Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: A Little Romance (1979)

If Disney had hired Fran├žois Truffaut to make a Hayley Mills movie in Europe and given him full creative control, the end result might've looked something like A Little Romance.

Playing like an Americanized take on the French New Wave, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid director George Roy Hill's sprightly 1979 picture blends together a Huckleberry Finn sense of adventure with the sugary rush of first love. Based upon the novel E=mc2 Mon Amour by Claude Klotz (writing as Patrick Cauvin) and adapted by The Mary Tyler Moore Show creator Allan Burns —who received an Academy Award nomination for his work — A Little Romance is as mischievous as it is fun.

When a precocious young French film buff (Thelonious Bernard) meets a brainy American girl (Diane Lane) in Paris who reads Heidegger for fun, she tells him her name is Lauren, and Daniel knows deep down that he's the Bogie to her Bacall. Concocting a scheme to trade the streets of Paris for Venetian canals, the teens journey to Italy once they hear that if you kiss your beloved under the Bridge of Sighs at sunset, you'll love one another forever.

Enlisting the help of a charming but shifty old man (a fabulous Laurence Olivier) to play the part of their guardian in order for the two thirteen-year-olds to cross the border, after their alibis fall through and they're believed to have been kidnapped, soon parents and authorities are hot on their trail.

Dismissed as "cute" by a number of critics in its day who seemed to view the film as though it were saccharine enough to cause an upset stomach or tooth decay, Romance has grown in esteem as a minor forgotten classic, thanks to home video, word-of-mouth, and frequent replays on TCM.

The feature film debut of actress Diane Lane, while there's no mistaking Burns and Hill's admittedly protracted fairy tale of teens — who bet on horses, discuss metaphysics, and dissect porn as having nothing to do with love — for anything resembling reality, it's hard not to get caught up in the jubilant spirit of it all.

Unafraid to mix the bitterly sour with the syrupy sweet in both Olivier's morally enigmatic character as well as Lauren's bored, flirtatious mother (Sally Kellerman) who's on her third marriage but still hunting for love, the film is so filled with intriguing characters that at times, it falters when it returns back to the leads. Losing some of our affection for the formerly tender, thoughtful Daniel as he turns uncharacteristically snappish in the film's last act, despite a few stumbles, our belief in the screenwriter and director's sincerity doesn't waver throughout.

The type of film that you could imagine being a big source of inspiration on Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore, and other Wes Anderson works where the wise, earnest, lovelorn teens are the smartest ones in any room, A Little Romance would also make an ideal double feature with Small Change, which Truffaut made in 1976 as an ode to the infallible spirit of the young.

Given a sumptuous transfer to Blu-ray, from the sunlight of Paris to a bewitching sunset at the Bridge of Sighs, Hill's film pulls you in with the sights captured by Small Change cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn as well as the sounds of legendary composer Georges Delerue's Oscar winning score. An utterly delightful way to spend two hours, although it's missing the interview with Diane Lane that's listed on the back of the Blu-ray box, there's still a lot about this light, frothy, Ameri-French confection to love.

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