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Celluloid Aphrodisiac:
The Seductive Power of Film

or, I Find Zat I No Longer Vant To Be Alone...

by Jillian Perlberger

How did people even date before the movies? We suppose there were alternatives, like going to the gladiator fights together, or conversing. Now that we're past the pre-cinematic Dark Years, movies and romance seem inexorably intertwined. It's like tequila and one night stands: sure, one could exist without the other, but a great tradition would be lost. Yes, the movie/mojo connection is a powerful one. And the BTD is here to tell you how to put it to work for you.

Here's the basic plan: stay in and rent a video.

Yes, you read that right. Such advice may seem contrary to the BTD's mission. But renting videos can get you in the right mindset, help you meet people, and stoke the fires of love once you've found a spark. You just need to know how to do it right. The following script lays it all out from you, from pre-production to walking down the Red Carpet of Love.

Act One: Our Hero (that's you) In the Grip of Remorse

Let's take the worst-case scenario as the starting point. You've just been dumped on your ear and are considering joining a monastery. You need to rent a movie in the genre we call "Going off the Deep End," also known as "The Cautionary Tale." Top picks include:

Camille Claudel -- Fat French pig of a sculptor, Rodin, seduces and abandons nubile young Claudel; she sinks into a depression; her family has her locked up in a loony bin for the remaining thirty years of her life. This movie will make you a lot more likely to take your mom's advice to stop moping around, if only to prevent her from putting Bellevue on her speed dial.

Wuthering Heights (the Olivier version) -- Makes you want to scream, "Get over it, Heathcliff!" The guy is just too morose and vengeful. You know you don't want to be like that. After watching this, you'll be more than ready to give up roaming the moors and head for the coffee shop.

If you're having more of a garden variety dry spell, you may not need such shock therapy. If a simple "You Go Girl" flick will do the trick (don't be put off, fellas; it's a gender-neutral genre), then just fire up one of these babies:

Swingers -- Profound insight to glean from this movie: "You're so money and you don't even know it." Seriously, now, go out there and get Heather Graham's digits. (We hear she's single again.)

Sixteen Candles -- Don't overlook this epitome of 80s cheese. When plucky-but-unlucky Molly Ringwald ends up at a birthday party for two with the studmuffin of her dreams, it's pretty damn inspiring.

Now, Voyager -- Goodbye sanitarium, hello gaggle of men trying to light my cigarette! The most controlling mother and overgrown eyebrows in the world can't stop Bette Davis from taking the world by storm once she sets her mind to it. What's your excuse?

Act Two: Our Hero (still you) Bounces Back Strong

Plot Scenario One: Returning to the Scene of the Crime

So you're out of your funk and feeling frisky. Where better to strike up a conversation than back at the video store? Saunter up to the right person and ask, "Have you seen the latest Idrissa Ouedraogo film on the shelf anywhere?" and you may just get a proposal then and there.

Short of that kind of karmic explosion, you might provoke someone to speak to you by carting around an intriguing choice of videos. To maximize the chance of this, be sure to cart them around conspicuously, and make several leisurely laps before heading to the register. And pick flicks that say what you want them to say about you:

Movies that let girls know you've got a quirky, sensitive side beneath that manly exterior: "Local Hero," "Gregory's Girl," "Kolya."

Movies that let guys know you've got a raunchy, fun side to you despite your Grace-Kelly-esque air of cool reserve: Austin Powers," "Bananas," "Raising Arizona."

Movies with messages that you do not want to be sending: "Play Misty for Me," "Fatal Attraction," "Frenzy." Eeek!

Plot Scenario Two: The Party Scene

Here's another great way your local video store can help you get met: host your own movie night. Theme parties are great excuses to ask everyone you know to come over and bring friends. It's a hot summer night and you're providing air conditioning, cold drinks, and entertainment. Who wouldn't come? There's no telling what kind of hot new star might walk through your door. Here are a few theme suggestions:

It's Bastille Day! Celebrate with red wine, brie, and a screening of "Tale of Two Cities." Ronald Coleman will break your heart, and everyone can reminisce about being forced to read the book in eighth grade. Or go for a lighter note and show Mel Brooks' "History of the World Part I," for the scene in which Cloris Leachman as Madame Defarge says, "We are so poor, we cannot even afford our own language... all we have is this stupid accent."

