Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at_all?Jul 12, 2004 (Updated Apr 24, 2009) Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Sixteen (-plus) occasions for reflection on the title question
There are innumerable movies in which after various obstacles and misunderstandings, the stars come together to live happily ever after (most Cary Grant movies including An Affair to Remember, plus Shanghai Express, Beauty and the Beast, Hold Back the Dawn, Mr. Skeffington, The Scarlet Letter). There are fewer, but still very many, in which the beloved dies (Camille, Apur Sansar, The English Patient, Fleeing by Night, Love Story, Ghost, Always, Casque d'or), or both lovers die (Romeo and Juliet, Mayerling, Plata quemada, Sonezaki shinju).
In the tradition of my anti-epic list, I have compiled a list of failed and doomed romances, in which the lovers are not together for reasons other than one having died. (Death follows separation in several instances, however.)
(19) Starman (1984), directed by John Carpenter, is, I think, the most romantic SciFi movie ever. It's also a road/chase film. Karen Allen is helping an alien who has taken on the appearance of her beloved, deceased husband (played by Jeff Bridges without a single smirk). At first she feels abducted by a space alien, but en route she comes to love him and goes all-out to help him reach the rendez-vous with the spacecraft that will take him home. He leaves a more tangible gift than memories of losing the same man twice. I concur with the appreciative (but brief) review by phungus
(18) The story of Cyrano de Bergerac has to be included. The movie named for Cyrano's (and Christian's love), "Roxanne" (1987), has probably been seen by more Americans than either the low-budget black-and-white 1950 "Cyrano de Bergerac" with Josê Ferrer's 1950 Oscar-winning turn in the title role, helmsed by Michael Gordon or the 1990 higher-budget "Cyrano de Bergerac" filmed in color directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau with Gêrard Depardieu as the excessively nosed one. Although I once upon a time read Rostand's play in French, the words are of such great importance that I have to opt for the version in English verse (the 1950 one) . Depardieu Ferrer, and Martin are all compelling—so compelling that it is hard to remember who played the other two main roles (in chronological order, the Roxannes were Mala Powers, Daryl Hannah, and Anne Brochet).
(Brian Koller is the only writer of an epinion on the Ferrer version, at http://www.epinions.com/content_57874550404. On the Depardieu incarnation see Metalluk review at http://www.epinions.com/content_133853056644)
(17) I was very resistant to seeing The Bridges of Madison County (directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, 1995). Based on a blockbuster best-selling novel, it was obviously going to be a chick flick, even with one of the paragons of guy movies, Clint Eastwood. That Meryl Streep was affecting was not a surprise. It is a real tearjerker with great cinematography (by Jack N. Green) and a great soundtrack (mixing Bellini and Dinah Washington. It certainly fits with the renunciations and separations rife on this list...
(See my review at http://www.epinions.com/content_83616697988)
(16) Atonement, an adaptation (by Christopher Hampton) of an acclaimed novel by Ian McEwan did not have quite as high literary prestige as Dr. Zhivago did, and provided the briefest of consummations of passion before lives are ruined by a combination of jealousy and incomprehension and world war (II). The thin-lipped James McAvoy and flat-chested Keira Knightly flare anger well along with sexual passion and mandatory politesse.
(See my review at http://www.epinions.com/content_438452260484. Joe Wright directed the 2007 film.)
(15) Anthony Minghella's multiple-award-winning 1996 sumptuous adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient has the grand adulterous passion of Ralph Fiennes doing everything he can to get back to save Kristin Scott-Thomas. That story emerges with great difficulty in the same Italian villa in which his nurse, played by Juliette Binoche is revived by a passionate relationship with a Sikh bomb-defuser played by Naveen Andrews. WWII in Europe is over, though lives and properties are destroyed. Less clearly than in the book, Hiroshima destroys the new bond. John Seale's aerial desert photography particularly ravished me. See Metalluk's review at http://www1.epinions.com/content_210225041028... and read the book! Well, if you think the movie is too complicated, maybe not, because the screenplay and editing prune much.
