In this issue:
FEATURE: Michael Michalko, 100 Monkeys Vince Chiles, Crisis Resolution Guy Finley, Develop the Power of Patience Phoebe Chongchua, Are You Buried Beneath Rubbish? Dr Michael G. Holt, Things to Know About Meditation Sharon Elaine, Affirmations for a New Day Joe Love, You Are What You Believe Wider Screenings, When Harry Divorced Sally
When Harry Divorced Sally!
Relationships in Cinema
of the most rewarding attributes of humanism is the joy possible in
inter-personal bonding. Society has its lone wolves to be sure,
but it is no surprise that the telling sentiment once behind Barbra
Streisand’s hit song “people who need people are the luckiest of
people” should still strike a note of recognition with so many.
From Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
to the latest tome on how to improve your relationship, the thrill of
communication and the ideals of intimacy between lovers has been an
inspirational subject for much popular culture. And of course,
cinema has embraced the study of inter-personal intimacy, from high
drama to so-called women’s “weepies”.
The one constancy through
films that explore the inter-dynamics of human relations is the
emphasis on the nature of inter-personal bonding. In contemporary
times, it is perhaps that timeless question posed by Nora Ephron in When Harry Met Sally that endures, recently re-worked in the Self-Help Bestseller adaptation of He’s Just Not That Into You (and, of all things, Zack & Miri Make a Porno):
the sly wondering as to whether men and women can be friends or if the
prospect of sex will always get in the way. Intimacy. It’s
an intriguing theme and an enthralling ideal to aspire towards.
Indeed, in film the theme has its own legacy and examinations of human
intimacy resulted in key works that defined the held moral priorities
of their time. Now, with the wondrous advantage that DVD offers
by putting the wealth of film history at the disposal of the home
viewer, it is possible to either look back and reflect over this legacy
or discover it afresh.
Take what one might consider an inter-personal dilemma as presented in the 1940s classic Brief Encounter.
The film concerns a married woman (Celia Johnson) who by chance meets a
man (Trevor Howard) at a train station. Each time they meet, as
they wait for their trains, they chat, increasingly fond of each other
to the point where they fall in love. Naturally, in the
invigorating mix of passion and yearning that is found in the prospect
of surrendering to a lover’s embrace, the two of them make arrangements
for an intimate encounter. However, rather than go through with
it, Johnson puts aside her passion and returns to a presumably chaste
and staid marriage to a very prim and proper husband. When the
film was released in the 1940s, this self-sacrifice in the name of
marital duty was seen as a positive virtue, but today’s films can’t
help but wonder if setting aside innate passion for the societal ideal
of monogamous traditional marriage is indeed as virtuous and fulfilling
as people make it out to be.
The contemporary riposte to Brief Encounter
can be found cumulatively in the films of British director Adrian Lyne
(profiled as the first director in the Wider Screenings Guide ebook
series, Contemporary Film Directors – ebook release details via No
Limits / Inkstone Digital), whose tantalizing looks at marital
relationships and the prospect of the fulfillment of infidelity in Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and Unfaithful
make his works modern morality tales, exploring contemporary notions of
inter-personal needs and the turmoil inherent in fulfilling need in the
face of moral convention. In these popular films there still
remains a deferment to the ideal of marriage as a kind of moral
standard, but unlike the honourable self-sacrifice of Johnson in Brief Encounter,
Lyne (and modernity) cannot help but ponder the dangerous invigoration
of the alternative – the inter-personal fulfillment of a lover’s
communication as emotional, sexual and intellectual
self-actualization. The legacy of Brief Encounter is that it sets up what many subsequent films measure such inter-personal bonding against – the ideal of intimate love.
So, whilst a classic like Brief Encounter
can find solace in an ideal, it is the nature of the ideal as illusory
and self-deceptive that consumes subsequent examinations of the
theme. By contrast thus there is, for instance, the seldom seen Maria’s Lovers.
Here, John Savage has idolized Nastassja Kinski from afar for a long
time, put her so high on a pedestal that having her is to him all that
sustains him as a man. However, now married to her, he finds that
sexually consummating his relationship with an “ideal” ironically
diminishes that ideal. He paradoxically needs the sense of
unattainability in order to sustain his “ideal” of love and the perfect
partner. In the fallout of Savage’s resulting psychological
impotence, Kinski is drawn to seek other men for the sexual and
inter-personal contact she requires: the “ideal” destroys the
inter-personal, an idea based on the writings of psychologist Jacques
What is one to make therefore of cinema’s continued
investigation into the inner workings of humanity’s need to relate and
bond with another? Is there a direction away from
tradition? What are they searching for if not an ideal?
Certainly films can create tales of romantic intensity, indulging in
fantasies of the perfect, ideal love but they can also call into
question the moral expectations underlying such ideals. But, to
re-state the earlier point, what remains constant is a search for the
intimacy of communication – verbal, sexual, emotional – as an innate
human need and an important factor in achieving personal
fulfillment. People need people for many different reasons;
intimacy being paramount amongst them.
** ***** **
The Fans That Turned a Forgotten Romance into an Enduring Classic
(an extract from Robert Cettl’s book Film Tales: Movie Trivia in the Age of DVD)
Director Jeannot Szwarc came late into the production of Jaws 2
and virtually saved the production for the studio, turning it into a
huge commercial success. In return, Szwarc was allowed to make
another film as a favour, a film that he felt personally committed to:
an unusual time travel romance called Somewhere in Time,
adapted from a novel by Richard Matheson, a former collaborator of cult
producer Roger Corman and one of the creative team behind the early Twilight Zone.
However, the studio was not impressed by the promise of this film and
shortly into it cut the planned budget virtually in half.
Although this necessitated much change in shooting style and design,
the director persisted, making his romantic movie the way he felt it
should be made. However, all involved were disappointed to find
that the film received an ill-advised release process and proved a
flop: few people went to see it and critics loathed it.
Nevertheless it did sell to cable television where it screened
regularly over the years and was there re-discovered by fans.
Some of these fans soon organized their own newsletters, gatherings and
even excursions to the hotel around which the film is set. In due
course a website dedicated to the film and its following soon emerged.
recent Wider Screenings columns in No Limits:
World Cinema and The Secret
James Bond, Partisan...
Trek, Star Wars...
Screenings columnist Robert
has a B.A (Hons) in Film Study from the Flinders University of South
Australia, which included an international scholarship to the
University of Southern Illinois in the USA. He has
qualifications in Librarianship and Information Management from
UniSA. In addition to popular DVD reviewing, his writing for
McFarland (one of the leading American publishers of film non-fiction)
has been collected by such as Yale University Library and the British
Film Institute. His forthcoming work for this market (for
in 2010) is Terrorism
in American Cinema: a comprehensive analysis of terrorism
as a genre from fears of PLO inspired homeland attacks in Black Sunday to the
outright denouncement of the Bush War on Terror in W. His
previous work includes the above extracted Film Tales, now on
sale and coming soon as an ebook through Inkstone Digital and Amazon
Kindle in association with No
For analysis and commentary on individual films mentioned in this
column (and hundreds of others) and for updates on the latest Hollywood
hits and choicest DVD releases, Wider
is now on Twitter. Any @ reply will be duly answered – there
no automated DMs or tweets. If tweeting, please mention film
title in tweet: requests for films/DVDs to be reviewed are welcomed and
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won in the tweet ‘n win Film Buff Quiz. First tweet request
being incorporated into Wider
Screenings is a retrospective of actor Warren Oates
beginning with the film Cockfighter,
a seldom seen look at cockfighting in the Southern States and a film
still banned in England.