film focus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 February, 2007, 12:00am

St Valentine has a lot to answer for.

Not only is he responsible for lining the pockets of the greetings-card industry and sending flower prices rocketing around the seventh week of the year, but he must also shoulder part of the blame for some of the slushiest celluloid sentimentality ever to leave its lipstick smear on the silver screen.

Proving that films about love needn't be as syrupy as a fat man's pancakes, however, HBO has lined up 24 hours of romantic movies on Wednesday that are (mostly) worth watching. Wake up to Spanglish (9.30am), a bittersweet romantic comedy from writer/director James L. Brooks (As Good As It Gets) starring Adam Sandler as a man whose family life is turned upside down when he hires a beautiful Mexican maid (Paz Vega). Then, make a lunch date with Hitch (1.30pm), a likeable comedy that stars Will Smith as a 'date doctor' who finds the methods he usually recommends to his clients don't work on the gossip columnist (Eva Mendes) with whom he is smitten. This should get you in the mood for the wonderful Roxanne (3.30pm), a modern comedic retelling of Edmond Rostand's play Cyrano de Bergerac. In one of his more memorable roles, Steve Martin (above left) stars as a large-nosed fire chief whose pursuit of the titular beauty (Darryl Hannah) does not run smoothly.

Of course, love isn't all laughs, moonlight and roses, as Closer (11pm) illustrates. This acclaimed drama from director Mike Nichols (Angels in America) charts the tangled love lives of two couples in London. Starring Jude Law, Julia Roberts, (both bottom left) Clive Owen and Natalie Portman, this film delves where most of its peers fear to tread, painting a stark, often painful portrait of love and desire. Round off the day with the equally honest but far less cynical A Very Long Engagement (2.45am, Thursday). From the director of Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) and featuring that film's star (Audrey Tautou), this is the epic tale of a young woman's search for her fiance, who may or may not have died in the first world war.

Finally, if you can wait until the weekend, TVB Pearl is showing Girl with a Pearl Earring (12.45am, Sunday), which sees the delectable Scarlett Johansson play a young woman - the subject of Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece - who falls for the Dutch painter. I guess that's what they call the art of love.