Beach party in the city! For all those who can't get away, pretend your apartment's the seashore, whip up some frozen margaritas, and rent the worst of the beach-blanket-bingo-B-movies. Anything with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello or Sally Field as Gidget will do fine.

Double feature night! Pair two great examples of a fun sub-genre: classic comedies ("Some Like it Hot," "What's Up Tiger Lily"), gothic dramas ("Sunset Boulevard," "Gaslight"), mob movies ("Goodfellas," "Donnie Brasco"), campy horror films ("Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," "Sorry, Wrong Number"), or incredibly bad big budget flops ("Showgirls," "Waterworld"). You'll have the perfect pretense to talk to that cute friend-of-a-friend who laughed or groaned at the exact same moments as you.

Act Three: Our Hero Closes the Deal

So you've met a potentially special someone and gone on a few dates. Can movies help you now? Absolutely! More than ever! Highly unscientific studies have shown that staying in to watch a movie with the object of your affection is one of the surest ways out there to start getting points on your back end. However, careful movie selection is key. The BTD will help with that, but first you have to determine what it is you're really after.

Plot Scenario One: Turning up the Temperature

Sometimes you just want this date to end up in bed, whether it's The One... or The One Who's Here. Videos can help, and we don't mean the kind they keep in the room in the back. No, to avoid insulting your date, you'll want to suggest a movie that got great reviews, has excellent character development, and maybe even addresses a serious social issue... but also at least one mind-bogglingly delicious sex scene. May we suggest, on your way to the pharmacy for your necessaries, that you pick up:

The Big Easy -- "Stop what? That?" It doesn't get much more erotic than Dennis Quaid (also newly single) turning Ellen Barkin into a big easy.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being -- The unbearable beauty of Daniel Day Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche, is more like it. Who knew politically oppressed intellectuals could be so sexy?

Body Heat -- A movie so steamy, even William Hurt looks like a stud.

Thelma and Louise -- "A lahked yer wahf." Yeah, we think she liked you too, Brad.

Plot Scenario Two: Getting Cozy

So you think you might actually LIKElike this person, and you want to have a special night together. Find an old-fashioned romance, discreet about sex but pulsating with that much more passion because of it. If you end up sealing the deal, great. But, if you end up just feeling warm and fuzzy together, that's fine too. Expect to have a great date with any one of these old chestnuts:

-It Happened One Night
-Cyrano de Bergerac (the 1950 Ferrer or the 1990 Depardieu)
-City Lights

Plot Scenario Three: Passing the Test

So once everything is going swimmingly, maybe you start to think this could be The One. How do you make sure? Well, if the porch test isn't totally definitive, you guessed it: once again, videos will ride to your rescue.

Plan to spend a date watching your very favorite movie, the one that reflects the most personal and essential side of you. Sure, you're a high-rolling bond trader, but deep down you just want to sing and dance like Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain." Or maybe you're a buttoned-down research scientist who seems to take everything seriously... but really you see life at its finest in Marx Brothers movies. It's better to reveal this side of yourself now, and let the chips fall where they may. If your favorite flick doesn't impress your paramour-to-be, that's something you'll want to know. If it's a hit, and it might be time to start looking at china patterns.

Denoument: Riding Off Into a Sunset for Two

And the winner is...? You! You're in love! Now's the time to kick back with your honey and engage in one of the great pastimes of couplehood: revelling in your own fabulousness. You could start with the "Yay! No More Dates from Hell!" movies ("Looking for Mr. Goodbar" and "After Hours" for example). Or you might want to skip ahead to the just plain "Yay!" movies, the kind that make anyone besides happy couples slightly nauseous. Celebrate your own match made in heaven along with the couples in these delicious love stories:

When Harry Met Sally -- The ultimate in cute neurotics finding love. True, it's Woody Allen Lite, but what's wrong with getting the funny without the depressing?

Barefoot in the Park -- Adorable marries adorabler. Squabbles resolve themselves with more adorableness.

Crossing Delancy -- "But he's a pickle man!" The film that proves you should always listen to your grandmother.

Yep, it's a good time to be alive. With just a VCR and a video store membership, you can go from being "undiscovered" to being a famous couple. Now, go pick up those flicks, pop some popcorn, and get started on making your own life an award-winning romantic comedy!

Jillian Perlberger is a recovering lawyer. She picked up her current boyfriend at a stamp machine.

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