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The Progress of Love


What is romantic love and why does it have to be the shape that it is?

In an effort to answer this largest of questions The Progress of Love explores the romantic lives of several women in a series of candid and often moving conversations. Liz, a young woman in her twenties describes the development of her romantic experience from her childhood infatuation with a doll, through her teenage boyfriends to arrive in her twenties at the powerful feelings of love and attachment that she has for her current boyfriend. Thelma, a woman in her late seventies, describes her long journey through early romance, three marriages and two divorces, child rearing and the role of romance with a new partner late in life. Michiko gives an account of growing up in Japan in a very traditional family and brings a wholly different perspective the role and nature of love. Laurie provides an earthy and often hilarious account of her early loves and longtime marriage. Various experts add their perspective on the scientific, psychological and cultural underpinnings of romance. In particular the psychologist Professor Gordon Gallup explains the evolutionary development of the often uneasy relationship between the sexes. The romance writer Alisa Kwitney discusses the modern culture of love and writers from Shakespeare to Proust also have their say with actress Victoria McCarthy playing several moments from Romeo and Juliet. Further insight is provided by a practicing therapist, Marie Burns, who discusses the problems and joys of counseling people involved in love and jealousy.

In all The Progress of Love provides a thoughtful, engaging and sometimes provocative view of the nature of romantic love and its role in our lives. The entire discussion is framed by the famous series of paintings 'The Progress of Love' by the French Rococo artist Jean Honore Fragonard, pictures that suggest some of the pre-ordained architecture of love and offer some clues to its mysteries. In all The Progress of Love is a fascinating journey into the most important part of all our lives presented by a group of people who speak with great warmth and considerable passion. By turns touching, informative, very funny and deeply moving it is a journey that every viewer will by thrilled to take.


Writer and Director

John Parks


The Progress of Love is the first feature documentary by John Alexander Parks a New York based painter and writer. Parks is a faculty member of the School of Visual Arts in New York and has exhibited his paintings widely over the last thirty years in both the United States and his native England. An active writer on the arts and art history he has published numerous features over the last two decades in a variety of arts publications as well as the New York Times and other journals. He began making small scale documentaries in 2006 beginning with a film about his own work Paint and Memory. The present documentary grew from his fascination with Fragonard's series of paintings, "The Progress of Love." "They are pictures that are at once magical and highly poetic and yet at the same time suggest that the painter is fully aware of the preordained structure of human relationships," says Parks. "That was the tension I wanted to explore in the lives of my subjects, the intensity with which they live out the inevitable..."

Much of The Progress of Love takes the forms of interviews recorded over several hours and sometimes multiple sessions. "The advent of small high resolution cameras allowed me to work with my subjects in a very intimate fashion," says Parks. "I decided to conduct all of the conversations without a crew. This meant some sacrifice in terms of camera movement although digital post-production gave me the option of achieving some modest zooming and tracking. The great advantage of this technique was the degree of intimacy I obtained. The participants quickly forgot about the camera and felt comfortable opening up in a way that would have been impossible with several other people in the room."