You may find yourself falling into one of two camps when it comes to the traditional romance film on Valentine’s Day. In one camp are people with warmth and whimsy in their hearts who want to go out with their significant others and see masterful representations of the human condition through a prism of complicated love-and-war allegory on the silver screen. In the other are demented twisted sex fiends who want to spend the length of the film getting their loins in gear for a night of sinning. So here are two films to catch on Saturday night, depending on your criteria.
For the lovers
JULES AND JIM – 9PM AT THE HARVARD FILM ARCHIVE
François Truffaut’s masterpiece of a tragic love triangle tells the story of the Bohemian Jim (played by Henri Serre), his less outgoing Austrian friend Jules (Oskar Werner), and the latter’s girlfriend Catherine (Jeanne Moreau), who enchants both of them. The story, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Henri-Pierre Roché, who gave a young Truffaut his blessing to bring it to the silver screen, is basically an attempt to portray a literal and thematic ménage-a-trios as allegory for the conflict of World War I. In the beginning the film watches Jules and Jim bask in Bohemian life. Entranced by a slide of an ancient statue of a goddess, they travel to see the statue itself on an island on the Adriatic Sea, have a few trysts with women along the way, and then find Catherine, who is the embodiment of the goddess bust down to its smile. The trio are caught up in flirtation, marriage, seduction, war (on both sides of the fight), children, and happiness, and in the end the movie conveys a tragic sense of love and devotion through Truffaut’s eye and the sumptuous, extraordinary score by French composer Georges Delerue. HCL.HARVARD.EDU/HFA
For the twisted lovers
SECRETARY – MIDNIGHT AT THE BRATTLE THEATRE
Long before 50 Shades of Grey came into the American lexicon as the go-to fantasy of all bored housewives looking for a steamy tale of BDSM and sexual exploits between a humdrum female lead and her quasi-sadistic male counterpoint, there was Secretary. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Lee Holloway, an introverted and emo young woman who lands what seems to be a plum administrative assistant gig for attorney E. Edward Grey (the original Grey), played with relish by a pre-hair loss and not-yet-puffy-faced Blacklist star James Spader, is the stuff of dominant-submissive film legend. The story uses the friction found between an irritable boss and a damaged soul and turns it into story about weird sex, self-shame, pain as pleasure, and the joys of discovering the dim light found at the end of the S&M tunnel of love. Note: If Valentine’s Day is a first date for you and your moviegoing companion, may want to avoid this one. Then again, it may just be the thing to kick it into high gear. If you’re into that sort of thing. BRATTLEFILM.ORG