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Trains going through tunnels and fireworks exploding are the appropriate opening images of Kim Longinotto‘s archival documentary depicting cinematic depictions of love and courtship over the last century. Those ubiquitous visual metaphors are but one of the many witty touches of Love is All, recently showcased at the Cairo International Film Festival. Featuring footage compiled from the British Film Institute and Yorkshire Film Archive among other sources, this charming assemblage should have a long life on the festival circuit and could well attract art house attention before finding its biggest audiences in home video formats.
The filmmaker, who’s long specialized in socially themed documentaries with such previous acclaimed efforts as Divorce Iranian Style and Sisters in Law, takes a similar approach to the material, albeit in an often lighthearted fashion. Proceeding in roughly chronological order, it includes footage from documentaries, home movies and narrative films, wittily assembled to address shifting cultural mores over the years.
Featuring what the press notes describe as the first kisses ever caught on film, Love is All includes footage of couples young and old flirting at tea dances, making out at the movies and, of course, getting happily hitched. Not all of the generally fascinating images deal directly with the subject at hand—we see scenes of a female soccer team and half-century old footage of a young black girl being crowned a village’s May Queen—but it all flows together in seamless fashion.
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Included are segments devoted to interracial and same-sex couples, some of which are startling due to their dating back many years. There is no narration, with the images accompanied only by a sweeping pop-rock score of love songs composed and performed by English singer/songwriter Richard Hawley.
The amusing exception is an excerpt from a vintage narrated documentary detailing the differences between men and women, featuring the sort of blatant sexism that now induces pained laughter.
While most of the footage is unfamiliar, sharp-eyed cinephiles will recognize scenes from such British silent films as Piccadilly, starring Anna May Wong. It’s only in the final minutes that clips from such well-known films as Brick Lane and My Beautiful Laundrette are showcased.
It all culminates with footage of a gay wedding, demonstrating that society has progressed a long way in the century that the film spans. On the other hand, Love is All also illustrates that some things haven’t changed at all.
Production: Crossover, Lone Star Productions
Director/screenwriter: Kim Longinotto
Producers: Mark Atkin, Heather Croall, Martin Rosenbaum
Editor: Ollie Huddleston
Composer: Richard Hawley
No rating, 70 min.
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