Humour can be theorised as integral to the genre even if there are some films that do not provoke laughter. Romantic comedy has been described as a narrative of the heterosexual couple with a happy ending in which humour does not necessarily play an important part. The comic, protective, erotically-charged space is the space of romantic comedy. This book proposes a revised theory of romantic comedy and then tests its validity through the analysis of texts, but these films must not be expected to fully embody the theory. It proposes a change of approach in two different but closely linked directions. On the one hand, a comic perspective is a fundamental ingredient of what we understand by romantic comedy; on the other, the genre does not have a specific ideology but, more broadly, it deals with the themes of love and romance, intimacy and friendship, sexual choice and orientation. The book discusses two films directed by two of the most prestigious figures in the history of Hollywood comedy: Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be became part of the canon as one of the most brilliant comedies in the history of Hollywood in so far as its romantic comedy elements remained invisible. Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid was almost universally rejected because its satire was too base, too obscene, too vulgar. Discussing Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors, the book attempts to move beyond the borders of comedy.
Romantic comedy has been described as a narrative of the heterosexual couple with a happy ending in which humour does not necessarily play an important part. The comic, protective, erotically-charged space is the space of romantic comedy. Humour can be theorised as integral to the genre even if there are some films that do not provoke laughter. There can be little doubt that the happy ending is a recurrent convention of the genre, but excessive concentration on this feature has tended to obscure the importance of humour. Another consequence of this critical emphasis has been the relegation of the rest of the comic narrative from critical discussion, especially of the middle section. The chapter also briefly illustrates how a film generally taken as a romantic comedy (although not only) might be analysed taking into account the main characteristics of the genre.
Cesc Gay's V.O.S. is a romantic comedy about the writing of a romantic comedy set in Barcelona. The metafictional framework of V.O.S. fulfils a comparable function with a Shakespearean comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream: it appeals to us even more strongly by advocating the ultimate inability of the frame-breaking devices to overcome our desire for narrative. This desire for narrative is in fact one of several forms of desire which structure Gay's film and make it a relevant instance of contemporary Spanish cinema and, more specifically, a privileged space for the exploration of the uncertain and slippery concept of Catalan cinema. This chapter attempts to identify those forms of desire and the links between them. Historically, Catalan identity has been strongly linked with language, and V.O.S. is not exactly an isolated case within contemporary Catalan cinema.
This chapter discusses two films, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors, and attempts to move beyond the borders of comedy. It examines what happens when romantic comedy is combined with a non-comic genre such as the thriller. The chapter suggests ways in which the analysis of the proximity between apparently incompatible genres can alter our perception of films and our interpretation of the cultural discourses which they articulate. The chapter looks at Rear Window, as a text in which this genre interacts with another one producing relevant consequences for our understanding of the film. The film's romance story is introduced as a threat, a dark shadow in the protagonist's life. The pessimism of the ideological discourses, the aggressiveness and precariousness of humour in Crimes and Misdemeanors and the distance between the social space and the comic space separate the film from romantic comedy.
The overwhelming majority of the examples mentioned in theorisations of contemporary romantic comedy are not only generically more or less 'pure' but also commercial films. However, there has also been life for the genre outside the mainstream. This chapter argues that the variety of narrative and ideological approaches to intimate matters articulated by the genre of romantic comedy in recent years may be, at least in part, attributed to the growing impact of independent cinema on the mainstream and the subsequent all-but-complete absorption of the former by the latter. It suggests some of the possible directions that the genre's secret life might take in the twenty-first century. Before Sunset makes abundant use of the genre's conventions but has not been primarily seen as a romantic comedy, probably because of its allegiance to the aesthetic forms and conventions of independent cinema.
This chapter is devoted to two films directed by two of the most prestigious figures in the history of Hollywood comedy: Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. Lubitsch's To Be or Not to Be became part of the canon as one of the most brilliant comedies in the history of Hollywood in so far as its romantic comedy elements remained invisible. Wilder's Kiss Me, Stupid was almost universally rejected because its satire was too base, too obscene, too vulgar, or because its satirical view of love, sex and marriage was too hard to take. The chapter argues that the study of the two films from the point of view of romantic comedy would help to change dominant views of what the genre has been or should be. It is devoted to cases of texts in which romantic comedy interacts with other comic subgenres, such as marriage comedy, satire, and comedian comedy.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book argues that there is more to romantic comedy than meets the eye, that the genre's presence in films is richer, more complex and less ideologically determined than it has generally been taken to be, and that it can often be found in the most unexpected places. It explores the secret life of romantic comedy. The book suggests that our understanding of Out of Sight and Before Sunset and many other movies would benefit from considering them in relation to romantic comedy. It also argues that the history of the genre is formed not only by those films around whose generic ascription there is a critical consensus, but also by more problematic texts like these two, and, further, that it is often films like these that make the genre evolve in more interesting directions.