(14) Dr. Zhivago is a romantic epic about separation of yet another adulterous couple, Zhivago (Omar Sharif) and Lara (Julie Christie). There are also multiple other dashed romances, not to mention smashed marriages, and the chaos of the civil war following the Bolshevik seizure of power in St. Petersburg. Pasternak's poet is lost in the shuffle, but the Great Love is certainly there on the screen, augmented by Maurice Jarrê's soundtrack and a very impressive cast. (David Lean shot a small-scale parting earlier in "Brief Encounter".) (See Artbyjude's review at http://www.epinions.com/content_73852161668)
(13) The Age of Innocence (Jay Cocks's adaptation of Edith Wharton's novel, directed by Martin Scorcese, 1993) set in the very insular and puritanical highest strata of the late-19th century social elite, with the fallen ever-so-fascinating Countess Olenska portrayed by Michelle Pfeiffer and the callow but passionate Newland Archer played by Daniel Day-Lewis. (Winona Ryder is also on hand as May Welland, the niece of the countess and an appropriate brood mare for Newland Archer.) It all looks far more authentic than versions filmed closer to the time portrayed by Michael Ballhaus. The costumes and sets and vivid performances are expertly framed and photographed by and set to an excellent Elmer Bernstein score. The visual framing is augmented by Joanne Woodward's verbal framing. The 138-minute running length could have profited from some pruning. (See Mrbrown's review at http://www.epinions.com/mvie-review-3D6E-DF945FC-38730F13-prod2)
(12) Max Ohpuls's (1953) The Earrings of Madame de... is perhaps the greatest movie ever for moving cameras (and they were behemonths then!). It shows a shallow flirt (played by the resplendent Danielle Darieux) falling in love with someone of the same status and honor code (Vittorio De Sica) as her husband (a general and count played to the utmost of his suaveness by Charles Boyer). Everyone loses as they fall in love in this movie set in 19th-century France with opulent costumes and sets and amazing tracking shots. Beneath the glittering surfaces, hearts break.
(11) Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves portrayed the misused innocents in Stephen Frears's superior (to Milos Forman's) 1988 version of Dangerous Liaisons (scripted by Christopher Hampton) with zestily vicious performances by Glenn Close and John Malkovich as a revolutionary pair of aristocrats who should be together but instead conspire to ruin the chances for happiness of others. (Malkovich also sets his sights on the sweet Michelle Pfieffer). Gaming unexpectedly turns to love, and love expectedly leads to disaster. (The film is also notable for having the last movie role of the estimable Mildred Natwick.)
(See Telynor's review at http://www.epinions.com/content_40691273348)
(10) Laurence Harvey is one of the least sympathetic or appealing "romantic leads" in the history of world cinema, but is softened by the very sympathetic (and appealing) older woman played by the great Simone Signoret in Room at the Top (1959, conventionally directed by Jack Clayton). Harvey is clawing his way to the top through the daughter (Heather Sears) of the boss (Donald Wolfit, the scenery chewer of the tale).
(Brian Koller provided context at http://www.epinions.com/content_40418250372)
(9) New York, New York (directed by Martin Scorsese, 1977) was a commercial failure and not his most critically acclaimed outing. It is annoyingly unavailable on DVD. It is too stylized for some, plus there are Liza Minelli loathers and others who don't want Robert DeNiro playing romantic leads—which, admittedly, he has rarely done well... but this movie is the exception, probably because he plays an uncharming lout who is a talented jazz saxophonist named Jimmy Doyle. Liza plays a big-hearted, big-voiced chanteuse named Francine Evans. They struggle professionally and their relationship disintegrates. At the end, Jimmy returns and Francine keeps herself from throwing her love his way again. Três triste, but the right move. (No epinions.)
(8) Although war does not break out until near the end of From Here to Eternity (directed by Fred Zinnemann, 1953), and there are two major romances (Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed) in it, I never thought of it as a "romance movie." If I'd pondered its popularity, I would have recognized that it contains a "guy movie" and a "chick flick." Like Casablanca, an unlikely pair leave the story's setting together—or at least side by side. (See my review at http://www.epinions.com/content_96075484804)
(7) Children of the Paradise ("Les enfants du paradise," directed by Marcel Carnê, scripted by Jacques Prêvert, 1945). Magical as it is, "Les enfants du paradise" it runs on too long (188 minutes). Arletty is transcendent as the actress Garance with ardent suitors, particularly the mime Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault), who marries Nathalie (Marï¿½a Casares)—who is in love with Baptiste as Baptiste is in love with Garance—after Garance has left Paris (the first time). The course of true love does not run smooth on- or off-stage in Paris, ca. 1828 and 1834. The Criterion remastered images run a lot smoother than the prints I saw in repertory cinemas in days of yore. (Metalluk has also made the case for this classic at http://www.epinions.com/content_133250780804)
(6) Rita Hayworth is the poster girl for disappointed love. After the famous funhouse mirror shootout with her dastardly husband (Everett Sloane) in "The Lady from Shanghai" (1947, directed by Orson Welles) Hayworth crawls toward Orson Welles who walks away. This is a more memorable crash than the murky ending of Gilda (1946, directed by Charles Vidor), but "Gilda" is in many ways the ultimate cinema noir and the role gave rise to Hayworth's rueful remark that men always wanted to go to bed with Gilda and were disappointed to wake up with Hayworth. In the movie, Glenn Ford recognizes trouble (indeed, remembers it), but that cannot stop him.
