Although the shelves of any highbrow bookshop are groaning these days with weighty books on soap (or melodrama) in film, TV and literature, there still appears to be a definite limit to what many people can take in this genre.
The delirious romanticism of The Piano (1993) or the Gothic ironies of Twin Peaks easily pass the taste test. Even the glitzy trashiness of Models Inc on television allows a certain cultivated indulgence, as the lifestyle columns of newspapers and magazines demonstrate week after week.
But pure soap, which is always earnest and sentimental without the alibis of irony or excess, can still prompt intense embarrassment and derision in cultured audiences.
Mark Rydell's Intersection is a precious specimen for exactly this reason. Virtually no one had a good word for it on its cinema release. It was damned as clumsy, outlandish, mawkish; without any discernible critical distance on its material, it was said to resemble – horror of horrors – an average Mills and Boon romance novel.
All these comments may be completely true, but they are nonetheless beside the point. Intersection (a remake Claude Sautet's The Things of Life, 1969) is unashamed soap.
Vincent (Richard Gere), a visionary architect who walks around muttering to himself about "fenestrations" and "elevations", is caught between two women.
With his wife Sally (Sharon Stone, bravely cast against type) he shares a history, a career and a child, but no passion. He longs to live with the vivacious journalist Olivia (Lolita Davidovich), but cannot make the break with his past.
Many portents cue us to the fact that Vincent is about to reach an intersection – an accident that will sort out the course of his life in one way or another. When this happens, the film becomes a rich banquet of sorrow, regret and missed encounters – a male weepie of disarming proportions.
Compared with contemporaneous New Age odes to masculine sentiment like the dreadful Mrs Doubtfire (1993), this is a refreshingly direct and heartfelt melodrama.
© Adrian Martin November 1994