With the Academy Awards being handed out tonight, I've been involved in a number of conversations about film. One of the more interesting revolved around the idea that films now have more car chases and explosions because those don't need to be translated and the foreign market now drives Hollywood; this means that there are fewer films aimed at a female audience, especially the overtly melodramatic tearjerker.
When asked what was the last film that made one cry, "Toy Story 3" and "Up" got more than one vote. Weepies have been relegated to animated films, where they've been common since "Bambi" and "Dumbo."
I had to admit that, while I've seen more than my share of chick flicks, I don't enjoy many of them. I know I sat through "Terms of Endearment" three times, but mentally zoned out and started writing a better movie in my head while it was showing and I still have no idea what happens in it. I've never made it through "Ghost" or "Beaches" or "Moonstruck," three of the titles the rest of the group (I was the only male present) had named as favorites.
Trying to think of a similar film aimed at men, everyone instantly thought of "Brian's Song" and no one could name another. It didn't work for me. For one thing, sport is not a microcosm of life, nor a metaphor for it. The acting, writing and directing all screamed TV movie (which it was). The friendship didn't seem authentic or deep. Caan made for the healthiest looking person dying of cancer I've ever seen.
There have only been three films that have made me cry, none made after 1952. The first one, you've seen: "Casablanca," "The Best Years of Their Lives" and "Forbidden Games."
In Casablanca, it's the scene where the German soldiers are in the cafe and the French ex-pats sing the "Marseillaise." It's the turning point of the film. When the girl, Yvonne, shouts "Vive le France!" with a tear in her eye, it gets me every time.
In The Best Years of Our Lives, the soldier who's lost his hands comes home. He hasn't told his wife what happened and he's worried that she'll be horrified and leave him. He steps out of the cab, she runs to him, he puts out his hook hands, she pauses... and throws her arms around him. I bawled like a baby.
In Forbidden Games, very early in the film, the little girl, her family and their dog are evacuating the town with evreryone else as the city is being bombed. It's been 20 years since I've seen it, but as I recall it, a bomb falls and the girl's parents are simply gone. The girl looks for them in the crowd, but no one has time for her and then she sees her dog floating in the river. She goes down and picks him out of the water. The scene of the orphaned girl wandering aimlessly through the streets carrying her dead dog is the saddest thing I've ever seen in my life. The film goes off on an odd tangent after that, but it's interesting nonetheless.
Added: Found the scene on YouTube. It's not as I recalled it, but it's still powerful stuff:
So what is the common thread? There's a major tragedy; in all the above, it's World War II. The enormous scale of the tragedy is boiled down to a personal level. Innocents, who have lost much already, risk losing what little they have left. The risk pays off; there's hope.
If you want to make a weepie, you can keep the mayhem. Just add a little girl with a dead dog.
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