Love Is All You Need
Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 23:02
Valentine’s Day is certainly a divisive holiday, but even those who dub it “Singles Awareness Day” cannot deny that it has its perks—who doesn’t like candy hearts and chocolates? Valentine’s Day also provides an excuse to treat yourself to classic artistic romances, from movies to music to literature. This week, The Scene picks our favorites, from Tolstoy to Taylor Swift.
Choosing my favorite movies, music, and literature on the theme of love is a daunting task. After all, love is surely the most universal theme of all art, and the variety of great art on the subject is truly dizzying. Take this as one guy’s preliminary effort at an impossible task. If your Valentine’s Day prospects have got you down, you could do worse than dive into these artistic romances.
Any discussion of romantic movies must begin with Casablanca, which still reigns as the ultimate movie romance due to the incredible chemistry between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, its endlessly quotable script, and its classic black-and-white sheen that exemplifies old Hollywood style. Another classic is The Apartment, Billy Wilder’s comedy about the tensions between work and love, in which a workmanlike drone in a massive advertising firm falls for the elevator girl. Think Mad Men mixed with an urbane, sophisticated romantic comedy and you’ll have some idea of the movie’s charm. 1994’s Before Sunrise is based on a supremely romantic premise: an American boy meets a French girl on a train, they make an impromptu decision to get off in Vienna, and they fall in love over the course of a day wandering the city’s streets. Director Richard Linklater reunited the film’s characters nine years later for the Paris-set Before Sunset, and a second sequel, Before Midnight, debuted last month at Sundance. Together, the films present an uncommonly insightful look at the nature of love, both in its youthful idealistic phase and its more tempered grown-up variety. Finally, the 2006 Irish film Once is one of my favorite movies of recent years, showcasing a blooming romance between two wounded souls who find each other through the power of music. Recasting the movie musical in a realistic and independent aesthetic, Once is a true romantic gem.
Speaking of Once, its gorgeous Oscar-winning tune “Falling Slowly” would surely be at the top of my Valentine’s playlist. Close behind is a new favorite, “Adorn” by Miguel, with its smooth R&B rhythms punctuated by Miguel’s exquisite falsetto howl, crying, “Let my love adorn you.” After that, it’s all about the classics. No one has better captured the joyous enthusiasm of meeting someone new than The Beatles with “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” The Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” has one of the loveliest guitar riffs I know, and the group’s sterling musicianship serves a complexly layered song that potently evokes fundamental notions of love. Finally, for this Bob Dylan junkie there is no song more romantic than “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” Dylan’s 11-minute ode to his muse and wife, Sara Lownds. Dylan’s poetic capabilities were never sharper than on this elusive, mysterious, endlessly rewarding track, and he’s never been backed by more sublime musical accompaniment than he got here.
The greatest love story in literature, for me, is Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Do yourself a favor: forget the gaudy Keira Knightley movie and plunge into the original book. The story of Anna’s passionate, reckless affair with Count Vronsky is compelling stuff, but for me the heart of the book lies in the parallel story of the imperfect but always loving relationship between Levin and Kitty. Tolstoy derived the details of their courtship and marriage from his own life, and their relationship has the unmistakable ring of authenticity and truth.
Sincere, earnest, and sentimental, some of the best songs ever written are those about love—and, really, there’s no time more fitting than on Valentine’s Day to take a moment to appreciate some of those songs. If you’re in love, then their sweet lyrics will only make a good thing better. And if you’re not, well, then their tender words are an encouraging reminder that love really does exist. So, regardless of your relationship status, indulge yourself.
Start with a classic or two: Nat King Cole’s trumpeting “L-O-V-E,” with its elegant lyrical simplicity, and The Temptations’ “My Girl,” with its honeyed, harmonized vocals, are long established love song favorites. Arguably the most beautiful song ever written, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis Presley is another necessary, timeless addition to any romantic playlist. Next up: boy band ballads. Tracks from the ’90s, “As Long As You Love Me” by the Backstreet Boys and “That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You” by N’Sync are two stunning testaments of unbounded love. The recent, heartfelt hit, “Little Things,” by One Direction is a perfect follow up—as is Ron Pope’s song “Perfect For Me.” Keep with the mellow, acoustic vibe and round out the playlist with “Kiss Me” by Ed Sheeran, “Only Love” by Ben Howard, and “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5. End with U2: either “With Or Without You” or “Sweetest Thing,” depending on your mood. But regardless of how you’re feeling, there really is nothing like a good playlist to make you feel the love.