Love in the time of corona

Sometimes the only way to survive is to submit. Here are a few movies and novels related to other pandemics in which love conquers all:

“Love in the Time of Cholera” – Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 1985 novel tells the story of a love that endures over five decades, despite partings, infidelities, the couple’s psychological blindness and, yes, the titular disease, which becomes a metaphor for passion.  The book was made into a 2007 film starring Javier Bardem.

Cholera also figures in “The Painted Veil,” W. Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel, which was made into a more romantic 2006 film. Both weave the tale of a researcher-physician, married to a superficial society beauty who has an affair with a British diplomat in 1920s Shanghai. Seeking to wipe out cholera, the doctor drags his wife deep into the disease-ridden Chinese countryside, where he makes her pay and pay for her infidelity. But there things take an unexpected turn.

The film is about the limitlessness of love while the book is about the limits of forgiveness. Each in its own way is utterly ravishing, with the film offering superb performances by Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Liev Schreiber, Toby Jones and Diana Rigg; cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh that’s worthy of a Chinese scroll painting; and Alexandre Desplat’s bewitching score, performed in part by pianist Lang Lang. (The title comes from the Percy Bysshe Shelley sonnet that begins Lift not the painted veil which those who live Call Life.”)

Yellow fever is the culprit in “Jezebel” (1938), which was star Bette Davis’ consolation prize for losing the part of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” Here Davis is a willful Southern belle, whose determination to get her own way robs her of the man she loves (Henry Fonda). But when he’s stricken with – you guessed it – she finally has a chance to act selflessly. The question is, will she take it?

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