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The 50 most romantic films: numbers 50-41

Lost in Translation
1/10
Weekend
2/10
The Bridges of Madison County
3/10
Before Sunrise
4/10
A Matter of Life and Death
5/10
Romeo + Juliet
6/10
His Girl Friday
7/10
Tabu
8/10
Journey to Italy
9/10
Fear Eats the Soul
10/10

50-41

Lost in Translation (2004)

Contemporary Tokyo, and Bob Harris (Murray) is having an out-of-body experience. Nothing says disconnection so much as giant billboards of yourself commending Suntory whisky to a foreign audience when the shoot behind the ads leaves you stranded in a sterile hotel bar nursing your loneliness over several glasses of the same. That's when he meets Charlotte (Johansson), a soul-searching young New Yorker idling time while her photographer husband disappears on assignment. She recognises a fellow castaway, and soon the two are trading quips and confidences. A comedy of dislocation framing a love story bound up in an expression of existential melancholy, Sofia Coppola's film is a deft, manifold delight. Johansson again impresses as an old head on young shoulders, but it's Murray's infinitely modulated performance that underpins the film. Riffing on his own image, he gives a sweet-sad study of a man lost inside himself, resigned to the likelihood that it's for life. Certainly the film has the ring of experience. The anomie of international living, the push-pull of shirking home. Admittedly it makes life easier on itself by camping up Japan's way-out culture (an irrepressible chat show host and a voluble photo director are particular standouts), but that's in keeping with its alienation principle. So far as the central relationship goes, the film is almost European in its subtlety and nuance. Cinematic cherry blossom.

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Weekend (1967)

Godard's vision of bourgeois cataclysm, after which he began the retreat from commercial cinema to contemplate his ideological navel. A savage Swiftian satire, it traces a new Gulliver's travels through the collapsing consumer society as a married couple set out for a weekend jaunt, passing through a nightmare landscape of highways strewn with burning cars and bloody corpses (a stunning ten-minute take) before emerging into a brave new world peopled by Maoist revolutionaries living like redskins in the woods off murder, pillage and rape. What takes the film one stage further into inimitable Godard territory is the note of despairing romanticism he first mined in Pierrot le Fou. Here too, his hero and heroine emerge as oddly tragic figures, modern Robinson Crusoes wandering helplessly in limbo because, even if they could find a desert island free of abandoned cars, they are incapable of surviving without consumer goods.

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The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

When the daughter and son of the late Francesca Johnson (Streep) return home to Madison County, Iowa, to oversee the funeral arrangements, they're shocked to learn that their mother wished to have her ashes scattered from the Roseman Bridge, not buried beside their father. Worse, they find Francesca's diary, relating how, in '65 while they were off with dad on a visit to Illinois, she met and fell for National Geographic photographer Robert Kincaid (Eastwood): an affair which was to affect her entire life. Immaculately performed, and assembled with wit and sensitivity, this is one of the most satisfying weepies in years. Indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone but Eastwood doing such a fine job of adapting Robert James Waller's best-seller for the screen. Typically, his clean, pared direction, coupled with Richard LaGravenese's mostly no-frills script, ensures that the film avoids sentimentality even as the two lovers rush to embrace it.

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Before Sunrise (1995)

Céline (Delpy), an easy-going Parisian, is on her way back from Budapest to study at the Sorbonne; Jesse (Hawke), a young American, is at the end of a Eurorail tour. They meet on a train just outside Vienna; by the time they reach the station, they've hit it off well enough for Jesse to propose that Céline spend the next 14 hours wandering the city with him, until his flight leaves for the States. Intrigued, she accepts. So begins an unexpected adventure of the heart. What's magical about Linklater's entrancing movie is the way he and his actors manage to convey the emotional truths that underlie all the talk as the potential lovers test each other's opinions and commitment. Funny, poignant and perceptive, this is a brilliant gem.

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A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

You’d never guess, until perhaps the final, magnificent ‘trial’ scene, that Powell and Pressburger’s post-war film grew out of the Ministry of Information’s desire for a film celebrating British-American relations. RAF pilot Peter Carter (David Niven, below) falls in love with Boston-born radio operator June (Kim Carter) at an unfortunate moment: just as he’s plunging to the ground in a burning plane. It’s after he hits the ground that the conceit kicks in: colour disappears and we’re in a black-and-white heaven, where clerks are waiting for Peter  –  only he got lost in typically English fog and has met up with June and fallen in love. What to do? Especially when a village doctor is prepared to fight Peter’s case at the highest levels of justice. When the camera pulls back from the celestial court towards the end to reveal an audience of thousands –  most of them combatants – Powell and Pressburger apply the weight of six years of war to this loopy love story.

