Gooden Celebrates Valentines Early
What to do while watching: Spoon.
What to eat while watching: Suck face.
What can movies do to us? If we play our cards right, they can get us some cuddle time, some nookie-nookie, or even some mooshy-face-yum-yums. But this is a PG site, so I won't go too far into that. Instead, let me present two of your fresher options for a romantic video at home. (Both of these have been tested on the Mrs., and I can vouch for plenty of mooshy-face-yum-yums stemming at least indirectly from watching these films.)
To start: get a bottle of wine. A nice bottle. Or try a lambic ale, available in the finer liquor markets near the more expensive beers. Light candles. Popcorn with a little cayenne or a little brown sugar means that you're in the mood for something beyond the ordinary. Before the evening begins, preset the videotape past all the previews. Then settle in as comfortably as you may and watch....
Venus Beauty Institute tells the story of Angele, an underachieving beauty-salon girl (Nathalie Baye). She's past the glow of her youth and stuck in a loveless rut. She gets her kicks seducing bland business drones in cafes, but each is a one-nighter, and leaves her feeling more lonely than ever.
But one day, this young bohemian dude, who looks a little like Kurt Cobain, but is really the cleaner-looking Samuel Le Bihan, appears out of nowhere and falls instantly in love with Angele. He doesn't explain it or even attempt an explanation. He merely says "My name is Antoine, and I love you." It has the same intensity and sincerity as Mandy Ptemkin saying "My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Except the only rationale behind Antoine's declaration is love. It would almost be laughable, but the acting is credible, and apart from this leap of believability, the film stays quite true to modern life.
As the movie settles into the day-to-day of both characters, at first, Angele can't buy the idea that some guy, who is not a creep, loves her hopelessly. She has no way of dealing with this development, so she warms very slowly and it's always in doubt. But romance aside, Angele slowly begins to gain confidence in herself and her ability to love and feel wonder again.
Antoine has the harder going, having to break up with his fiance due to love at first sight of someone else. Add to this the fact that Angele is by no means putty in his hands. Her resistance, though, enables him to slather extremes of romanticism upon her, enough to make any woman swoon with the sudden fullness of the heart.
Meanwhile, we are treated to the quirky and paradoxical life at the beauty salon where people (beings to whom aging is innate) strive never to age. The other shop girls undergo their own arcs to parallel Angele's: one has an unlikely romance bloom, and one finds her personal and professional power.
Call it magical realism: Love at first sight is a mythical element to be sure. It seems the kind of film a woman like Angele would write. A bit-part friend of Angele is introduced just long enough to say that her fantasy would be to have a guy appear out of nowhere and declare undying love and adoration for her-just as has happened to Angele. Her point is that Angele should receive this obvious gift of the goddess, but the effect of the friend's speech is to underscore the irreality of this fantasy (for those of us who don't fall for such sap).
Oh, for pity's sake, Gooden! Just enjoy the story! Well, I did, and you might, too if you don't dwell too much in your love of realism. The tale is dressed in an all-sexy cast, plenty of humorous exchange between supporting roles, some full-frontal nudity delivered with quite a quirky gratuity, pixie dust, glitz, and all the sweetness you'll need.
Chocolat has a similar flavor. Play it immediately after, serving chilled truffles of the finest quality (read Smoove B at The Onion for more hints), and your lovey-bear will be a melted candy bar in your hands.
Trade out the modern urban realism of the former movie for heightened sensuality of visuals. This film has great shots of an old French village, church windows, handsome people, and, of course, chocolates and their making. The magic is still there, but the fairy tale is replaced by something more wistful and supernatural.
The village is based on a life of tranquility and pigeon-holing. All people have their places, know it, and stay there. But "a sly North wind" blows Vianne (Juliette Binoche-rawr, rawr!) and her daughter into town. These two wanderers in red riding hoods rent out a small space from a crotchety village matron and set up their shop, the magical chocolaterie, in spite of the cold shoulder from the town's mayor, a stodgy count with no tolerance for fun, passion, indulgence. You know the type, and it's pretty easy to know where to file this guy. Actor Alfred Molina does a good job of embodying the stereotype and actually pulls off some good subtleties within it.
Well, right away, these magical chocolates, and their magical maker begin to change people around. The crotchety elder enjoys some of her experiences for a change and is reunited with estranged family. The town crazy woman is revealed to be crazy due to an abusive husband; and she is rescued and freed to her beauty by Vianne. I hope you won't think I'm spoiling the movie-you can see all this coming.
There are mainly victories, interspersed by tribulations. Vianne, who threatens to turn out to be a two-dimensional elf at the beginning, blossoms into quite a round character as she falls for the river nomad played by the always engaging Johnny Depp. That was nice, which matches the rest of this movie's décor quite well.
In general, it is a romantic coup. There is nothing to interfere with this all-sexy cast doing romantic things, finding touching moments, warming up the cold shoulders, and being highly sensual in a sensual environment. There's a tear in your eye that will be beckoned out and a tiny shiver of anticipation that you will feel in due course. But overall, this film is like a well-worn comforter, full of familiar smells and uncompromising deliciousness. If you ever need a bit of cinematic aphrodisiac, you couldn't do much better than this.
©1999 by Randy Shandis Enterprises. All rights happily reserved.