Love is in the air! And not just because Valentine's Day is upon us once more—the much-trumpeted new film The Shape of Water is playing in cinemas, a tale of true love between a mute woman and a captive fish-man (yeah, that old chestnut)
But, who said on-screen romances had to play out between boringly perfect people? Especially since unconventional affairs of the heart often make for more touching movies...
La Belle et la Bete
Forget the Disney cartoon. Forget—if you can—Emma Watson's live action remake of the Disney cartoon. If you watch one version of Beauty and the Beast, make sure it's Jean Cocteau's entirely magical 1946 version. There's never been a better on-screen fairy tale, with Josette Day's Belle falling for Jean Marais' magnificent animal. Stockholm Syndrome has never been so moving.
Harold and Maude
Age, as someone once sagely put it, ain't nothing but a number, and Harold and Maude is the proof. HE is an odd young man, prone to acting out macabre vignettes. SHE is an OAP who’s refusing to grow old gracefully. They were made for each other, even if no one else seems to understand. Made in an age more accepting of films that could not easily be categorised, it's a love story for everyone who hated Love Story.
Portrait of Jennie
During the war and afterwards, for reasons that should be only too clear, there was a flurry of films in which the living made contact with the dead: A Matter of Life and Death, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, A Guy Named Joe, The Halfway House and more. Portrait of Jennie is one of the best: it stars Joseph Cotten as an aspiring painter who one days meets his muse, Jennie (played by Jennifer Jones). Soon enough, he is in love. But Jennie died a long time ago...
The Singer Not the Song
Love comes in many flavours, but rarely so tangy as here. A British film shot in Spain and set in Mexico, it has none other than Dirk Bogarde as a cruel bandito (typecast again, eh?). Regardless that he's a noted atheist, this hoodlum develops a powerful passion of an Irish priest played by—er—John Mills. A dashed odd film all round, it must be seen to be believed, if only for Dirk's leather trousers.
Blade Runner 2049
Technology is upending everything, isn't it? Soon enough, it's going to start playing merry hell with our feelings too. The first film to consider how we might interface with an interface was Her (Spike Jonze, 2013) but since that features protracted ukulele use, let us turn to the more recent Blade Runner 2049; our hero is Officer K (Ryan Gosling) and he has a “thing” for his holographic home help Joi (Ana de Armas), and she seems to reciprocate. The great quandary of the film, though, is whether she feels anything for him—or is she just programmed that way?
I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
That title might lead you to think that this is another digital dalliance and it is, sort of, but only after a fashion: it's set in a psychiatric hospital and our “cyborg” hasn't yet been able to convince anyone that she's actually part machine. But when she meets a fellow inmate with problems of his own, he sets about mending her wiring.
Previously known for bloody rampages like Oldboy, I'm a Cyborg showed director Park Chan-wook could do quirky and sweet as well as anyone. Better, in fact.
Ah! First love! Sam and Suzy might only be 12 but they know they are meant to be together. So certain are they, in fact, that they go on the lam, running away from any parental authority that might keep them apart.
Directed by Wes Anderson, this is one of his very best films, a near-perfect evocation of the last summer of childhood and decorated with wit and whimsy. (Those who want to see Sam and Suzy again might want to watch Patterson, directed by Jim Jarmusch. Keep an eye out for the talkative college students...)
Having started with a fairy tale, it makes sense to end with one too, albeit one set in more recent times. Edward is a shock-headed Pinocchio, made by an inventor who died before he could complete his work, let alone introduce his creation to the modern world. Brought out of the shadows by a kindly Avon lady, Edward (played by Johnny Depp), is mocked and reviled. Eventually he finds love with Kim (Winona Ryder) but how can they be together, when he has shears at the ends of his arms? Have a tissue handy, 'coz you'll be weeping buckets...