{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Frank Borzage's History Is Made At Night

Finally, I saw a Frank Borzage film. The title of the film might make the top ten list of best romantic titles ( That list will, of course, be topped by Sirk's A Time to Love and a Time to Die). Known as a supreme romantic, Borzage here makes a film that definitely requires one to have at least a romantic faith, if not diehard romanticism. If you have that tiny bit, its quite certain that film will seriously engage you. At one point of the other, you will let fall your defenses, for sure, and want our romantic couple to have that spiritual paradise of love, which Borzage is working on for them for the whole film.

History Is Made At Night is a patchwork of many genres - juxtaposing melodrama with romance, humor and fun of a love affair with pain of its longing and fear of transiency, soft-focus evocative camerawork of close ups with a set piece of shipwreck, but it is at all the times, story of romance between Jean Arthur's Irene (married to a psychotically jealous millionaire, played to perfection by Colin Clive) and Charles Boyer's Paul (Headwaiter at a restaurant in Paris). The narrative here is not so important, but a series of tussle between romantic coincidences and evil plans to keep the lovers apart, but what is important are the scenes with the lead pair together, which with their chemistry and Borzage's conviction and keen sensitivity, play as believe as possible albeit fantastical situations. When puzzled by Irene's laughter on their second meeting, Paul doubts that she is making fun of him (the only dash of doubt in their whole affair), her matter of fact reply ("When people are happy, they laugh, you make me happy"), clears up all the tension between lovers and along with the them, viewers too move little more close to Borzagian spiritual paradise of love. Film's romance starts with that all-elusive concept of "love at first sight" and takes it to "lets never be apart" climax. Definitely over-used and very common romantic thumb rule, and that’s what I was talking about a viewer having "romantic faith". All said, film's first half gave freshness to that stale cinematic process of "falling in love". As Irene and Paul chat and dance and eat, we can "see" them falling in love.

If we look at it, Borzage's romantic paradise looks quite different from Nicholas Ray's. For Borzage its a destination, for Ray its a short-lived escape. Most of us (including me) believe in Ray's worldview but we must understand that before reaching to Ray's, we must have passed through Borzage's, and the fortunate ones must have stayed there and have accepted the innate childishness of adult romance.

One thing that spoilt my experience is the film's uncanny similarity to James Cameron's Titanic especially towards end, but it also provides us a comparison of treatment of the similar situations. In end sequence, while Cameron was interested in love with backdrop of misery and people flying off the deck, Borzage is at once more modest and more exquisite, as he lets the lovers talk in solitude where they get to know each other by asking questions like "how you looked when you were young". Borzage understands romantic love as not just passion but also a peaceful bliss of union where lovers sit and chat and never get bored.

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