In film, as in life, romance is often at the heart of things. We may have our gross-out comedies and gore fests, our screwball riots and experimental leaps, but we always come back to the eternal story of love: lost, found, and everything in between.
It shouldn’t be a surprise; think of our most enduring stories—those of Homer or Shakespeare, or most any religious text—and sooner or later you’ll run straight into Love, however well hidden it might be among the trappings of derring-do and the bad behavior of gods and goddesses. It’s no different now—the tale of the Odyssey is essentially the same as that of Die Hard, just with spears instead of machine guns.
And before you scoff, remember too that the Odyssey was itself a sequel; technically, it’s the Iliad that gets to be Die Hard. And not only that—there was actually a third installment to that epic tale (The Telegony), penned not by Homer but by another Greek bard whose exact identity has been lost to history. One can only assume the ancients treated this work the way we treated Godfather III.
But if they’re not all winners, we still line up in droves for these tales, perhaps hoping for a quiet reminder of the power of true love. Because even when the story is about love lost, or love gone wrong, or love unrequited, it’s still about how that tricky little emotion makes us feel alive. It’s one of the greatest tricks Hollywood has ever turned: even the corniest, most over-the-top bit of fluff can still be enough to make us turn over our 10 bucks, and cry. This week a few films old and new come to the area to carry on the tradition.
At Amherst Cinema, you can catch Liberal Arts, the new indie romance from writer/director Josh Radnor, who also stars as 30-something Jesse Fisher. Adrift following the end of his latest relationship, and unhappy in his career, he finds himself perking up when his old college professor asks him to speak at a retirement dinner. Back on campus—the film is set and shot on the Ohio campus of Kenyon College, where Radnor was a student—Jesse meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of the famous twins), an engaging young woman who reignites his zest for life.
Those who know Radnor as Ted Mosby from the television sitcom How I Met Your Mother will find a familiar character in his Jesse. Dreamers somewhat beaten down by New York, both Ted and Jesse are romantic enough to get themselves in over their heads in doomed relationships—with a 35 year-old admissions counselor and a 19 year-old college sophomore at a school 500 miles away. But in their defense, they’re also both honest enough to admit it.
In Julie Delpy’s new 2 Days In New York, both halves of the couple live in the city, but that might not be enough to save them. In this follow-up to her 2 Days In Paris, her Marion has relocated to the States, where she lives with boyfriend Mingus (Chris Rock) and their two children from other relationships. All seems well until a surprise overseas visit from Marion’s family, whose two-day stay tests the limits of culture clash and family ties. Delpy’s real-life father Albert Delpy plays her onscreen dad.
Finally, Hadley’s Cinemark is bringing back a golden oldie on October 10th when it screens Gone With The Wind in two shows. The melodrama that set the bar, it stars Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh as the tempestuous lovers caught up in the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction. And of course, there is the eternal line, still used by spatting lovers the world over: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Jack Brown can be reached at email@example.com.