If you’re anything like me, seeing a good film is the highlight of your day and, dependent on the film, a highlight you will carry with you always. And so it follows that the perfect Valentine’s Day, and week leading up to it, is one in which I get to do something film-related. On this holiday, I let my boundaries fall by the wayside and I give in to temptation.
That is, I give in to the pleasure of submersing myself in wonderful feel-good romances while letting time slip through my fingers. Noting that “feel-good romance” is a subjective term, mine ranges from the sappiest of romcoms to the obscurest couplings. In the end, quality still wins out. So I hope the following list of films has something in it for everyone’s taste.
Friday – Sensual shorts
Mayfair Theatre: Painted Lips and Lolly Licks: The Sexy Film Festival at 9:30 p.m.
This year is the fourth installation of the festival which is run by the Mayfair. On the Mayfair website, the festival uses titillating wordplay to describe it “return[ing] to prematurely, uh, celebrate Valentine’s Day.” This festival has elements of sexuality and sensuality, but also offers a range of genres. Here is what Lee Demarbe of Mayfair said in a 2011 XPpress article: “We’re not showing porn, just short films dealing with sexuality in one way or another. Some are animated, some are funny, some border on XXX, and all are very entertaining.” The festival also opens up with a live performance by Ottawa’s Sin-Sisters Burlesque group.
Saturday – Dinner at the movies
TV: TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies, Big Night (1996) at 8 p.m.
As it has done in the past, one would think that TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies would make this week’s theme love. Instead, it’s “dinner at the movies.” It might not be a conventional romance, but Big Night is a work of love. It is a movie with subtle charm that professes love to food and family. Set in the `50s, two brothers open an authentic Italian restaurant in which the food looks so good you want to just through the screen. It is also undeniable that food and romance have a special relationship. The film starts at 8 p.m., which leaves time to do some couply cooking beforehand. Make some fettuccini with your date, and then eat it alongside the scrumptious food on the screen.
Sunday – Drive from the seat of your couch
Rental: Drive (2011)
Ryan Gosling once described Drive as Sixteen Candles (1984) with violence. To him, the John Hughes film would have been a masterpiece had it included that not-so-minor addition. That’s just what you get with Drive. It’s the action film for those that disdain action films and the romance film for those that avoid romances. An `80s throwback and one of the best films of 2011, this film feels, looks and breathes like a dream – self-encapsulated, otherworldly, and incomparable. Plus, Monday morning won’t feel so bad with Sunday evening still on your mind.
Monday – Odd-couple evening
Mayfair Theatre: Harold and Maude (1971) at 9 p.m.
It’s a shame that North America doesn’t take to dark comedy like Europe. It is conceivable that Woody Allen walks the line between neurotic and dark comedy, but at times it feels like this side of the Atlantic can only handle dark themes if they come out of the drama category. So it’s nice to see Mayfair showing a film about one of the quirkiest odd couples in the history of film, and doing it a day before Valentine’s. And quirky they are, as Maude is 79 and Harold is in his early 20s. It is also likely that Mayfair is showing the cult classic early this year as the Criterion Collection will release a special edition of the film on blu ray and DVD in April, 2012.
Rental: My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Daniel Day Lewis. That may be all I need to write in order to get you to rent this film. As much as he adds to the film, it’s the whole package that shines. It’s been called a milestone of both British and LGBT cinema. It’s a film about sexuality, race, and politics all playing out against a backdrop of a couple in love. The oddity of the relationship between the two central characters has nothing to do with their sexual orientation. This is what is so wonderful about it. It’s their circumstances in life that make this couple part of a bizarre and selfish world. In turn, the protagonists’ relationship seems like the purest and most natural part of the whole equation.
Tuesday, THE BIG DAY – An evening with the classics
Bytowne Cinema: Casablanca (1942) at 6:50 p.m.
Casablanca is one of those classic romances that paved the way for the rest. It’s unabashed love in a time in Hollywood when clichés reigned. Rotten Tomatoes consensus dubs it “perhaps Hollywood’s quintessential statement on love and romance.” And while it spawned a Hollywood-type of romance narrative, it gave intrigue-filled romances the world-over a good name. Moreover, it defined both Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s careers. It’s a must-see for all cinephiles and Valentine’s-philes alike. Plus, seeing it on the silver screen at the Bytowne can only add to the experience.
Mayfair Theatre: Annie Hall (1977) at 7 p.m., Amélie (2001) at 9 p.m.
Two classic films. Two neurotic tales. Two unparalleled female characters. For some, it might be hard to sit through four straight hours of great film. To that I reply, “Really? I could sit through 12.” But if it is too much for you, here are some pointers to help you choose which one to see. Annie Hall oozes Woody Allen – that is, the new and reinvented Woody Allen. The film was a turning-point for the filmmaker, as he transitioned from just comedic material to comedic material that has a serious edge to it. It is all about relationships in the modern world, and the idiosyncrasies both women and men have to deal with when in relationships. Amélie is yet another treasure. The title character goes through life in awe of simple pleasures and meets some of the most bizarre yet endearing characters in the process. In the end, the two films helped define two different generations of women, and the different ways love develops in urban settings. So, this night may be a night for choosing the familiar or the unknown. With either choice, you can’t go wrong.