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The 50 most romantic films: numbers 20-11

Titanic (DR)
1/10
DR
Titanic 3D
Dolls
2/10
Out of Africa
3/10
Eternal Sunshine...
4/10
The Apartment
5/10
Laurence Anyways
6/10
Vertigo
7/10
Gone With the Wind
8/10
GONE WITH THE WIND, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, 1939.
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
9/10
Wild at Heart
10/10

20-11

Titanic (1997)

Cost: well over $200m. Disregarding the ethics of such expenditure on a film, this unprecedented extravagance has not resulted in sophisticated or even very satisfying storytelling (11 Oscars notwithstanding). The main problem concerns characterisation and structure. A framing device in which contemporary fortune hunters question a now ancient survivor, followed by a romance between upper-crust but frustrated Rose (Winslet) and a poor but plucky artist (DiCaprio), entails not only a needlessly protracted build-up to the collision, but primitive plotting and performances. Moreover, the sudden, skimpy, soggy love story leads to a conclusion that's perversely uplifting: if your love's strong, you never really lose each other. (Piffle!) That said, the effects mostly ensure pretty gripping spectacle once the boat begins breaking up. Even then, however, most of the best scenes - excepting a memorably macabre floating necropolis - are so reminiscent of Rank's superior 1958 movie A Night to Remember that Eric Ambler's name would not look amiss on the new film's credits. (Bizarrely, however, Cameron neglects the poignant fact that a nearby ship failed to respond to the Titanic's SOS, thus upping the body count considerably.) Unlike its namesake, this glossy, bombastic juggernaut will not sink. Everyone will see it anyway, and so they should, if only to ponder the future of mainstream cinema.

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Dolls (2002)

Takeshi Kitano rarely makes two films in the same vein on the trot. Following the US-set gangster movie Brother, this is possibly his most esoteric exercise in symbolist aesthetics, a triptych of forlorn love stories patterned after bunraku puppet theatre. Love, pain and devotion stories, to be more precise. A man and the woman he wronged wander across Japan tied together by a rope of red silk. In another, an aging yakuza boss remembers a girl he left behind. In the third, a disfigured pop star is tracked down by a fan who blinded himself in sympathy. Visually, it's spellbinding and entirely original - even if the stories get perilously close to sentimental kitsch.

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Out of Africa (1985)

Aptly described in TO as a Safari Park movie; it's hard to imagine how even an untalented director could make the landscape here look less than ravishing, and Pollack is certainly better than untalented. As to the rest: Meryl gets to try a Danish accent this time as Karen Blixen, the author whose accounts of farming in Africa are the basis of the film. In Brandauer, as her pox-ridden husband, she has met her match in the ham stakes. And in Redford, as the Etonian adventurer who becomes her lover, she is bettered by the 'blank sponge' effect; for once his bland charm actually has a use. For all that it may come out of Africa, the film's final destination is not many miles from Disneyland. CPea.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Joel (Carrey) is a shy sort of fellow who might prefer a huddle with his pens and drawing pads to the jolts and vagaries of novel human interaction. Waiting for the overland to work one wintry day, he feels an uncontrollable urge to hop a train in the opposite direction, and only thus encounters Clementine (Winslet), a blue-dyed boho who makes little distinction between her every thought and the words she speaks. His passivity attracts and antagonises her; she flummoxes him and turns him on. Counter-intuitively, they click. It's almost as if they've met before. Viewers deserve to see Gondry and screenwriter Kaufman's hilarious, love-stricken, endlessly inventive collaboration fresh for themselves - especially since the more surreal thrills hinge on an 'am I awake or dreaming' mix up, and since even the quieter passages tremble with pain and revelatory vulnerability. We won't go into too much detail about Dr Mierzwiak (Wilkinson), who runs a popular if low rent New York practice in memory-modification with a merry young staff (including Dunst, Ruffalo and Wood); or into how the film, in boldly dramatising memory and the subconscious, develops as an equally loopy and poignant companion piece to Kaufman's Being John Malkovich. Suffice to say the formidable Gondry/ Kaufman/Carrey axis works marvel after marvel in expressing the bewildering beauty and existential horror of being trapped inside one's own addled mind, and in allegorising the self-preserving amnesia of a broken but h

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The Apartment (1960)

Re-teaming actor Jack Lemmon, scriptwriter Iz Diamond and director Billy Wilder a year after ‘Some Like It Hot’, this multi-Oscar winning comedy is sharper in tone, tracing the compromises of a New York insurance drone who pimps out his brownstone apartment for his married bosses’ illicit affairs. The quintessential New York movie – with exquisite design by Alexandre Trauner and shimmering black-and-white photography – it presented something of a breakthrough in its portrayal of the war of the sexes, with a sour and cynical view of the self-deception, loneliness and cruelty involved in ‘romantic’ liaisons.   Directed by Wilder with attention to detail and emotional reticence that belie its inherent darkness and melodramatic core, it’s lifted considerably by the performances: the psychosomatic ticks and tropes of nebbish Lemmon balanced by the pathos of Shirley MacLaine’s put-upon ‘lift girl’.

