April 27, 2009

Cry Me a River

I've been thinking about the movies that make me cry. OK, it could be a long list, as I'm the sort who likes to live vicariously through the plots of whatever she watches (what's the point of watching if you are still aware you are sitting in your living room? it's all about escape, right?). It amazes me how some moments never lose their poignancy for me. Yesterday, for instance, my daughter and I were watching West Side Story. I never make it much past the mock wedding, even though neither the (synched) singing nor the acting is altogether convincing:

The gorgeous Kiri / Jose version of "One Hand, One Heart" shows off the score better, but to me there's something about Natalie Wood's wide-eyed innocent beauty that I find heart-wrenching every time.

The ravishing Zeffirelli feature film of La Traviata is another one. I tear up about starting about here...

...and don't recover until the end. The first time I saw it in the theatre, I could barely stand up when it was over. (Of course, Joan Sutherland is the only one who could really sing the whole part.)

Also on my list: Melanie's death in Gone with the Wind, Beth's death in any version of Little Women, most of the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet (I gather purists don't love this version, but once again I'm a sucker for youth and beauty), and the last hour of Wit, in which the visiting mentor's gentle reading of The Runaway Bunny should undo even most cool and detached observer.

I think the ability to cry at movies may be a prerequisite for becoming a Victorianist, actually. We all know Oscar Wilde's sneer that it would take a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing. Well, I cry when Jo dies in Bleak House, and there are parts of In Memoriam that I slip past in class because I don't want to risk reading them aloud. (I also wept my way through the final chapters of Captain Corelli's Mandolin and, more recently, A Thousand Splendid Suns.)

OK, 'fess up: I can't be the only sentimental fool out there. What movies (or books, if you prefer) always make you cry?


R/T said...

I confess to losing it once or twice on Broadway . . . at Les Miserables, more specifically. Yeah, I know, that doesn't make a lot of sense, it doesn't fit into your book or movie question, and I was more than wee bit embarrassed, but there it is.

Bookphilia said...

A Tale of Two Cities - Sidney and the French girl who realizes he's not who he says he is. I want to cry just thinking about it.

When Lyra releases everyone in Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass.

Most TV shows that aren't 30 Rock.

And that scene with Emma Thompson listening to the Joni Mitchell CD in her bedroom in Love, Actually.

And (of course) at the funeral in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Rohan Maitzen said...

Tale of 2 Cities--another ending I can't risk reading aloud in class! Also that scene from Love Actually, absolutely. Haven't read the Pullman series yet (did you read Michael Berube's very interesting posts on it, btw?).

TV does not usually get to me as much, but some episodes of ER really did--the whole Hawaii sequence around Dr Green's death, for instance.

Perfesser Slaughter said...

Truman Capote--A Christmas Memory. I tried to read the whole thing in class once...Queenie! Agh. A good good cry.

Toni Morrison-Beloved. there's a moment when Denver is hesitating on the front porch, trying to get help, trying to join the community and she hears the deceased Baby Suggs telling her to get off the porch and out the damn yard! wow. (that's at least the way I remember that scene now...)

James Baldwin--"Sonny's Blues." Lots of times, but especially the last line.

Not to be cliché, but that Youtube video of Susan Boyle. Sorry...

R/T said...

Following up on my earlier comment, I recall becoming tearful (though my emotional reaction involved something more than that) when reading Cormac McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN and THE ROAD, and Jim Crace's THE PESTHOUSE. There were also moments in Doctorow's THE MARCH that caused me problems. And, to add more to the mix, there was something about William Kennedy's IRONWEED and Garcia-Marquez's LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA that deeply affected me. Perhaps my emotional involvement with those books might be related either to current events and/or to my advancing age, and those books in particular are much on my mind again, though I would be hard pressed to explain exactly why in this forum.

Bookphilia said...

I have not read Michael Berube on His Dark Materials - I'll look for it.

JaneGS said...

I am truly a sop when it comes to crying over books, movies, songs.

Apart from the usual suspects, I remember sobbing at the end of A River Runs Through It, and this New Years when I saw The Curious Case of Benjamin Button I started tearing up near the middle and was a wreak by the end.

Persuasion, movie and book, always makes me cry; Matthew's death in Anne of Green Gables is almost unwatchable/unreadable; Nick's discovery of Gatsby's death is one of the saddest scenes I can recall.

A better question might be, which authors never make you cry. For example, much as I enjoy Edw Rutherford's sweeping historical sagas, I never shed a tear for any of his characters. Likewise Michener. Hemingway has never made me cry, but Gaskell and Austen can (the latter doesn't need death scenes, which is remarkable).

Rohan Maitzen said...

Matthew's death--yes, yes. So sad. I wonder if (like Beth's) his final scenes are especially poignant because they are among the earliest ones in my reading history.

I'm not sure now if I want to follow up on the many things mentioned here that I haven't read or avoid them in the interests of maintaining my composure! Anyway, I'm glad to know I have good sentimental company out there.

maryb said...

I cry through La Traviata too - but mostly, if it's sung well, at certain moments the hairs on my arms stand up. It's the oddest sensation even when I know it's going to happen. It always happens when she's leaving and she turns and signs "Amami Alfredo". It's like a shiver goes through my body and all the hairs on my arms stand up. And tears start rolling down my face.

I'm a sucker for movies, I cry whenever they want me to cry. But one that I've sobbed through is "Now Voyager" with Betty Davis.

Richard LeComte said...

Movies: "Babette's Feast," "Empire of the Sun," "My Dog Skip," "Mary Poppins," "E.T." and the end of each "Lord of the Rings" film. Books? "A Wrinkle in Time," "The Last Battle," "Charlotte's Web" (of course), "Lord of the Rings" and "Rabbit at Rest," which has the best ending I've ever read.

Jeanne said...

Love Actually, Empire of the Sun, Lord of the Rings, Charlotte's Web, yes, all of those. I just teared up at an old episode of Scrubs. I cry every time through Othello (and Stage Beauty). And I don't know if I agree that it's a Victorianist thing--I'm a staunch 18th-centuryist!

Jim H. said...

I'm not a weepy sort, but the beauty of Redgrave's monumental performance at the end of Atonement brought a mist and a lump—as much for the way it tied the story together and transformed it (I loved the book) as for the way she read her lines (staring cold-eyed into the camera, bereft yet desperate for some sort of forgiveness/redemption).

I shed tears of laughter at several places in Napoleon Dynamite: e.g., Rex Kwan Do, the marriage, the lasagna for the llama.

Jim H.

Unknown said...

How about a book and its film adaptation making you cry? Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. Must second that observation about the Atonement adaptation. Effective, indeed.