(See Grouch's review at http://www.epinions.com/content_38509448836)
(5) For hopeless lovers, Lon Chaney is the all-time champion. "The Phantom of the Opera," "Laugh, Clown, Laugh," and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" are the most famous examples, but my choice is HE Who Gets Slapped (directed by Victor Sjï¿½strï¿½m from Leonid Andreyev's play, 1924), the very first MGM production, in which Chaney plays an inventor (Paul Beaumont) whose invention was stolen, ran away to be HE in the circus, loving from a short distance bareback horse-rider Consuelo (Norma Shearer) who is unaware of his love and is herself in love with the less worthy but debonair daredevil Bezano (played by Garbo's recurrent screen partner, John Gilbert). The circus act involves not only HE being repeatedly slapped, but having his heart torn out of his chest and buried. There is also a famous multiplication of clowns circling the world. One must wonder about the use of the MGM totem in the vigilante justice HE unleashes (OK, uncages). The final masochistic sacrifice in "Laugh, Clown, Laugh" is more awe-inspiring. but I think that "HE" is the greatest whole in the Cheney oeuvre (at least of those I've seen). There is no redemption for the sacrifice, as in Sjï¿½strï¿½m silent-film adaptation of The Scarlet Letter with the iconic female masochist of silent-era Hollywood, Lillian Gish. (No epinions)
(4) In Moulin Rouge (directed by Baz Luhrman, 2002) Satine (Nicole Kidman) gives up Christian (Ewan McGregor) to save him. That is how this movie circumvents my selection criterion. Like others on the list, the glorious reunion is not destined to be long-lasting, but Christian's return is very dramatic and very romantic ("I Will Always Love You"). Much in the movie is incredibly romantic (e.g., climbing the elephant), though I almost didn't make it through the first half hour when I first saw the movie. (241 epinions, including some harshly dismissive ones by epinionators I greatly admire; for a sage appreciation of the dizzingly overdrive movie, see Psychovant's review at http://www.epinions.com/content_25261543044)
(3) In Vertigo (directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1958), Scottie (James Stewart at his most obsessive) does not really "lose" the object of his obsession. The first time, it is snatched away as part of a nefarious plot. The second time, he more or less throws real love away after refashioning Judy (Kim Novak) in Madeleine's (Kim Novak) image and then forcing her to admit that he was not her first Pygmalion. (Although there are a few impatient detractors of this masterpiece, "Vertigo" is well established in the canon now, and has a soundtrack by Bernard Hermann that shows how to heighten tension with music. See Macresarf1's review at http://www.epinions.com/mvie-review-7EAA-CF91DAC-388256AE-bd1 for a lot of contextual information)
(2) Casablanca (directed by Michael Curtiz, 1942) doesn't need much justification, being the archetype of nobly giving up a great love('s second chance). The only objection to inclusion on this list that I can imagine is that Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains go off together at the end ("the beginning of a beautiful friendship" between the cynical and the jaded, both of whom have been shown to be closet idealists).
("Casablanca" is not only a canonical classic, but a fount of lines quoted in other movies. There are many excellent epinions discussions. One to try is Panguitch seeing it for the first time, posted at http://www.epinions.com/content_144751431300)
(1) McCabe and Mrs. Miller (directed by Robert Altman, 1971, with particularly memorable cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond and a soundtrack of then already well-known songs by Leonard Cohen) is one of my most favorite movies ever. I love how it looks and sounds and that Julie Christie shrugs off Warren Beatty. It is in many ways the archetype of love not conquering all.
