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Romance of cinema

The verdict is out on cinema's most enduring theme ? romance. The American Film Institute has declared Casablanca (1942), directed by Michael Curtiz, the best romantic film of all time.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2003 15:36 IST
Setuka Mahajan
Setuka Mahajan

The verdict is out on cinema's most enduring theme – romance. The American Film Institute has declared Casablanca (1942), directed by Michael Curtiz, the best romantic film of all time. The story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) a callous nightclub owner in a wartime way station, whose world turns upside down when his lost love, Ilsa, returns, has survived changing fads and audience tastes for six decades.

The appeal of a good romantic film cuts across age, time and geographical divides. Hence romance has been the staple of movie themes for as long as the medium has been around. It is one of the simplest themes to work on, yet the most challenging in a sense. The story of passion has to be told differently each time.

From the subtle, gentle and poetic black and white days to the more overt and dramatic era colour blockbusters, from the war torn settings to the enthralling musicals to the age of the 'white collar blue chip' corporate libidos and, of late, e-love …the backdrop of this eternal emotion has seen unrelenting change. The only constant though, is the popularity of this theme.

What vary each time are the interpretation, the extent, the backdrop, the protagonists, costumes, language and the definition of love, besides other cosmetic paraphernalia. The spirit, of course, remains the same.

Of course as a genre, the romance is the biggest enforcer of clichés -- of sexuality, beauty and the right and wrong in love, besides setting standards. Thus, in essence, it's a step forward and two backwards.

Among the other all-time greats on the AFI list are Some Like It Hot (1959), starring the sexy Marilyn Monroe, Charles Chaplin's City Lights, a classic story about a tramp struggling to help a blind flower girl he has fallen in love with, and Singing in the Rain (1952), a great musical that tells the story of how a silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound. Also listed are the 1960 Billy Wilder movie The Apartment, Frank Capra's It Happened One Night, the silent saga Sunrise in 1927; Rebecca with Joan Fontaine playing the second Mrs. De Winter, the romantic comedy His Girl Friday, The Philadelphia Story, Roman Holiday with the ravishing Audrey Hepburn as the protagonist, the unforgettable classic Gone With The Wind, From Here To Eternity, The Graduate, Woody Allen's Manhattan, A Matter Of Life And Death; the story of a British wartime aviator who cheats death but has to argue for his life before a celestial court and the romantic-fantasy, The Princess Bride.

The more recent favourites from the mush factory include the poignant A Beautiful Mind with Russell Crowe playing the protagonist, Pretty Woman starring the irrepressible Julia Roberts and the ever dependable Richard Gere, the stylish musical Moulin Rouge with the gorgeous Nicole Kidman in the lead role, Titanic, starring the handsome Leonardo Di Caprio and voluptuous Kate Winslet, Pearl Harbour set against the backdrop of World War II, Almost Famous, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, the thriller-romance Ghost, starring sex goddess Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. A powerful romance, it's a story about a young man who is shot and killed, but who stays around in the form of a ghost to spend time with his fiancé and track down his killer and the conspiracy behind the crime.

Some trivia from the willowy world of candyfloss:
Amelie is considered one of the best romances ever made outside of Hollywood. A front-runner at the Oscar this year, it was a huge favorite to become the winner this year but lost to No Man's Land. Dis starring Beate Halkjelsvik and Einnar Lund and directed by Aune Sand (released in 1995) is considered the trashiest movie ever made on this subject. Two young people stand on a street corner in a run-down part of New York, kissing. Despite the lawlessness of the district they are left unmolested. A short distance away walk Maria and Andreas. They are on their first date. In an episodic style the film tells of encounters and love among young people. The stories are set in Cairo, Paris, on the coast of Normandy and in New York. What better way to sum up this glorious 70 mm medium than with than popular desi cousin's (read Bollywood) tagline that urges "Come, fall in love". Newton, of course, assures an equal and opposite reaction!

First Published: Jan 13, 2003 22:52 IST