Today, my husband and I are celebrating our anniversary. When we were married, the two of us were young, broke and stupid. We had no earthly idea what we were doing, or what was ahead of us. But we had fun. Lots of fun. Sixteen years later and we’re still broke, we’re much older and not necessarily wiser (but maybe a little less stupid). One thing that has always been a constant in our relationship is our sense of humor about everything. Matter of fact, our mutual appreciation for irreverent humor helped guide us through many of life’s unexpected obstacles. And when it comes to romance, my husband and I are pretty unconventional and pragmatic. We’ve been that way since we first dated almost twenty years ago. Don’t get me wrong–there are little gestures and surprises here and there, but you won’t see the likes of us in a Hallmark ad campaign. Our idea of romance is spending time together, laughing and sharing the things we love with each other, such as music and especially movies.
We have so many fond memories of sharing movies with one another. There was that one terrible winter when we were stranded in a blizzard for fourteen hours on I-65 in Seymour, Indiana, en route to Tennessee for the holidays. We had to turn around and go back home to Lafayette, and spend Christmas alone in our drafty, rat-trap of an apartment. We made the best of it though: we picked up a bottle of vodka, an unclaimed holiday ham and a stack of movies from the video store. We camped out on the living room floor in front of our tiny Christmas tree and watched Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis romp around in their Orry-Kelly couture frocks. Then there was the unforgettable trip to Savannah to attend a special screening of my favorite film, Notorious (1946); or the first time we watched the original Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983) together; or the first time we watched Random Harvest (1942); and that time we stayed up all night to watch Dune (1984) and Polyester (1981). Then we inadvertently lived out a scene from one of our favorite movies when we went to see our landlord in an utterly bizarre and terrible production of Molière’s Tartuffe in the backroom of a seedy bar. It was just like the one-man show by the Dude’s landlord in The Big Lebowski (1998). It’s these moments, so weird and wonderful, that are forever associated with certain movies. It brought us happiness then, and continues to do so. That’s how we do romance.
While we have so many memories surrounding our love of movies, my husband and I have had our share of awkward romantic misfires. And so, in the name of love, and romance (and the betterment of humankind), here’s my unsolicited advice for all you lovers out there:
First of all, avoid Stanley Kubrick films on the first date. And don’t see Eyes Wide Shut (1999) until you’ve been together for at least a year. Exception to this is Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), which is a great way to find out if your date has the same cynical, fatalistic sense of humor as you. Also, there’s no need to watch The Godfather: Part III (1990), and especially not during a romantic getaway in the mountains. And if you find yourself saying “We need to see how the story ends!” just remember that beautiful, haunting image of Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather: Part II (1974). There’s your ending.
And finally, the most important advice of all: Do not watch Fritz Lang’s M (1931) on your wedding anniversary, even if there is a special, one-night screening at your favorite theater that you don’t want to miss. Yes, it’s one of Lang’s finest films, and features an incredible performance by Peter Lorre in his breakout role, but nothing kills romance like a film about a serial child killer.
If you do find yourself and your date drawn toward Kubrick, or an aging Michael Corleone, or even a sadistic Peter Lorre luring young victims, it’s really ok. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: out of all the wonderful memories my husband and I have of our various shared cinematic experiences, it’s these humorous, poorly-timed viewings that we remember most. Movies are a powerful medium, and when they are shared with a loved one, they can evoke a range of emotions. We still laugh about that awkwardness surrounding Eyes Wide Shut, or the mood-killing monotony of an unnecessary sequel about our favorite mafia family. And we still get a kick out of the surprised looks we get when we talk about that screening of M with our friends. Love and romance isn’t perfect, especially in our relationship. But after sixteen years of marriage, we must be doing something right.
This piece was originally published at StreamLine, the official blog of FilmStruck on May 13, 2017 and can be found archived here.