The Houseboat has always been a favourite movie for the Amorist to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. This is primarily because it features ravishing cat-eyed Sophia Loren doing all the things the Amorist loves best: being whirled around the dancefloor by a skilled swing partner at an old-fashioned summer dance in the square; cradling small children and playing silly games with them; reading bedtime stories in an exquisitely draped silk nightgown; and dressing like a goddess of love, to bewitch her man (and defeat her love rival).
The film also caters to one of the Amorist’s most enduring, albeit impractical erotic fantasies, which is living on a houseboat with her amour. Impractical because of the inevitable damp and lack of room for storing feathered hats and jewelled shoes. Yet the fantasy of the shared bunk, the rocking craft and gently lapping water, has lasted since she graduated from Swallows and Amazons to The African Queen.
Of course there’s also old-school handsome Cary Grant playing a believably tetchy widower who takes an un-believably long time to swoop la Loren off to his cabin. A recent documentary shown at Cannes film festival suggested that Grant's many divorces were to do with losing his mother when he was young, but the Amorist wishes our culture didn't assume that marriages should last a lifetime to be deemed a success. Given recent statistics published by Prof Sarah Harper, head of the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, longer life expectancy means a 'long marriage' could soon mean a jaw-dropping 80 years, a wedding anniversary symbolised by oak, like the sturdy hull of an old-fashioned boat.
The Amorist knows many adoring lovers of all hues, creeds and combinations, including same-sex, mixed sex, changing sex and everything in between. There's no doubt that for some people love lasts for decades, while others have a pattern of serial monogamy or just a fondness for whirlwind romance. (There's a wonderful piece by Rosie Wilby about this coming up in the July issue of The Amorist).There are so many different ways of 'being family' and 'being in love' that we can learn from each other. The Houseboat offers a sweet, conventional and probably unrealistic model, that is nonetheless deeply ingrained in Western culture, but the choice is immense, and it's ours. We don't have to find someone to blame if it doesn't turn out like a movie, or last a lifetime.
So if you have a lover, kiss them now. If you have a crush on your neighbour: smile at him or her. If you’re spending time on your own, watch a beautiful movie that reminds you of your childhood fantasies, fulfilled or not. I have an enormous pile of recommendations waiting in my DVD box at home.
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I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die.
Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet, 1846