If you want some relief from the turbulence in the news and the soaring temperatures outside, head for the Summer Loving program at the Jerusalem Cinematheque starting on August 1, and enjoy romantic movies timed to coincide with Tu B’Av. The program runs until August 14.
It’s a mix of rom-coms, highbrow romances (some of them literary adaptations), and less conventional dramas that focus on love. The films are from all over the world, including Israel.
Although Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep are not normally names you would associate with schmaltz, they starred in one of the schmaltziest love stories of the 1990s, The Bridges of Madison County, which was directed by Eastwood. The movie is an adaptation of the international bestseller by Robert James Waller. Bridges tells the story of Francesca (Streep), an Italian war bride, who settled down in Iowa to become a dutiful farmer’s wife and devoted mother.
But her family is conveniently out of town when Robert Kincaid (Eastwood), a sexy National Geographic photographer, comes to town to snap the titular bridges, and the two have the kind of passionate but brief affair that movies seem to have been invented to present.
The book was on the treacly side, but Eastwood brings his brand of cool machismo to the role, and when he heats up, you can see why Francesca contemplates jumping into his van and taking off with him down the highway to his next adventure.
Another literary adaptation, A Room with a View, directed by James Ivory, is based on the sublime novel by E. M. Forster. Lucy (Helena Bonham-Carter), a well-brought-up British young lady, shares a passionate kiss with George (Julian Sands, a distinctive actor who recently passed away) on their vacation in Italy. She is pressured to forget all about him when she returns home and is soon engaged to the priggish Cecil (Daniel Day-Lewis), but she can’t forget.
Bonham-Carter and Sands made a wonderful couple, although it was hard to accept Day-Lewis as an unattractive, annoying guy. Although the movie doesn’t quite capture all the wit and nuances of the book, it still manages to explore the larger themes of what it means to go against society’s expectations.
While the 1995 British miniseries adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, is considered by many to be the ultimate screen version of that book, don’t overlook the 2005 movie, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy.
From page to screen
Adapted by novelist Deborah Moggach and screenwriter and actress Emma Thompson, it’s a perfectly cast movie, with Donald Sutherland as Mr. Bennet, Brenda Blethyn as the delightfully annoying Mrs. Bennet, Rosamund Pike as Jane, and a very young Carey Mulligan as Kitty.
The Princess Bride, directed by Rob Reiner, with a script by William Goldman, adapted from his novel, is a treat from start to finish and it’s worth trying to disconnect your tweens from their screens to see it.
Younger kids might be scared by some of the scenes (remember the shrieking eels?), but the movie is a fun adventure about a kidnapped princess (Robin Wright), with some of the funniest heroes and villains ever captured on film, among them Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, and Andre the Giant, with Billy Crystal and Carol Kane also on hand.
Peter Falk plays the grandfather and Fred Savage is the grandson who doesn’t like stories where there is kissing, in the film’s brilliant framing device.
The Italian rom-com, 1967 The Tiger and the Pussycat by Dino Risi stars Vittorio Gassman as a grandfather who falls head-over-heels for his son’s ex-girlfriend.
Two movies come from India and Pakistan. Devdas, by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, is a 2002 movie based on an Indian novel that has been adapted nine times and tells the story of star-crossed lovers early in the 20th century. The 2022 movie, What’s Love Got to Do with It? by Shekhar Kapur, is about two best friends in London played Lily James and Shazad Latif, and what happens when Latif’s character returns to Pakistan for an arranged marriage.
The newest movie in the program is Red, White & Royal Blue by Matthew Lopez, starring Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez in a rom-com about the Prince of Wales and the US president’s son.
The oldest movie is a rarely screened 1951 gem by George Cukor (The Philadelphia Story, Adam’s Rib), The Model, and the Marriage Broker. It stars Jeanne Crain as the broker and Scott Brady as the model, with a supporting cast that includes Thelma Ritter and Zero Mostel.
The lone Israeli movie is a documentary, End of Love Season by Shai Gal, about the breakup of his parents’ marriage after 55 years, and how they continued to share a house, in a bitterly funny and intimate portrait of a failed marriage.
For the full program, go to https://jer-cin.org.il/en/lobby/summer-loving-0.