Jules et Jim 1962 Based on Henri-Pierre Roché’s semi-autobiographical novel. Written, produced, directed by Francois Truffaut. WWI. Best friends, shy Austrian writer, Jules (Oscar Werner) and extroverted bohemian Frenchman, Jim (Henri Serre), both fall in love with beautiful, free-spirited, Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). The three spend time.
At first indecisive, Catherine eventually marries one and has a child. When the other visits, however…The film presents some of the most exuberant, life-affirming scenes, but ends in tragedy. A New Wave classic. Marvelous. Subtitled. Rent on Amazon Prime, Free with Netflix.
Two for The Road 1967 Produced and directed by Stanley Donen. While on an oft traveled road in Southern France, architect Mark Wallace (Albert Finney in his youthful prime) and wife Joanna (Audrey Hepburn) testily review their 12 year marriage through the lens of like road trips. From an initial meeting of romantic mishaps to a trip with friends-from-hell, through the birth of a child, Mark’s distancing success, respective affairs and impasse. With Eleanor Bron, William Daniels, and Claude Dauphin. Resonant. Rent on Amazon Prime or Netflix.
Swept Away 1974 Written and directed by Lina Wertmuller. Starring Giancarlo Gianinni and Mariangela Melato. During a yachting vacation, rich, spoiled Raffaella and underclass deck hand Gennarino find themselves marooned on an island. Her capitalist behavior and his communist convictions clash. They argue and split up, but she has no choice but to depend on him. Gennarino is capable and resourceful, Raffaella helpless.
Once imperious, she bows to his increasingly arrogant orders. He considers raping her but pridefully decides she must come to him. She does of course. It’s incendiary. Differences fade. Both are happy until rescued. Misogynistic, but it works. Subtitled. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Swept Away 2002 Written and directed by Guy Richie. With Adriano Giannini (Giancarlo’s son) and Madonna, then Richie’s wife. The less said the better.
Like Water for Chocolate (Como Agua Para Chocolate )1993 Based on the novel by Laura Esquivel. Directed by Alfonso Aral. Mama Elena (Regina Torne) gives birth to Tita (Lumi Cavazos) on the kitchen table with the help of beloved housekeeper, Nacha (Ada Carasco). Because of sin, Elena can have no more children. Tita is raised to take care of her mother. Only sisters Rosaura and Gertrudis can marry. Nacha teaches Tita to infuse cooking with her emotions.
Tita and Pedro Muzquiz (Marco Leonardi) are in love. Elena forbids it. The young man is strong armed into wedding Rosaura. Tita bakes the cake which has an extraordinary effect on guests. We follow the three sisters with Tita’s own story at the axis, her fantastic cooking affecting at every turn. Romantic resolution and tragedy go hand in hand, but the legacy is passed on. Tradition and independence effectively go head to head. Creatively manifest magical realism. Subtitled. Rent on Amazon Prime, free with Netflix.
A Month By the Lake 1995 Based on the novel by H.E. Bates. Directed by John Irvin. 1937. After her father’s death, spinster Miss Bentley (Vanessa Redgrave) returns to Lake Cuomo with fond memories. At the hotel, she meets bachelor Major Wishaw (Edward Fox). The two are peers and well suited.
When American, Miss Beaumont (Uma Thurman) arrives, however, she winds the much older man around her little finger out of perversity and boredom. Roger Ebert called this “a sly romantic comedy about a collision of sex, ego, will and pride.” British reserve is omnipresent fostering subtle acting. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Love in the Time of Cholera 2007 Based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Directed by Mark Newell. Florentino Ariza (Javier Bardem) falls in ardent love-at-first-sight with the beautiful Fermina Daza (Giovanna Mezzagiornio). They correspond. She accepts his proposal. Her outraged father thinks the young man is not good enough for her, forbids the match, and sends her far away. Years later, she returns and docilely agrees to wed the approved-of Doctor Juvenal Urbino (Benjamin Bratt).
Ariza is desolate. In order to help him forget, his mother sees to it a willing widow beds her son. A multitude of sexual encounters replace his former opium habit. (He even keeps a journal.) Fifty years pass. Urbino dies. Ariza makes an incredible gesture demonstrating his love. Not as moving as it might’ve been, but still…Rent on Amazon Prime.
Chéri 2009 Based on the French novel by Collette. Directed by Stephen Frears. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer at the height of her beauty and Rupert Friend. Belle Epoque Paris. At the behest of her friend, Charlotte (Kathy Bates), Léa (Pfeiffer) agrees to seduce Charlotte’s spoiled son Fred, nicknamed Chéri (dear or darling) away from a friend his mother feels is a bad influence. Both the women are wealthy, retired courtesans.
The young man is then coerced into marriage with pretty, but boring Edmée (Felicity Jones). Though Léa makes him promise to be good to his new wife, she discovers deep feelings for Fred while he’s away…and vice versa. Upon return, Fred intends to juggle both women. Charlotte reconnoiters. Everyone lies about his/her true feelings.
Jealous of a fabricated liaison, Chéri breaks into Léa’s home and declares himself. They make passionate love…and detailed plans. In the harsh light of morning, Chéri has doubts obvious to his lover. She sends him packing. Narration tells how long his love held him in thrall. Deftly executed. Pfeiffer is excellent. Cinematography makes one want to move in. Rent on Amazon Prime and Netflix.
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