Saturday, October 23, 2004

Is there a better poet for romantic love than Cameron Crowe? I finished watching Singles just now and this completes the Crowe ouevre for me. I've loved all his movies: Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous. The only stumbling block, was Vanilla Sky, which had Crowe adapting from Alejandro Amenabar's Open Your Eyes. Constructed as a philosophical piece of science fiction, it never quite worked and confirmed for me, that what Crowe does best is romantic comedy (and also that Penelope Cruz, whatever her charms, should stop speaking English and quit English-speaking movies altogether). But wait, I'm being unfair to Crowe here. The truth is that Crowe's movies go far beyond romance. In the words of A. O. Scott, he is perhaps the least cynical film-maker we have today, who wears his heart on his sleeve (and in his movies). His movies are forgiving, generous, innocent and sweet. Just like him.

Crowe was a music journalist before turning director and music, particularly rock music, is central to his films. But he also has a way of drawing upon his experiences that makes his movies deeply personal; to speak, his films are his way of meditating on life. In Almost Famous, a deeply resentful band-aid rebukes star-singer of the band Stillwater (played by Billy Crudrup), "What do you know about being a fan? To love some silly little piece of music so hard that it hurts." Thats Crowe speaking and to him, being a fan is important, life is about loving something so much that it hurts. I responded immediately when I heard that line in the movie, its as close as one gets to the heart of being a fan.

Crowe is a film-maker who is romantic without getting sentimental; he is also unabashedly preachy without being sanctimonious. His best film, Jerry Maguire (and probably one of the best romantic comedies ever made), is about a man, a sports agent, who rediscovers that life is not all about money and power, but instead about connecting with people. Put like that, it sounds as sanctimonious a piece of Hollywood puff as they come. But every time the final monologue begins ("We live in a cynical world. A cynical world. And we work in a business of tough competitors. ...."), I get this lump in my throat.

One of the reasons that I like Crowe's movies is that they are populated with people I identify with, middle-class young men and women with little or no financial worries who are nevertheless grappling with issues of their own. Here he is closer to Whit Stillman, whose talky wonderful trilogy of Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco remains one of my favourites. Still, Stillman never got to the heart of romantic love the way Crowe does. (In a scene from Maguire, Dorothy Boyd says about Jerry Maguire, "I love him for the man he wants to be. And I love him for the man he almost always is. I love him. I love him!!) Romantic montages take on a life of their own in a Crowe film. He is probably the only film-maker who really really REALLY believes in the redemptive power of rock music and romantic love. And the two may even be inter-related. We just might never know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Shelter from the Storm" to end Jerry Maguire. "Secret Garden" for the scene where Ray is kissing Jerry while Dorothy looks on. "Free Falling" with Tom Cruise on the highway. Stillwater singing "Tiny Dancer" on the tour bus in Almost Famous. I love the beauty that music brings to Crowe's movies.