Over the decades montage has been used to offer knowledge to an audience rather than to make them feel. Clearly, nobody explained this to Kim Longinotto who traverses a century of British archival footage to craft the swooning and romantic Love Is All: 100 Years of Love & Courtship (2014). Expertly stitching together clips from home movies, newsreels and fiction films, the result is a seventy minute patchwork constructed from over seventy-five sources that remain unidentified until the credits.
This effect is compounded by a sumptuous Richard Hawley soundtrack whose electric guitar lilts and broods in equal measure, accentuating a tender locking of hands or the flicker of lust across an eye. For Longinotto strives not just to present an old-fashioned and quaint love, as might appear in early scenes of a courting couple kissing in a train carriage. editor Ollie Huddlestone seamlessly shifts the focus back and forth through time, the lens falls upon various converging vortices including those swirling around notions of rejection, chastity and adultery as well as the more typical cinematic representations of the heart’s wonts. Each of these is sculpted with wonderful assurance, the filmmakers exploring love through the performance, composition and technique rather than merely as character arc.
Instead of presenting the fall, Longinotto takes the emotion for granted and delves into its many forms and facets. For every instant of a restrained couple embracing in woodlands, or two boys duelling for the honour of a pretty girl in a Sunday afternoon romp in the park, cultural taboos are also presented. The opening shot is a train entering a tunnel, conjuring recollections of forbidden romance a la Brief Encounter (1945) but also the motif’s use as bawdy sexual metaphor when such things were required. Transgressions are returned to throughout the runtime with interracial and homosexual relationships highlighting changing attitudes – a series of cuttings from My Beautiful Laundrette (1985) neatly explores both. This is not just love, but Britain’s evolving idea of it, culminating in footage from a gay wedding in 2014. One of the most striking scenes sets a silent tale of exotic seduction and an unfaithful husband to the raw sexuality of Hawley’s jagged chords. It’s in those moments unburdened from story that Love Is All traces the wordless contours of our national cinematic love affairs and truly soars.