Monday, February 14, 2011

14 Alternative Films about Love

Ok, so it’s Valentine’s Day and although I don’t really care that much about it (do we really need to be given a day to celebrate love?) and I hate cheap sentimentalism I composed a list of 14 films about love. Well, maybe they aren’t about love, not centrally at least, but love plays an important part in all of them. And most importantly you will probably not find many of these films on any other Top [insert number] Romantic Films list. They all look at love in a different way.
This isn’t a top, it’s just a list. The films aren’t in a particular order, and to be honest I didn’t spend much time researching; it’s just the first 14 which come to mind. So feel free to contribute your own favorites.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

A big indie hit a couple of years back and probably the best known from my list. Seems at first to be just another romantic chick-flick, but it has a fresh approach, veers away from most clichés and doesn’t play on audience expectations with old plot-tricks. A non-romantic film rather than a romantic one. A film about dropping out of love rather than falling in love. With the ever-lovely Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Thirst (2009)

After becoming a vampire, a catholic priest finds himself falling in love with the wife of one if his friends. How far can he go to obtain his desire? Will he accept his new nature and renounce his faith? Chan-wook Park (OldBoy) presents this dark and twisted story of one of Emile Zola’s novels. A film which explores innocence, guilt, love, justice, belief combining humour, horror and some of the most poetic visual moments of the last years.

Let the Right One In (2008)

And while we’re on the subject of love and vampires (and now try really hard not to think of Twilight) we should not forget of the Swedish love-horror-drama about a young boy who discovers his own strength through a budding love-story with a century old child-vampire. Another dark and twisted yet wonderful tale about self-discovery and of course, love.
(I guess you can watch the American remake with the less inspired title Let Me In, which in all fairness wasn’t actually bad, but there’s a reason why the original is on my list)

Colin (2008)

OK, I swear that this is the last entry to include the Undead. This is the one you probably haven’t heard of. Colin is the protagonist of this story which takes place in London during a zombie apocalypse. We meet him right after he has been bitten and turns, after which we follow his adventures as he meets other zombies and people. This extremely low budget production (estimated production cost: 45£) was screened at the Canned Festival and was quite appreciated by critics. If you really hate zombie-flick you won’t be converted by this one, otherwise give it a try.
Oh, why is it on my list? You’ll have to watch it and find out. It has a whole different layer than first seems.

City Lights (1931)

Basically any Chaplin film could’ve entered this list. Most of them have a subtheme of love (The Circus and The Gold Rush being prime contenders). Why have a chosen this one? I think the love chord resonates most in tune in this film, plus it has what has been called by many critics the most heart-warming last scene in a movie ever. That, and all the lovely silent comedy.

The Last Station (2010)

On a more pretentious note, we have last year’s period (made for Oscar) drama. Lev Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer) is in his eighties and has created through his books a whole new philosophical movement. His wife (Helen Mirren) fears that his followers are estranging them, and fights to keep his attention. The film has one of the best definitions of love ever given on celluloid. (hint: it’s in the trailer)

Garden State (2004)

J.D. from Scrubs a.k.a. Zach Braff has written, directed and starred in this indie romantic comedy type thing. An underplayed film about love, growing up and the little bits in life, with Natalie Portman and Ian Holm.

The Fountain (2006)

You hate it or love it.
A philosophical SF trip through a millennium, pondering on the ideas of eternal life and eternal love. Of accepting one’s fate and one’s place in the Universe. An aesthetic masterpiece from Darren Aronofsky with Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz.

A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie would’ve very easily entered this list, would it not be for the fact that you all know it very well (or at least you should), so I chose another one of his titles instead. Very much a film about love, the stories follows a young woman (Audrey Tautou) just after The First World War as she is looking for her fiancée who is presumed dead, executed on no-man’s land. Though love is the thematic center of the film, expect no lovey-dovey sweet scenes.

Delicatessen (1991)

And because I really like Jeunet and his fresh vision, I also included his first major film, which he made together with Caro. A dark and twisted (you might have noticed a recurring theme here) post-apocalyptic comedy about cannibalism. How the fuck does a love story fit into this? Well, it does, beautifully, which is why the film is on the list.
(to be fair all of Jeunet’s films are good contenders for the list, Micmacs has a small love story budding through its course and The City of Lost Children has rather unnerving hints to love between a slightly mentally challenged Ron Perlman and a eleven-year old girl (not unlike Leon for that matter). OK, I don’t know how Alien:Resurrection fits the list)

A Single Man (2010)

A wonderfully aesthetic feature about love lost. A film about mourning love when mourning is forbidden, and finding a way to love again. Colin Firth’s finest. (yes I have seen The King’s Speech, and you know what? Fuck you! that’s what!)

Nuntă Mută (Silent Wedding) (2008)

An enchanting, slightly dark, hilarious tragedy about love, life and loving life at every price. A must see!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

A film about the pains of love. About wanting to forget love, to cleanse your soul of that ever-burning, ever-consuming ember which is the love you bear. About whether love can be forgotten.

Brazil (1985)

I think “love-story” is not the first thing that pops to the minds of people who have seen Brazil when you mention the title. “Dystopia”, “a funny version of 1984” “weird and sadistic at time” are more likely. But the film is essentially a love-story, one which barely follows the conventions.
Terry Gilliam at his best, plus the line: “Care for some necrophilia?”

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