Monday, April 30, 2012

non-misogynist romance movies part 2

I wrote about non-misogynist movies a month ago and it's time for another installmen.

  • The African Queen - produced over a decade before the second-wave feminism of the 1960s, this movie is not intentionally feminist, but it is anyway, because it treats both its characters, the riverboat captain (Humphrey Bogart) and the missionary (Katherine Hepburn) as individuals not male/female "types." In fact they are so far from the usual romance movie types that this isn't even classified as a romance - according to Wikipedia it's an "adventure" movie. And Hepburn's prissy missionary, Rose, is unlikely to ever be involved in a romance except that she and the rough-hewn captain Charlie undertake a mission together and the heightened emotions involved in going down an unpredictable river towards a dangerous goal throws them together. There are a couple of moments in the movie where they think they are going to die together and it's very moving how they handle those situations - which only makes their ultimate success even sweeter. It's no wonder it's considered a classic.
  • Impromptu -  not considered a classic, but I very much enjoy Judy Davis's portrayal of George Sand - the pen name of French author Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin. The movie is about the difficult start of the romance between Sand and composer Frederic Chopin, although many liberties are taken. The movie exaggerates their opposite-sex traits to amusing effect - Sand often dressed in men's clothing so that she had the freedom to move around on her own and go places where women were not permitted, although I doubt Sand was nearly as boyish as Davis's portrayal - she is seen galloping away on a horse to avoid her discarded, jealous boyfriend, and at another point shoots him in the arm when he's dueling with Chopin. "You're a menace to art" is her droll justification. Meanwhile Chopin has fainted dead away. Chopin is played by Hugh Grant, and he's very entertaining - hyper-sensitive but not effeminate. And it's true that Chopin was sickly which could explain his "feminine" aspects. Bernadette Peters plays Marie d'Agoult as the villain, a scheming bitch who deliberately tries to keep Sand and Chopin apart. It's a great injustice to the actual person, not only for the nasty personality of the movie d'Agoult - not only scheming but constantly nagging her lover Franz Listz. Worst of all the movie never mentions that d'Agoult was also a published author with her own masculine pen name.  So that unjust portrayal does take away a little from the over-all feminist sensibility, but the main thing is that Sand and Chopin are both artists with distinct, contrasting personalities who find a way to make it work.
  • The Owl and the Pussycat - also not a great movie (although it received two award nominations and did quite well at the box office) but it's the original inspiration for my play Julia & Buddy so I wanted to mention it and it does count as a non-misogynist romance. Like the previous two movies here, this is about opposites attracting - Felix, played by George Segal is a prudish bookworm and Doris, played by Barbra Streisand, is a loud-mouth prostitute. The movie is better than the play as far as presenting a romance of equals, thanks no doubt to Streisand - the play is much more focused on the bookworm Felix. The movie is pretty zany and it seems like Doris never shuts up for the first 30 minutes, but I thought it captured pretty well the feeling of longing for somebody you don't even like or relate to much, as Felix does for Doris after their night together. And his excitement and embarrassment while trying to by a ticket to see Doris in the X-Rated "Cycle Sluts" is really funny and the pot-smoking & bathtub moments in Felix's fiancee's parents' house is pretty amusing. And the ending, filmed in Central Park, is surprisingly moving.
A clip from the movie - gross and funny at the same time. Unfortunately they skip over the part where Felix is buying the ticket.

"Ohhh - my gawd you could."