(Like "Vertigo" this was not commercially successful, but was admired by some and is now widely acknowledged as a masterpiece. See WilliamJones's review at http://www.epinions.com/mvie-review-382-1595E2E1-3A106B6F-prod2)
I'd like to have included "Fluffer," which many others have found not even to be a good movie, let alone one of the best (though I see it as far superior to "Traffic"), and "Wings of the Dove" (in which the "lovers" are together at the end, but have squandered their love in mistreating a luminous, doomed innocent ((Alison Elliott). These are suitably perverse runners up to a list rife with triangles, falling in love with those whom a character sets out to seduce and/or use, and second times ending as badly or more badly than the first heartbreak.
Others reluctantly not included:
Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Medea" with the incomparable Maria Callas wreaking revenge (going far beyond breaking up with Jason after he has strayed!)
Carol Reed's "The Third Man" with the long scene of Alida Valli walking toward and past Joseph Cotten at the end--perhaps the greatest anti-romantic ending ever. Cotten's character loved Valli's, but she loved the unworthy titular character, the bounder played by Orson Welles.
Joseph Losey's "The Romantic Englishwoman" with Glenda Jackson fleeing Michael Caine
Otto Preminger's "Porgy and Bess" with Bess gone, gone, gone to New York without Porgy
In Chen Kaige's heartbreaking "Bian zou bian chang" which means "Walking and Singing" but which is titled Life on a String here). the romance of the young blind musician (Huang Lei) is brutally broken up, and this cruelty is only one of his losses. The final song of the aged master (Liu Zhongyuan) is also heartbreaking.
I am pretty sure that Montgomery Clift's character in George Stevens's "A Place in the Sun," based on Theodor Dreiser's An American Tragedy, would answer the title question in the affirmative. It was, after all, the young Elizabeth Taylor! He is alive at the end, but convicted of murder, de facto deas.
The adaptation of Henry James's Washington Square, "The Heiress," directed by Williamm Wyler, with Olivia de Haviland steeled against the entreaties of fortune-hunter Montgomery Clift and demoralized by Ralph Richardson playing her very insensitive father (with a fine musical score by Aaron Copland)
Max Ophuls's "Letter from an Unknown Woman" with Joan Fontaine repeatedly forgotten and reseduced by Louis Jordan is the greatest movie ever about male obliviousness. She'd answer in the affirmative, but he doesn't remember let alone regret.
"The Last Temptation of Christ" or "Casino" to get a third Scorcese film into play (Kazantzakis's Christ chooses against domestic bliss and the DeNiro/Sharon Stone relationship does not end politeley)
The splendid Merchant/Ivory Heat and Dust with a willful Julie Christie getting pregnant and taking to the Himalayas as her aunt (Greta Scacchi) did during the Raj
Alfonso Cuarón's updating of "Great Expectations" (especially the adolescents)
"Algiers" with Charles Boyer throwing his freedom away to pursue the impossibly gorgeous Hedy Lamarr (it may have been a remake of the atmospheric "Pepe le Moko," but Boyer and Lamarr burn more brightly)
"Le Carrosse d'or" (The Golden Coach) to include the volcanic Anna Magnani
Truffaut's "La sirène du Mississipi" (Mississippi Mermaid) with Deneuve fleecing Belmondo and his pursuit.
As for Wyler's "Roman Holiday," I decided it showed a dalliance rather than a grand passion
And I like the historic sweep of "The Way We Were" (directed by Sydney Pollack) more than I care about the romance between the incompatible lovers Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. It looks good, has a memorable song, and a reunion that is wistful rather than a reignition leading to a burnout even more intense than the first one as in such listed entries as "Gilda."
I got around to the best "happily ever after"-ending romantic movies. It's at http://www.epinions.com/content_4007960708 and the
best romantic movies in which the lovers do not end up together because one or both are dead
I have also posted lists of my favorite movies of all times
and of what I considered the best films ever made,
best non-English-language movies by country,
best French organized crime movies,
best English organized crime movies,
best westerns not set in the American west,
best religious movies celebrating a religious figure,
best movies portraying the dark side of religion,
best holidaze (Christmas and Thanksgiving) movies,
best rock-n-roll movies,
best gay feature film,
best gay documentary film,
best cult movies,
best black comedies,
best World War II movies,
best post-WWII German films,
and best anti-epics,
best movies of the 1940s, the 1970s, the 1980s,
1939, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006,
Plus my favorite tearjerker songs.
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