Why do people watch movies? Aside from entertainment, or the hope of learning something about the human condition. Speaking for myself, I used to watch movies in the hope of falling in love. I can recall my cinematic loves, as vividly as Mr Bernstein could recall “the girl with the white parasol”. Glorious technicolor beauties with dulcet voices, captured in two dimensions, and shared with millions of people around the globe. Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation. Kim Novak in Vertigo. Meg Ryan in practically everything, but especially Prelude to a Kiss. And Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns.
Did Michelle have any idea what she was doing when she stepped into Catwoman’s knee-high boots? Did she deliberately set out to inflame desires and break hearts? She played the mousy secretary-turned sex kitten with such relish and joy, how could you not fall in love with her performance? The forces that Pfeiffer unleashed were powerful, maybe too powerful for some viewers.
I was a carefree college student in 1992, when Batman Returns was released. Sat in the circle of The Palace Cinema, I wanted to make Selina Kyle smile; I wanted to jump through the screen to give her a hug; I wanted to save Catwoman. Only by looking back, can I recognise my joy, and my heartache. I’m no psychologist, but I’d guess there’s an explanation for how someone can fall in love and have their heart broken at the movies. And Michelle Pfeiffer did it to me in just 121 minutes, one chilly night in sleepy, small-town Stalybridge.
Of course the great sadness of falling in love with a movie character, is that when the credits roll, it’s all over. Thanks to DVD you can watch the film over and again, but you’re just revisiting a memory. You only fall in love once. And like the holiday romance you’ll never forget, you’re doomed to relive those moments time and again. But like those poor souls who exchange brief-but-meaningful glances from opposing railway carriages, you eventually realize there’ll always be another train approaching.
We might only fall in love once, but if the string of names I listed above are any indication, we might not. When it comes to the cinema I’ve long since realised that there aren’t plenty more fish in the sea. Maybe there are plenty of fish, but they don’t compare to the first ones I caught.
Thank you, Michelle, Meg and many others, for giving me a reason to go to the movies. Now If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Batman Returns on Blu-ray.