This set highlights the existential crisis about the validity and permanence of love, in a time when Americans were reminded of the absolute ephemeral nature of life and stripped of ideals by the War.
Essential Classics - RomancesSubtitle: Gone with the Wind / Casablanca / Doctor Zhivago
Display Artist: Victor Fleming, George Cukor, Sam Wood
Director: Sam Wood
Cast: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Thomas Mitchell
MPAA rating: G
First date: 1941
US DVD Release Date: 2007-04-24
For viewers accustomed to the love-driven, comedy-based romance film such as, say, When Harry Met Sally, the approach to "romance" in the films in this collection is radically different – clearly of a mindset from another era. What is an American romance? As pointed out by a particularly filmically-attuned significant other (yes PopMatters reviews make the sweetest pillow talk), our paradigm of the American romance has become thoroughly identified with romantic comedy. This set highlights an existential crisis about the validity and permanence of love, in a time when Americans were reminded of the absolute ephemeral nature of life, and stripped of certain ideals we identify with today, by the prevalence of War.
Generally, if we say we are going to see a romantic film, we are implying that we plan on spending 100 or so minutes watching Drew Barrymore fumble through the trials of being a maladroit, single, middle-aged adult replete with touching (often campy) laughs, and an almost invariable happy ending. Admittedly, there are films like The Notebook that every so often punctuate this Sanderlian / Stillerian trend of films, but they are far too infrequent to have any more than a minute effect on America’s generic pop sensibilities.
I think there is no “true” American romance, but, instead, the trajectories of the genre follow the path of the heart. Now that's the romantic ideal. Modern romance films, in their distancing comedy (Henri Bergson posits that comedy is only possible if there is an emotional disconnect, and I agree) highlights a society so used to irony’s buffer that sincerity is a commodity. Why do the cookie-cutter happy endings of modern romance films bother me so? Not because of some inherent lacking quality of uplifting conclusion. Rather, they seem trite because by the film's end I have chortled my way too far from the cast and, thus, with no emotional investment, I cannot summon the interest needed to be satisfied by such a conclusion.
Finally, at four hours in length, one does not watch Gone with the Wind -- they arduously commit to it. Riddled with hyperbolic racism which is painful to watch in today's context, burdened by completely flat character arcs, and, save for Mr. Gable, absolutely turgid dialogue, I am horrified at this film’s place in the canon. But that's just my modern interpretation of romance.