Movies That ‘Got’ to Me … or Still Do
By Jeff Salter
For this week’s topic, we had three related categories of ‘favorite’: love story, mushy movie, and first date film. Since I couldn’t pick from among them, I’ll cop-out and combine all three into a category I call: Movies That ‘Got’ to Me. AKA: Tearjerkers.
Some films which ‘got’ to me were love stories with sad endings and hauntingly beautiful theme music. I’ve often wondered if the same movie withOUT such perfectly evocative compositions would have affected me as deeply.
Warning [spoiler alert] if you haven’t seen these films, it may be TMI.
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Zeffirelli’s version of Shakespeare’s tragedy was masterfully produced. But on one level, this story is laughable: I wanted to slap Romeo silly and lecture him like a Dutch (uh, Verona) Uncle. “Dude, stay away from the Capulets … period. There’s a sweet girl right here among the Montagues … and she’s got a terrific personality.” Romeo’s not a total schmuck: he can handle a sword and actually kills Tybalt (a Capulet, of course) in a senseless duel. But he’s smitten … so he’s got no sense at all. You know he’s doomed when he first sees Juliet at the masked ball. You fear for his life when he sneaks into the Capulet courtyard. It’s incredibly ‘romantic’ when they secretly wed and bed, but you know there will be hell to pay. Later, you can’t believe the Friar concocts such a bizarre plot but fails to notify the key player. [The hapless clergyman tries to make amends, but too little too late.] You want to spill the poison before it reaches Romeo’s lips and you wish you could knock the dagger from Juliet’s hands. Nope. They BOTH die. Bring up Nino Rota’s music … bring out hankie.
Love Story (1970)
This is a far more contemporary tragedy and was additionally powerful because I truly did not see that end coming. Well, it’s been four decades since I saw it — perhaps I’d heard that Ali MacGraw’s character died, but maybe I didn’t really believe it. [No longer remember. Doesn’t matter.] My wife – at that point, my date – had already read Erich Segal’s novelization and knew the girl died … but Denise bawled anyway. I don’t know if Love Story would still ‘get’ to me … but it certainly did then. Francis Lai’s theme could melt a statue. [Re-reading the synopsis, I see that Ryan O’Neal was told by the doctor NOT to tell his young wife she was dying. Folks, that’s just wrong!] Many critics hated this film and its odd catch-phrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Dr. Phil would likely debunk that kooky premise.
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Ah, the lovely Lara. After they’ve platonically worked together tending WW1 battle injuries, they have a forbidden affair. Neither can help themselves. She was his muse — Lara set him free to live, to love, and to write. But he’s married, with kid(s) — the essence of an ill-fated love story. The lovers go their separate ways as the Communists solidify their power after the Revolution. Later, they get back together … then part again. Years pass. Could the good doctor REALLY die of a heart attack when he finally spots Lara again after so long? Yep. Dead as a frozen doornail. Then Maurice Jarre’s luxurious music comes up and there’s not a dry eye in the house. In my teens I had a poster of Zhivago and fancied I was – or should be – that beloved (fictional) Russian poet. As if.
There are many other films with gorgeous music and romances which ended badly/sadly. I’m a movie buff.
Exactly ‘how’ or ‘why’ did these movies get to me? Not sure … but they’re brought out the proverbial lumps in my throat and even produced tears. I think the heartrending music was a big part of it.
I have a lot more to say about “Movies I Call Romantic” but I’ll save the rest for mid-May when we tackle aspects of plot, characters, and dialog in romantic films.