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Laurence Anyways (2012)

French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s third feature is his most operatic, and not just for its running time. As in ‘I Killed My Mother’ and ‘Heartbeats’, the 23 year-old filmmaker forges a moving account of a relationship using dry humour, expressionistic flourishes, a bravura soundtrack and exquisitely queer design. But the scope is bigger, the timeframe longer, the emotions more consequential. The story traces the love shared by Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clément) in the 1990s, which sort-of survives his realisation that he wants to become a woman. At nearly three hours, the film is certainly a bit long and, as with all Dolan’s films, those with a low tolerance for supercool Gallic sufferance might struggle. But Poupaud is great and Dolan delivers his trademark pleasures with assurance: complex mothers, New Romantic songs and unrelenting gorgeousness – not for Laurence the ugly-duckling phase experienced by many who transition from one gender to another…

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Vertigo (1958)

Brilliant but despicably cynical view of human obsession and the tendency of those in love to try to manipulate each other. Stewart is excellent as the neurotic detective employed by an old pal to trail his wandering wife, only to fall for her himself and then crack up when she commits suicide. Then one day he sees a woman in the street who reminds him of the woman who haunts him... Hitchcock gives the game away about halfway through the movie, and focuses on Stewart's strained psychological stability; the result inevitably involves a lessening of suspense, but allows for an altogether deeper investigation of guilt, exploitation, and obsession. The bleakness is perhaps a little hard to swallow, but there's no denying that this is the director at the very peak of his powers, while Novak is a revelation. Slow but totally compelling.

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Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013)

‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is a minutely detailed, searingly erotic three-hour study of first lesbian love. Its writer-director, the French-Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche, had a setback with his last film, 2010’s ‘Black Venus’. An imposing biopic of the nineteenth-century South African slave-turned-freakshow-act Saartjie Baartman it proved too harrowing a vision for British or American distributors. Most directors would retreat into safer territory after an experience like that, but most directors aren’t Kechiche. ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ is the most brazenly singular return the ‘Couscous’ director could have made, and the richest film of his career to boot.Nothing about the film’s coming-of-age narrative, nor the rise and fall of its core romance, is intrinsically new or daring, yet Kechiche’s freewheeling perspective on young desire is uncommon in its emotional maturity. Our heroine, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos, astonishing), begins the film as a precocious high-schooler and ends it as a grown woman still with plenty to learn about herself. Unlike so many same-sex-themed films that focus on coming out as the defining gay experience, ‘Blue is the Warmest Colour’ glides past that stage of Adèle’s life in a bold chronological leap, finding more nuanced drama in the evolving challenges of maintaining an unfixed sexuality.Adèle is 15 when she senses something amiss in her dating life. Dreamy schoolmate Thomas (Jeremie Laheurte) is all over her, but she can’t get a fleeting pa

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Gone With the Wind (1939)

It’s a good job they’re putting this ravishing new print of ‘Gone with the Wind’ in cinemas now – before Steve McQueen’s ‘12 Years a Slave’ arrives in January to show us what American slavery really looked like. Its stereotype of happy slaves and kindly masters has never been more wince-inducing (the writers thankfully deleted the novel’s pro-Ku Klux Klan references). But no one watches ‘Gone with the Wind’ for historical accuracy. What keeps us coming back is four-hours of epic romance in gorgeous Technicolor. Slavery, the Civil War, the burning of Atlanta, a street knee-deep in dead soldiers – all just a backdrop to the main event, Scarlett ’n’ Rhett. The feminist jury is still out on Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh). Nothing but a serial husband-thief? Or a resilient modern woman doing what she can to survive? You decide. Rhett (Clark Gable) is the hard-drinking playboy who, when he looks at a woman, sees right through her petticoats. Scarlett: ‘You black-hearted varmint’ (store that one away for future use). Rhett: ‘You’ll never mean anything but misery to a man.’ Frankly, you’d have be as black-hearted as Rhett not to give a damn.

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Wild at Heart (1990)

As petty criminal Sailor (Cage) and his lover Lula (Dern) go on the run through a murderous Deep South, fleeing but meeting sleazy oddballs hired by Lula's mom (Ladd) to end their relationship, Lynch evokes a surreal, sinister world a mite too reminiscent of his earlier work: bloody murder, violent sexual passion, kooky kitsch, freaky characters immersed in private fantasies, digressive metaphors, symbols and cultish references, and bizarre humour to lighten the nightmare. This déjà vu weakens the film; sometimes the weirdness seems so forced that Lynch appears merely to be giving fans what they expect. But it's churlish to focus on flaws when so much is exhilaratingly unsettling. Even more than a virtuoso shoot-out, two scenes - Stanton tortured by a gang of grotesques, a truly nasty car crash - exemplify Lynch's ability to disturb through carefully contrived atmosphere; while the performances lend a consistency of tone lacking in the narrative (but ever-present in Fred Elmes' fine camerawork). The film, finally, is funny, scary and brilliantly cinematic.

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10-2

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