Movies Taught Me How to Love by Bastard Keith

If you want to learn how to fuck, the movies are a terrible place to begin.  They are aesthetically dishonest and often dangerously impractical.  For starters, you will never have a body that tight, your face will always look way more ridiculous when you’re climaxing, and oh, the lighting.  Then on a purely technical level, movies teach you positions in which you are more or less certain to incur an injury.  Film has brought us such punishingly wrong techniques as the Fountain Buck (Showgirls) and the Having Sex With a Chauvinist Alien Duck Man (Howard the Duck).

If, on the other hand, you wish to fall in love, movies have you covered.  On this particularly lovely Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share three of the screen romances I find most resonant.

The first woman I ever fell in love with was Sherry, a character in 1987′s Real Men.  Ostensibly a spy comedy/road movie starring Jim Belushi and John Ritter, Real Men is really just an excuse for loopy schtick and wayward plotting.  But about an hour into this snarky, harmless romp (which played on HBO what felt like every day of my youth) Jim Belushi meets a woman who, though sporting the look and mien of a mousey little librarian, is in fact a whip-cracking, order-barking, leather-clad dominatrix.  You know those feelings you can’t quite explain at the age of 11 or 12?  I began to feel those around 1:04:38 in the clip below (though for context, which is everything to a respectable pervert, watch from 1:01:38).

Sherry was played by Gail Barle, whose only other significant credit was another waitress role, this one working in the diner in Spaceballs.  She may never have set Hollywood on fire, but she awakened the nascent pervert in me.  Suddenly, after years of wondering why Playboy didn’t really do it for me, here was the ideal feminine creature: seductive, controlling, cajoling, punishing, and, finally, romantic.  Belushi can’t help but fall in love with her.  He needs her.  He’s always needed her, before he even knew she existed.  That’s how I felt the moment the penny dropped, and I began chasing the path that has led me to happiness and fulfillment as a grown man.  Barle can’t possibly know how weirdly meaningful her performance in Real Men was to me (and probably wouldn’t want to know the ways in which I expressed my gratitude), but I’d like to thank her here.  Had I never encountered this silly, flimsy little comedy, I might never have been able to decode my desires.  Imagine that. (Side note: after this film, I would never again empathize with a character played by Jim Belushi)

The next romance is, perhaps, an odd choice to follow what you just saw.  Even divorced from this context, one might choose almost any other duet between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.  But I choose this exquisite tap routine from 1936′s Swing Time because of its offhanded elegance, and because of its demonstration of two bodies working in perfect symphony.  These are two souls who may be dashing and beautiful on their own, but put them together and every single move is pure magic.  The fondness they share is palpable in every feathery little nuance.  It is romance at its most urbane.

There’s little else to say.  It’s extraordinary, and it’s how we all wish to feel with our partners.  Perfectly in step.

The final romance is a resonant, eloquent portrait of the young man who still lives snugly within me, hopelessly in love with women, movies and love.  It is a scene from the 2006 Hindi blockbuster Om Shanti Om.  In it, Om, a hopelessly unsuccessful actor, has a surprise brush with Shantipriya, the superstar actress who has been the object of Om’s anguished yearning.

There’s a meta-joke playing out here; the loser is played by Hindi cinema’s most enduring star, Shahrukh Khan, and the superstar is played by then-debutante Deepika Padukone.  The core of the scene, though, is nothing but sincere.  In this one sequence, less than two minutes, we see the purest possible dramatization of a love affair with the movies: anticipation, wonderment, a brush with the sublime, and then a bittersweet deliverance back to reality.  The look on Om’s face as he’s dragged away is one that’s been on mine as the lights came up in a theater after a life-changing piece of cinema, and as I watched a woman I was about to marry approach me dressed in stunning white.

The romance between the two begins as one-sided; Om is an audience member, Shantipriya his unknowing obsession.  Isn’t all romance, though, one-sided at the start?  Is it ever possible to truly share the feelings that overtake us in our greatest raptures?

Movies, unlike people, never change.  They remain as beautiful, as perfect or as flawed as they ever were.  If the relationship changes, it’s because you changed.  But if you can preserve that part of yourself that fell in love way back at your first encounter, the romance will never die.  It should never have to.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with this: