If I told you where you could buy a dozen fresh roses on Saturday night for five bucks, you'd be all over it. Well, I can't do that, but I can point you toward the cinematic equivalent of a dozen roses: Frank Borzage's classic romance History Is Made at Night (1937), which screens at 8 PM at Bank of America Cinema on Irving Park. Admission is $5.
"I haven't seen every one of his films, " wrote Martin Scorsese in his foreward to Herve Dumont's book Frank Borzage, "but I have seen most of them, and I think I can safely say that there's not an ironic moment in any of them. And when I say that he was a romantic, I'm not talking about mood or the fact that he excelled at romances—he clearly believed in romance, in love as a transcendent state. You see it—you feel it—in film after film. . . . Whenever he's filming two people falling in love . . . the action plays out in what I would call lovers' time—every gesture, every exchange of glances, every word spoken counts. Borzage was so tuned into the nuances between people that he was able to catch emotions that you just don't see in anyone else's movies."
I wrote a few words about History Is Made at Night when it screened a couple years ago. Rather than link to that post—which includes program information about an old screening and might confuse those of you delirious with love—I'll just reprint it below:
"Jean Arthur stars as an American socialite trying to escape her unhappy marriage, and Charles Boyer is the dashing Parisian headwaiter who comes to her aid. There are also choice supporting performances by Leo Carillo (oddly shorn of his sombrero) as Boyer's loyal pal, a fatuous French chef, and Colin Clive (oddly shorn of Boris Karloff) as Arthur's husband, a sour and controlling businessman.
"Dave Kehr describes the film better than I can, noting that 'Borzage uses every resource of mise-en-scene—lighting, camera movement, depth of focus, and cutting—to create a separate enchanted environment for his characters.' Yet the moment that moved me the most comes when that enchanted environment widens to include everyone else. Trapped on a sinking ocean liner, Boyer insists that Arthur leave him behind and board one of the lifeboats. As the women and children are all herded onto the boats and the men stay behind, Borzage cuts from the lovers to an assortment of other passengers in their heartbreak, as wives are torn from their husbands, children from their parents. Love, as the song goes, is all around."