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06 August 2008 @ 21:32
"When you met me last night, did you think, thwarted?"  
I'm doing that thing again, where I watch too many movies and don't have enough time to respond to them. So here are three noteworthy films I've watched recently that I wish I could devote an entire entry to, but I sadly don't have time right now. All three are stories of thwarted love affairs - one is about lovers who can't be together, another about lovers who won't be together, and the last about lovers who can't stay apart.

Brief Encounter


Brief Encounter 1945, dir. David Lean

A simple story anchored by stellar performances, Brief Encounter is a deserved classic of British film. The story follows Laura (Celia Johnson), an ordinary English housewife who ventures to a nearby town every Thursday for some well-deserved me-time. When she gets grit in her eye at the train station one day, a friendly doctor named Alec (Trevor Howard) helps her out - and the two quickly become friends. Although they are both happily married, Laura and Alec are startled when their relationship escalates into a passionate love affair. The guilt and secrecy surrounding their love rapidly puts a strain on their relationship, and soon the lovers are faced with a crisis. Encounter is so compelling because of the easy affability of the co-stars. Although Johnson's Laura initially appears prim and reserved, when Alec brings her out of her shell, her full vibrancy and humour is revealed. Johnson is careful not to let Laura's newfound buoyancy tip over into schoolgirlishness, tempering the giddy heights she reaches with Alec with dark guilt over betraying her husband. Howard is equally engaging as Alec, a good-natured and enthusiastic doctor whose hearty laugh seems to warm Laura's sensible heart. In fact, the innocent quality of Laura and Alec's love makes you forget that they're having an adulterous affair, making them appear more like young lovers in fresh bloom rather than the middle-aged, quiet citizens they are. Brief Encounter is a poignant portrait of two regular people who chance upon a once-in-a-lifetime passion, and are pressured to give it up almost as soon as they find it.


In The Mood For Love


In The Mood For Love 2000, dir. Wong Kar-Wai

One of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, I'm amazed that it's been out for seven years and I've only just watched this. The predecessor to 2046 (which I seriously need to watch again now), Love is a moody masterpiece following reluctant lovers in 1960s Hong Kong. Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Mr. Chow (Tony Leung) are neighbours in a cramped apartment who come to realize that their spouses are having an affair with each other. Determined not to descend to their partners' depths, Chan and Chow vow to remain only friends, only to fall deeply in love with each other. The story is a slow-burner, but the film is so aesthetically cohesive that the narratives slips into an abstract reverie, blending into the cinematography and music (which, by the way, is sublime). Every single shot is a stunning work of art - the colours, the lighting, the props, everything melts together so beautifully that each moment feels like a profound realization. It might seem like I'm hyperbolizing wildly here, but In The Mood For Love has to be seen to be believed. I want to capture and frame every moment of this film.

The Last Mistress


The Last Mistress 2007, dir. Catherine Breillat

Costumes dramas will probably always have a dedicated following, because of the tried-and-tested appeal of fantastically frothy costumes, swoony romances, and good old-fashioned repressed passion. Catherine Breillat works to destroy all the pretty associations commonly linked to period pieces with her viciously debauched look at French aristocracy, The Last Mistress. Although plenty of period dramas explore the decay of the upper classes, Breillat takes it to another level with Mistress. Asia Argento plays the mistress in question, a ferocious Spanish woman named Vellini, who has managed to bore her way into the upper class. Pretty-boy libertine Ryno de Marigny (male model Fu'ad Ait Aatou) initially brushes her off, but is soon spellbound by Vellini's uninhibited sexuality. The two in become ensnared in an all-encompassing affair, eventually sucking the love and life out of each other. The characters frequently refer to the fact that they are living in the age of Chordelos de Laclos - author of Les Liaisons dangereuses. The sadistic schemers of Laclos's novel appear tame and self-possessed compared to the explosive and helpless Vellini and Ryno, whose sexual addiction to each other destroys any chance either has of happiness. While Mistress certainly has the visual sumptuousness expected of a film depicting that era, it is a seamy decadence that doesn't begin to gloss over the obvious depravity. The intense corrupted passion of Mistress can be painful to watch, but is rendered sickeningly riveting by the performances of Argento and Ait Aatou. The Last Mistress depicts a class of people destroying themselves through extreme hedonism, a perverse twist on the costume drama that haunts you with its characters' anguished obsession with physical pleasure at the cost of everything else.

And coming soon...more thwarted romance courtesy of Evelyn Waugh, who supplied my post's title
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stockdove on 2nd September 2008 04:39 (UTC)
In the Mood for Love looks gorgeous, I can't wait to see it! Ah, The Last Mistress, that was quite the treat indeed, it made an impact on me, and not just because of his puffy lips and hypnotic eyes, and tussled hair :) Can we really say that they were destroying themselves though, when they were doing the only thing that made them happy? They were pretty much perfect for each other, and lucky to have met considering what proper society demanded of them at the time. I don't blame them one bit for pursuing the relationship, it was the only thing that made them feel alive and, um, whole. And it wasn't just a physical addiction, I think their energies and passions and outlooks melded beautifully. Of course, there were problems along the way and infidelity is never a good thing, but we can just blame all those problems on society. In an ideal world they would have been together and carefree, without boring air-headed wives and grandmothers-in-law glaring in the not so distant distance. Okay, I'm being unfair and callous...but they needed each other and that's all that really counts, right?