The other day, I put together a list of a few favorite romantic comedies for Valentine’s Day — and it strikes me, looking over it, how many of them have song and dance at their center. I’ve always loved the way a good musical takes our emotions and makes them bigger and brighter, and how a song, a pas de deux or even a few notes of music can say things no words can. On this Valentine’s Eve, I’m thinking about how in “Once” a gentle song let us watch two people find a profound connection, or how “Moonstruck” would be changed without the gorgeous Puccini opera that flows through it, or how the songs in “Romance & Cigarettes” let the characters say in song what they can’t say in their unhappy lives, or how a moment of dance in “The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button” made the world an inexpressibly beautiful place.
And I’m thinking of a couple of all-time favorite romantic scenes: one dance, one song. Here’s the dance (plus an introductory song) from “Everyone Says I Love You,” with Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn. If I were to describe this scene to you, it would probably just sound like a gimmick or a joke. Yet Allen, on the banks of the Seine, makes pure, gentle movie magic here, with Hawn soaring like an angel in the glittery night. Whenever I watch this, I believe that she can fly, and that maybe I could too. It’s a gift that movies can give us.
And here’s the song: Michelle Pfeiffer, Jeff Bridges, a piano and a red velvet dress. You know the song. And if you don’t know the movie, oh, are you missing out. It’s “The Fabulous Baker Boys,” and director Steve Klobes finds throughout the movie a note of wry yet wistful romance that shimmers like Pfeiffer’s snowflake earring. These two characters — a seen-better-days lounge pianist and a known-too-much singer — know they’re wrong for each other, but can’t resist. This is basically a seduction scene, carried out in front of a nightclub audience; watch the way she playfully grabs his chin on “think what a year can bring,” and how he then can’t stop grinning, thinking about it. “The Fabulous Baker Boys” isn’t really a love story, but it’s a beautifully moody tale of attraction — and these actors make the scene an absolute joy.
Anyone else want to share a favorite romantic movie moment? Happy Valentine’s Day to all who are reading this; may there be moonlit nights and red dresses in your future (or present).