Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

04 July 2008

On How I Am a Sap and Other Tales of Silliness

I often think of myself as cold-hearted or mean. (My dear friend Wahima likes to describe me that way, certainly.) But then I sit down to watch an old sentimental movie like George Stevens' I Remember Mama and find myself totally overwhelmed with emotion, crying as though I have the softest heart in the world.

I Remember Mama is the story of a Norwegian immigrant family who live in San Francisco and the wise matriarch (played by Irene Dunne) who presides over the family. It's touching and sweet and I found it very beautiful. The tone of the movie is often silly and sometimes veering on the cartoony (Oskar Homolka as the crazy uncle gives a particularly ridiculous performance), but all of this is okay because the story is told from the point of view of a young girl who is coming of age. The fantastical does not seem so out of place as seen through her eyes. Anyway, I loved it.

And now for two more films I really liked. It's been a good week...

Jean-Jacques Beineix's 1986 movie 37°2 le Matin which was released in the U.S. as Betty Blue is wonderful. It's a sexy, quirky tale of two lovers who try to stay together as one of them (Betty) deteriorates under the weight of what become severe mental problems. I have no idea why the movie was called Betty Blue in English, nor do I have any idea what a literal translation of the film's French title might mean: 37.2 Degrees in the Morning. (What is that about? Is it idiomatic?) The film is not really the story of Betty, though. It is the story of the couple (his name is Zorg) and their life together. I can't say enough good things about the movie. Both lead performances are excellent (Béatrice Dalle plays Betty; Jean-Hugues Anglade plays Zorg) and both of them are incredibly sexy. Anglade, in fact, has to be one of the sexiest men I've ever seen in my life. Betty Blue is long (it runs a little over three hours), but because it delves so deeply into the minutiae of the relationship, the movie's impact is all the greater.

And last night I saw Michael Patrick King's big-screen version of Sex and the City, which is a film all about clothes. There isn't much else to the movie. There are breakups and some life-lessons that seem totally obvious from the movie's get-go, and barely the ghost of a plot, but I really liked this movie. The performances are serviceable, there are several funny jokes, there is loads of bitchiness and plenty of camp. But chiefly Sex and the City is a film about clothes. Did I say that already? To my mind, the clothes make the entire experience not only worth the price of a ticket, but totally unforgettable.