instead of scolding him, Thompson’s character simply takes him home, as they laugh at the idea about magic fart-detecting gas.

Later, we would encounter the Stern Headmistress coming home to her ill partner, Geraldine (Frances De La Tour).  They drink wine, talk about their days, tease each other, and then comfort each other when laughing causes Geraldine pain.  The whole scene lasts about two minutes (I don’t count the epilogue that’s edited on at the end), and covers a lot of ground.

It’s not particularly grand, but it does find the beauty in the everyday life of these two women.  Anne Reid and Frances De La Tour have great chemistry, and it adds a lot of poignancy to their conversation about picking the apple, leek, and asparagus out of the fancy sausages they’ll eat for dinner, and the TV show Geraldine had been watching (“those two are the most appalling drivers!”).  Then, when Geraldine has a bad moment, and the Headmistress takes her hand and asks, “Are you all right, my love?” The audience is in the perfect spot for the emotional point to hit.  We’re simultaneously going “aww” and reaching for the Kleenex.

See the scene here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WmhXjCQPa24).

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Rosebud, A Failure

Famous last words.

Famous last words.

My introduction to Citizen Kane was through church, oddly enough, nine or ten years ago.  My dad, the minister, was trying and failing to Xerox that month’s newsletter, and when the machine jammed for the third time running, he growled “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.”  Later, he preached about Charles Foster Kane in a sermon, and I felt sorry for the character.

Going into the movie expecting to feel pity for the protagonist probably colored my reaction to the rest of it.  I liked the movie very much, as a tragedy.  I liked Velvet Goldmine, the rock’n’roll remake of Orson Welles’ magnificent octopus.  But a lot of my friends don’t like either of those movies– they can’t get past the protagonists’ flaws.  And, admittedly, the flaws are many and great… the opening scene of Citizen Kane establishes that with the whisper of “rosebud” as Susan’s snow-globe crashes to the floor.  But that scene establishes something else– Charles Foster Kane is a failure.

The rest of the movie brings that home.  He failed as a child, though that may or may not have been his fault.  His biological father was implied to be a drunken brute, and his adoptive father was made of ice.  He was thrown out college repeatedly.  He failed as a businessman and had to let the icy adoptive father bail him out.  He failed as a politician, as a husband (twice) and as a father.  In the end, all he had in his castle full of cold stone was a memory.

In a way, he is linked to Jack Torrence of The Shining.  Jack is a failure– a failure as a teacher, a writer, a caretaker, a husband, a parent, and even as a maniac.  Both Citizen Kane and The Shining are films one usually enjoys without liking (unless one’s name happens to be Kathy Sherwood), and perhaps that is as much linked to their subject matter.  Howard Hawks said that he made movies on success because failure wasn’t interesting.

I beg to differ.  It goes back to Anna Karenina “Happy families are all the same.  The unhappy ones are all unhappy for a different reason.”  The reasons for failure and unhappiness are like snowflakes, intricate, beautiful, diverse, and interesting.  When a movie opens at the close, and we know it’s going to end badly, don’t we want to know how we got there?  We all know Romeo and Juliet are going to die… but we watch them act out their drama anyway.

Because I know Charles Foster Kane dies alone in a musty castle, I want to see how he gets there.  I find him much more interesting than, say, Iron Man.  Think about it.  Both Tony Stark and Charles Kane are terrible people.  They’re both trust-fund babies who waste a lot of money, fail at running their corporations, need someone to bail them out, and alienate people around them through their jackassery.  The difference between them is that Charles Foster Kane faces the consequences.  He may not face them gracefully, but you have to admit he faced them.  Someone always mops up Tony Stark.  Sure, the movies try to develop his character, have him do rehab or something of that sort, but it never lasts.

Perhaps if Charles Foster Kane’s tragic (waste is tragic) life had been a radio serial, he would not have captivated me as he has.  But the finiteness of Citizen Kane makes his story that much more intriguing, and doesn’t give one a sense that they’ve seen this all a hundred times before and will see it again next blockbuster season.  “Always crashing in the same car,” as the song goes.  Instead, we have one iconic image, sound, and message rolled up into one.  Rosebud.  Kane’s failure.

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Hanging On By the Fingernails

We always knew Bugs was a Looney Tune.

We always knew Bugs was a Looney Tune.

This is a very strange trend that I’ve noticed.  Somewhat lately, in movies where someone cracks up there’s a lot of emphasis on their fingernails, or rather, how they abuse their fingernails.  Or someone else’s fingernails.

In Roman Polanski’s first apartment horror movie, Repulsion, we know that the Catherine Deneuve character is losing it because she accidentally cuts a customer’s nail too short while on the job as a manicurist.  Black Swan can’t stop showing us Natalie Portman’s hangnails.  Occulus has the possessed dad pry his nails off with a staple remover (ew!).

Following those examples, all those comic-relief scenes in other movies, like Oliver & Company, suddenly take on a darker turn when the prissy one wails, “I broke a nail!”

I guess the fingernail thing makes a certain amount of sense.  The professional manicurist making an elementary mistake shows that she’s losing control.  I guess the hangnails in Black Swan symbolize her internal struggle, like something inside is trying to break out.  But as for Occulus… I think they were just going for shock value.  But I suppose it could actually be meant to seriously represent self-harm.

It definitely warrants further research….

And now let’s dip our paddies in the water!

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