Watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona last night has set my mind to thinking about the great love movies that have stirred me, affected me, given me pause. Films like Casablanca or The Notebook have proven to be fine entertainment, but not left a mark, while others like Habla Con Ella (Talk to Her) or Lost in Translation have caused me sit up and forget myself, to ponder the vagaries of the heart, to wonder at the intermittencies of affection and the role that fortune plays.

Today I watched Lost in Translation and Talk to Her, both favorite movies of mine that I have not seen in some years. While Lost in Translation is beginning to lose its appeal, Talk To Her remained as powerful as the first few times I saw it, and they and CVB last night have set me to thinking.

What do these three movies have in common, that makes such an impression on me? Beautiful actresses, yes; different locations, true (though another great film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has as prosaic a setting as they come). I think–I think it that with each film, the bond that is forged between the characters is one that defies convention, that is unique to their situation, and yet, through the very passion they feel, and the universal nature of passion itself, we are able to tap into that strength of feeling and for a moment partake in something unique.

I think their power lies in communicating the strength of feeling that can arise between two people even under the strangest of situations. Benigno’s love for the comatose Alicia, the mutual bond that springs up between Murray and Johansen as they float adrift and lost within the backwaters of their own lives and Japan.

I don’t think two people meeting at a romantic spot, going on a couple of great dates and winding up together is terribly interesting. What arouses my interest is when people connect despite the odds, under unlikely circumstances. When people, damaged or hurt or despairing, find some way to reach out from their remove and connect and live once more. Thus Vicky’s attempts to change her life in VCB were of more interest to me than Cristina’s care-free adventures.

I’m going to mull on this further. But these movies have got me thinking, and feel free to chime in: what is it about a ‘great’ love story that affects you?