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William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Leone-style face-off between gun-toting gangs at a gas station: outright street-warfare is evidently imminent, which presents something of a problem for young Montague when, at an absurdly extravagant costume ball thrown at the Capulets' mansion, he falls head over heels for Juliet. So starts WS's Romeo & Juliet. Baz Luhrmann's gleefully cinematic version of the play is so relentlessly inventive and innovative, it takes 20 minutes to get a grasp on how appropriate is his approach to the material. Bravely (but sensibly) sticking with the original dialogue, Luhrmann makes the central element of his audacious adaptation visual: as the camera races wildly around, or rests on luminous close-ups and ornate tableaux, the striking sets, costumes, characters, the colours and compositions serve perfectly to evoke the forces of wealth and poverty, love and hate, power and pride, prejudice and superstition that infest the chaotically sprawling post-punk, post-industrial, multi-ethnic world of millennial Verona (Mexico City and Vera Cruz, heavily made over). Fine as the rest of the cast is, it's DiCaprio and Danes - vulnerable, innocent, impassioned and beautiful, both of them - who steal the honours.

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His Girl Friday (1940)

One is tempted to throw away any semblance of persuasion and simply demand that you go see this movie. Without His Girl Friday, there is no sexy, Tarantino-esque banter (maybe no banter, period; speed limits are flagrantly violated). On a more personal note, this is a movie that makes journalism seem like the most exciting profession in the world: a job that involves daily flirtations, card playing, smoking, phoning it in (both figuratively and literally) and the strong possibility of hooking up with either Svengali editor Cary Grant or ace reporter and former “doll-faced hick” Rosalind Russell. Never were two wits so perfectly entwined, and let’s tip a fedora to screenwriter Charles Lederer’s sparkling bons mots, adapted from the 1928 stage play The Front Page. But the real genius here is director Howard Hawks, who, with the casual insouciance he became known for, liked the way cocky Hildy Johnson sounded when the part came out of his female secretary’s mouth—so he made the role for a woman. We have to be careful not to ascribe any further politics to the man. But out of such decisions, careers have been born. It’s a film that makes you want to sharpen your barbs and sling sass with the adults.—Joshua Rothkopf Opens Fri 18; BAM. Find showtimes Watch the trailer More new Film reviews

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Tabu (2012)

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’s ‘Tabu’ takes its title from F W Murnau’s 1931 swansong, and more besides: both pictures are divided into two chapters, one set in a version of paradise, the other after its loss; both are concerned with nature and colonialism, desire and elopement, the body and the social contract; and both rest on an exoticism that flirts, more or less knowingly, with kitsch. Gomes’s is the more radically divided tale. Following a quasi-ethnographic prologue, the first half of his story is set in contemporary Lisbon, presented in luminous black-and-white photography as a city of drifting souls. Then we veer tangentially into an extended flashback to colonial Africa for a more compellingly linear tale of doo-wop bands, fugitive crocodiles, yearning infatuation and fatal impulses. An impressionistic enterprise, ‘Tabu’ is more satisfying in its latter half: the aestheticised lethargy of the first part – though frequently lovely – is less successful than the second part’s gorgeously realised yet carefully ironic melodrama. Recalled across a great distance of time, space and experience, this narrated tale enriches the film’s first half while setting up challenges of its own: at once heroic and shabby, the love affair’s self-romanticising tendency is of a piece with Gomes’s lyrical yet distanced technique. Evoking work as disparate as that of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Guy Maddin and Claire Denis – with a dash of ‘The Artist’ thrown in – ‘Tabu’ is a tantalising t

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Journey to Italy (1954)

Stuck in a dying marriage, far from home – journey to misery is more like it. In this 1954 film, American couple Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are visiting the Naples area to sell a late relative’s property and they come to feel lost in this rugged, foreign environment. They’re also barely at ease having to spend time together. But gradually the ancient, passionate landscape and customs – bristling with song, faith and sensuality – begin to make their mark, as Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini stealthily ushers us towards a sense of heady affirmation so primal that ‘romance’ isn’t a strong enough word for it. A founding influence on the French New Wave and adored by Martin Scorsese, ‘Journey to Italy’ (looking pristine in this restoration) has long had classic status, though newcomers should be warned to expect much tetchy, scratchy unease before this profound film’s real agenda reveals itself. Rossellini and Bergman’s own marriage was crumbling too, so in a sense this goes beyond mere artifice, reaching instead for a wrenchingly sincere expression of vulnerable togetherness in the face of time and mortality.

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Fear Eats the Soul (1974)

A deceptively simple tale of the doomed love affair between an ageing cleaner (Mira) and a young Moroccan gastarbeiter (immigrant worker) which exposes the racial prejudice and moral hypocrisy at the heart of modern West German society. Drawing upon the conventions of Hollywood melodrama (the film has many similarities to Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows), Fassbinder uses dramatic and visual excess to push everyday events to extremes, achieving a degree of political and psychological truth not accessible through mere social realism. Watch for Fassbinder himself as the reptilian son-in-law, and relish the scene in which Mira's son kicks in the television to demonstrate his disgust at the idea of her marrying an Arab.

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