FEBRUARY 2002

 

 

 

 

HAROLD & MAUDE (1971, 91 min.)            

What a pair!  Young Bud Cort’s character is so full of comedic, fatalistic angst.  And she, Ruth Gordon, is so vibrantly alive with her octogenarian spontaneity.  Her style is to cherish and abandon all.  His?  Well, you’d just have to say that the kid is seriously, albeit comically, down on life.  In spite of the disparity of their existential stance, however, this couple bonds neatly and immediately when they discover that they both are anonymously attending a funeral for somebody they don’t know.  From then on, Maude’s love takes the form of subtly teaching her young companion to affirm the moment even as its transience is fully embraced.  Harold’s sick but funny “death wish” gradually blends in with Maude’s exuberant celebration of life in the very face of death.   If you ever have the time to think beyond time, if you ever want to make friends with life AND death and see one as only a reflection of the other, like night and day – if you ever want to learn to let go more and more lovingly and embrace reality more and more completely, check this one out!!

 

LA STRADA / THE ROAD (1954, 94 min., Italian w/ English Subtitles - Directed by Federico Fellini)

Herein are we introduced to the younger-than-Zorba the Greek, Anthony Quinn, who plays perfectly the part of Zampolo, a loutish, one-man, carnival Strong Man.  How loutish is he?  Enough to brazenly return on his gypsy motorcycle-trailer/pad to the farm where he earlier had recruited as his assistant/stooge/bed-warmer one of the farmer’s daughters, who – sorry about that – recently passed away under his care.  And so, pretty soon, whadda’ya know, he makes the same deal with the farmer for a younger daughter, who curiously and more or less obediently goes along for the ride.  And what a delightfully natural clown of a girl she is, played so wonderfully by Giulietta Masina, Fellini’s wife.  So entrancing are her moves as she gathers the crowd for Zampolo’s strong man act, he soon is jealous that she might be stealing the show.  And to make matters worse, from his point-of-view, there is this overly hilarious Richard Basehart character, who, having noticed the young assistant’s unusual natural ability as a clown and himself being an older, more seasoned clown performer, helps her refine her unique, natural talent.  Of course, nothing good can come of insane jealousy and brutish ingratitude.  LA STRADA is a timeless human parable, an enduring classic of cinematic art!  A testament to the tragedy of unrealized love, cut short by human perversity. 

 
LOVE STORIES

The films suggested herein are comprehensive only in terms of my own limited experience and taste.  There will inevitably be, therefore, serious omission.  That having been said, here are some other suggested love stories on film:  DOCTOR ZHIVZGO, Franco Zaffereli’s ROMEO AND JULIET and, perhaps, WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE.  –BJ

 

“There is nothing more fragile than civilization.”HAVELOCK ELLIS

 

 

RAISE THE RED LANTERN (1991, 125 min.)
This really is some kind of a weird love story!  Gong Li’s character, a beautiful Chinese girl of nineteen, concedes, with extreme reluctance, to be what her mother has decided she should be, the fourth mistress of a fabulously rich “gentleman.”  The flood of tears in her eyes foretells the tragedy and the madness of her reluctantly chosen fate.  Witnessing the startling beauty of this film, being immersed in the dramatic flair of its vision, was, for me, like visiting an exotic culture in another galaxy.  And yet, the emotions, they are so commonly familiar and human. 

 

 

“Love” is not, as you think, a simple, tranquil word.  Within it lie armies being massacred, burning cities, and much blood…

- NIKOS KAZANTZAKIS in “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

 

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FOR WHOM THE BELLS TOLL ( 1943, 170 min.)  

I’m always captivated by recalling those scenes when Gary Cooper, at the critical stage of a rear-guard action by Spanish partisan fighters, faces his dear love, Ingrid Bergman, and tries to explain to her how he has already decided to sacrifice himself by holding off advancing troops and why she must retreat with her compatriots and drink in, for both of them, a lifetime of full experience. Sounds a bit like TITANIC, doesn’t it?

 

 

A FUTURE FARMER OF MOVIES

In my last year of high school in Franklin, Virginia, somewhere around 1950, I was raising chickens and some rows of sweet potatoes for my Future Farmers of America (FFA) projects.  But, whenever possible, I would be found with my brothers, Pete & David, down at Lyon’s State Theater on Main Street, watching movies, mostly third rate westerns.  At some point, a classmate recommended that I become a trainee projectionist from the school’s work-release program at this very theater.  Of course, I was eager to do it, as that theater already was one of my favorite places to be!  And so, I became a part-time projectionist in this booth full of awesome equipment.  Suddenly, I was not only watching the show but also putting it on – and even being paid for it!  What a deal, I thought! - Bill Joyner

 

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