We’re not naming names, but we once heard a story about a Boston film critic who, depressed about being alone on Valentine’s Day, slumped into the Brattle Theatre to go see one of his favorite movies. Unfortunately for our friend, the film was “Casablanca,” of which the Brattle’s annual Valentine’s Day screenings are the stuff of local legend. Packed to the rafters with happy couples — a lot of whom have been attending for decades — the place positively radiates romantic bliss and is no kind of environment for a morose singleton looking to wallow in self-pity. Heck of a movie, though.
This year the Brattle spreads the love around with seven other “Great Romances” in the days leading up to “Casablanca.” First on Friday night is “Carol,” Todd Haynes’ tale of an amour that dare not speak its name, boasting instantly iconic performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Or, if you prefer your love purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka, the late show is “Purple Rain.” Considering the The Kid’s brutish treatment of Apollonia, we’re going to assume the “Great Romance” here is the love affair the camera is having with Prince.
Saturday brings a double feature of Wim Wenders’ “Wings of Desire” and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie.” The former stars Bruno Ganz as a sad-eyed angel considering giving up his wings to run off and join the circus with Solveig Dommartin. (She’s worth it.) The latter launched Audrey Tautou’s career in the rather aggressively enchanting story of a gamine do-gooder in a candy-colored Paris. Another Audrey kicks off Sunday’s double bill, Ms. Hepburn lighting up the screen as a hidden princess discovered by Gregory Peck in William Wyler’s “Roman Holiday.” Then the other Ms. Hepburn (Katherine) bats around the screwball banter with Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart in George Cukor’s “The Philadelphia Story.”
Seeing “Casablanca” with a big crowd is a reminder of just how *funny* the movie is. The screenplay by Howard Koch and the Epstein brothers is stuffed with sardonic one-liners and some of the best put-downs in cinema history. Sure, Ingrid Bergman is stunning, but we’ve always thought Bogie has even better chemistry with Claude Rains’ cheerfully corrupt prefect of police. Theirs is indeed a beautiful friendship.
It’s followed on Tuesday and Wednesday by late night screenings of “The Princess Bride,” which we’re told is threatening to replace “Casablanca” as the go-to love story for a younger generation. Inconceivable!
If you go:
The Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St., Cambridge
Prices vary, brattlefilm.org