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Films for Valentine’s Day

Amour fou

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Films for Valentine’s Day

Romance, love and obsession – that’s what it’s really all about. But, asks Paul Dale, where are all the real Valentine’s Day films?

If you want to go and see a film with your beloved this Valentine’s Day you can chose between Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s lovely 1945 Highland flit I Know Where I’m Going, a couple of Audrey Hepburn films (Funny Face and Sabrina) and four yet to be released romancers gleaned from the Glasgow Film Festival’s 2009 line up which includes Joaquim Phoenix’s alleged acting swansong Two Lovers (pictured). You can also expect to find Pretty Woman, Casablanca and Brief Encounter at a cinema or screening room near you. All of which is fine if you buy into the embossed paper lace and red satin presumptions of Esther Howland and Elizabeth Gaskell, the ladies who kick started the mass marketing of St Valentine’s Day in the latter half of the 19th century. Roses, chocolates and filigree jewellery are all very good but I like them served on a raw beating heart torn out of the chest of the Belarusian Saint Valentine in a fit of pique and passion.

The truth about Saint Valentine’s Day is that it’s a muddle of Christian Greco and Roman heritage industry tinkery and licentious medievalism that has been appropriated to peddle tat. That’s OK, everyone does it, there’s not a country in the world that does not honour love and the ownership or responsibilities it brings. But like all myths that have been commandeered in the name of regrettable commerce, there’s night time whisperings between its walls. There are screams of the schizotypal; those rhythms of mad love and misplaced affection that the great French theatre maestro Antonin Artaud spent a lifetime trying to bottle.

In film, as in art, theatre and literature, the works that follow these blood trails into the realms of delusion, obsession and occasional admirable endeavour are few and far between. They include Jacques Rivette’s 1969 portrait of marital dissolution L’Amour Fou, Leos Carax’s insane Melville adaptation Pola X (or any film starring the late Guillaume Depardieu written and directed by a curmudgeonly French filmmaker), Krzysztof Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Love, Claude Lelouche’s Love Life Love (1969), Jean Eustache’s ponderous tale of narcissism, misogyny and promiscuity The Mother and the Whore, Rene Clement’s Plein Soleil (an early adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley), Vincente Minnelli’s 1949 adaptation of Madame Bovary (the mother lode) and of course Nagisa Oshima’s sex marathon as political semantics In the Realm of the Senses (showing soon as part of another excellent Wild Japan season, this time focusing on Japanese sex films from the 1950s-1970s – see listings). They are all showing this February in my imaginary cinema, there are no roses or chocolates, just pills and popcorn. Join me.

Valentine Day Romantic Movies (part of GFF www.glasgowfilmfestival.org.uk) at GFT and Cineworld, Glasgow. I Know Where I’m Going, Sat 14 Feb, Filmhouse, Edinburgh. Wild Japan season, Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Tue 10 Feb.

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