Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema – Episode 1 ‘The Rom-Com’ REVIEW

In a new series, the respected film critic takes us through different genres of film and the marks they've made on the world.

In Britain one of the biggest voices in film reviewing and criticism is Mark Kermode. He has released books, runs podcasts with Simon Mayo with reviews and interviews on the latest films. He also hosts monthly events at the BFI where he interviews directors, actors and other industry workers to discuss their work and others within the field. So it would seem he would be the perfect candidate to host a series on the ways different genres of film run and help to create the magic we see on the big screen.

In the first episode of the series he covered one of the classic genres that everyone can find a favourite film in, the Romantic Comedy. Within this 60 minute episode, Kermode is able to break down the rules of the Rom-Com and how they use classic conventions to fit or subvert our expectations. From the likes of Splash (1984) to The Shape of Water (2017) all the way back to classic Hollywood era films like The Philadelphia Story (1940), we are taken through how conventions like the ‘Meet-Cute’ are used to introduce the protagonists to each other to the ‘Happily Ever After’ we come to expect.

The programme is smartly broken down into six main points that help to create the perfect romantic comedy, which not only helps to keep the audience engaged, but is also a great way to introduce a wider variety of films. Kermode speaks on the classic British romantic comedies like Notting Hill (1999), Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) while also bringing in films from different cultures like Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), a Bollywood film. Seeing such a wide variety of films covered in the episode makes this an enriching experience which will add multiple films to your watchlist. Seeing how the genre has grown from its early times in classic Hollywood to bringing LGBT stories like Love, Simon (2018) to the mainstream gives you a greater understanding of the success this genre has created throughout the decades.

It not only looks at the positives that the rom-com genre has made on the cinematic landscape but also how the tropes have become toxic themselves. Take, for example, the ‘manic pixie dream girl’ stereotype seen in films such as Elizabethtown (2005) which are made only to fulfil men’s fantasy of the perfect women who will make them exciting. Being able to look at both the positive and negative ways in which these movies use their tropes to set audience expectations is a great way for Secrets of Cinema to not only look at what cinema has accomplished so far, but also at how it can grow and improve in the future.

As a host, Mark Kermode is great to listen to. His knowledge of cinema is almost unmatched in today’s society as he rattles through historical references that films make, showing respect to the pictures that came before them. Seeing his passion on screen as a man so deeply in love with cinema and the genre he is covering leaves you wanting to learn more and to gain such an enthusiasm like he has. With all that he speaks about and demonstrates in this episode, it’s possible to see there is still so much to discuss on the subject and as time goes on the genre will continue to evolve. Pair that with clips from a wide selection of movies and you’re on to a winning formula that has me excited to see future episodes.

Mark Kermode’s Secrets of Cinema is available to watch on BBC iPlayer now.

Episode 2 – The Heist is available from next Tuesday at 9pm GMT.

9/10

Summary

A first episode filled with insider knowledge of the romantic comedies that shaped generations. A great introduction to the Rom-Com genre for any budding cinephiles.

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