Breaking Away

In honor of Valentine's Day, our staff will be sharing some of their favorite romantic scenes all day long.

When I tried to think of my favorite romantic scenes, I started with all the 1930s romantic comedies I love. But then I realized that most of those movies are wonderful because of their comedy more than their romance. I cannot think of anything memorably, tenderly romantic in Bringing Up Baby or The Awful Truth or Midnight. I thought instead of a scene I've found romantic all my life, and what popped into my head was the serenade sequence in the 1979 film Breaking Away.

It really is a lovely little romantic episode, with light dashes of humor. Dave (Dennis Christopher) has convinced Cyril (Daniel Stern) to accompany him on a bicycle to a sorority house where Katherine (Robyn Douglass) , Dave's big crush, is living. They've been practicing an Italian song all day, with not very good results. Dave stands under Katherine's window and, with help from Cyril on guitar, sings "M'apparì tutt'amor" to the sorority girls, who include not only Katherine but a spiteful sister played by P.J. Soles. At the end, Dave rides Katherine away on her bike (and what happens to Cyril isn't romantic at all, but let's not think about that now).

At the same time, however, Dave's serenade alternates with a scene of his parents (Barbara Barrie and Paul Dooley) at home having dinner, while a record of a professional tenor singing "M'apparì tutt'amor" is playing. Dave's mom puts on the romantic music, lights candles ... and injects a little romance into a very prosaic evening at home. It's terribly sweet, and a nice contrast to Dave's serenade at the sorority house.

I can't find the clip online, so you'll have to watch the entire movie, which is a better idea anyway. It strikes me that Breaking Away might be a very nice film for Valentine's Day -- a touch of romance mixed with exciting bicycle races and a character study of both teenage and middle-age people in a small college town. Plus you get to see the young Dennis Quaid, looking rather rebellious and hot, and Jackie Earle Haley. See, it's got a little something for everyone.