Thursday, February 17, 2011

Love Story: Oh just die already!

K and I watched Love Story last night (research purposes--that's a tale for another time). Given that it's such a simple story we both hoped it would hold up, despite being released 41 years ago.

The first non-modern thing I noticed, as we open on the snowy campus of Harvard, is how...dirty it all looked. A snowy field in any 21st C film would have been groomed to perfection, whiter than white. This looked realistic: cold and unpleasant as opposed to magical. (Later, the hospital corridors looked similarly dingy.) Then--and this is hard to miss--Ali McGraw can't act. Her dialogue is wooden--when it's not being robotic; I wondered, for a few minutes, if she was trying to play someone on the autism spectrum. When she's not talking, her physical acting, her body language, is believable. But sadly she talks a lot. What were the producers thinking? Different times. Speaking of which, on the street, the men wear hats. This is a film made in my lifetime and the men wear hats. It made me realise just how long I've been on the planet. Exceedingly strange.

Ray Milland adds a touch of gravitas but his presence is essentially pointless. We could have lost all those Daddy-issues (I'm so very tired of Hollywood's daddy issues), lost all that fuss about money, and the plot would be untouched. I did like the character of Jennifer's dad, Phil, though. I'd forgotten how well played that was.

I think the lovers-gambolling-in-the-snow might have been the first of those now de rigueur acting-childish-outdoors-so-we-know-they're-in-love montages. It was very slow (97 mins which I think I might have cut to something like 85). And the soundtrack is thin and tinny, except when it swells for those reach-for-the-hanky moments.

Which brings me to my point. Love Story is a classic weepie. That's its purpose. When the audience doesn't weep, the film fails. Love Story, then, has a very narrow audience. When I first saw this film I was 12 or 13, sitting in the lounge with Mum and two sisters, eating chocolates. They started to weep about twenty minutes from the end. I sat there squirming, thinking, Oh, just die! Then we can switch the channel to Star Trek! I thought my family were weird and alien. I thought the film ridiculous. I knew a thing or two about death at this point, and, sigh, a lot about hospitals, but I knew nothing, zero, of romantic lurve. It may as well have been a film about Martians speaking Urdu for all the sense it made to me.

I saw it again when I was 16, after I'd fallen head over heels with my first lover, Una. I wept helplessly, hopelessly. I gushed like a drain. It all felt so relevant. So true. So tragic.

Now, frankly, I'm back to the, Oh, just die already, then we can watch the DVD of Babylon 5! Which, yep, I haven't seen for ages and am looking forward to very much. I wonder how it will hold up...

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