✦ We all love a good movie and what better on Valentine’s Day than cuddling up with your loved one in front of the TV to watch a flick after a romantic, candlelit dinner?
There are endless romantic movies out there and we all know and have seen the likes of Titanic, Dirty Dancing, Casablanca, Sleepless in Seattle, The Notebook, Before Sunrise, When Harry Met Sally, Breakfast at Tiffanys, etc. Good, sometimes great, no doubt, but what we wanted to do was offer up an alternative five for your viewing pleasure that wouldn’t necessarily be among the first options that spring to mind at this romantic time of year. The views expressed are purely the writer’s own, the list isn’t ranked in any particular sort of order and, while they mightn’t be everyone's cup of tea, we do hope you enjoy.
This Quentin Tarantino-penned 1993 film is a tour de force experience that sees comic book nerd and ultra Elvis Presley fan Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) meet and fall in love with call girl Alabama (Patricia Arquette) before skipping town and riding off into the sunset with a case full of illegal narcotics mistakenly taken from the mob.
It’s fast-paced, it’s violent and it’s littered with colourful language in that inimitable way that makes Tarantino scripts jump off the page but it is, ultimately, a genuine love story that befits its title, a modern day Bonnie and Clyde or Badlands. The supporting cast is incredible, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt and a pre-Sopranos James Gandolfini sparkling in their cameos and the late Dennis Hopper and the ever excellent Christopher Walken sharing one of the finest scenes in cinema history.
Life Is Beautiful
One would think framing a film dealing with the atrocities of World War II and the holocaust with comedy and romance would be the epitome of an oxymoron, and that would be fair on first glance. However, this 1997 Italian film is a truly unique experience in that it manages to achieve exactly that.
Guido (Roberto Benigni), Dora and son Giosue are living the perfect life in a picturesque Italian countryside town before the Nazis arrive at the height of the War, separate the family and imprison them in a concentration camp. In order to shield his son from the true horrors of their reality, Guido convinces Giosue that they are part of a game by creating a series of elaborate pranks and mock challenges. Watching him carry out his well natured ruse in such circumstances is, at times, hilarious, touching, agonising and, ultimately, heartbreaking.
Benigni, who co-wrote and directed the film, won the Best Actor Oscar at the 71st Academy Awards, while the film won Best Foreign Language Film. Critics labelled the film as offensive by using humour to trivialise the holocaust, although the true heart of the film does not strive to do this at all. As renowned film critic Roger Ebert commented at the time: “[it] is not about Nazis and Fascists, but about the human spirit. It is about rescuing whatever is good and hopeful from the wreckage of dreams. About hope for the future. About the necessary human conviction, or delusion, that things will be better for our children than they are right now.”
It is, indeed, a beautiful film.
A huge, award-winning hit at the time but one that deserves to be included in any list of romantic films as it is exactly that – a bond fide love story that depicts a genuine romance between two richly defined characters.
Based on the book by Annie Proulx and set in the 1960s against the sweeping vistas of Wyoming and Texas, the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal play Ennis and Jack, two cowboys who tend sheep throughout a series of summers on the grazing plains of Brokeback Mountain. The men develop a forbidden physical and emotional relationship that is then played out over the years against a backdrop of challenges.
Dealing with the dichotomy of brash masculinity and tender sensitivity, the film expertly balances the viewers sympathy between the ecstasy of sexual attraction and the subsequent pain of the people betrayed. Retrospective viewing in today’s more tolerant climate might not be yield such an impact but the film was a major breakthrough triumph for the depiction of gay characters in mainstream cinema, despite huge controversy at the time. Underpinned by Gustavo Santaolalla’s lush, haunting score, the ending scene still stands tall as one of the most emotionally charged of all time.
Don’t be fooled by the movie’s poster which may lead one to believe this is just another goofy flick in the mould of a modern day Turner and Hooch. Oh no, this is far more than that and one of the most moving films I have personally seen in many a year.
The plot is simple in that Channing Tatum’s Army Ranger is tasked with escorting the military dog of his fallen friend to his funeral. Starting off with several comedic moments, the duo set off on what initially appears to be a fun natured road trip, despite the dynamic between the two being immediately uneasy. As the film slowly unfolds, however, the tone shifts as it allows us to pull back the veneer and examine two tragically traumatised souls that find recognition and subsequently form a unbreakable bond, with Tatum displaying truly impressive, somewhat surprising, acting chops.
It could just be that I’m a big softy whenever animals are involved, but I found it a true tour de force of the emotions, emphasising that true love and redemption aren’t always merely between humans and that a dog truly ia a man’s best friend. As the tears fell, it is one that stuck with me long after the final credits rolled.
Lost in Translation
Deeply divisive on its release, Sofia Coppola’s 2003 film is an examination of unfamiliarity, loneliness, alienation and ultimately finding a kindred soul in a place where you’d least expect it.
The always impeccable Bill Murray plays washed up actor Bob Harris, in Tokyo to film a whisky commercial. Jaded, lacking purpose and realising the banality of his life, he strikes up a relationship with Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson), a recently married twenty something who is accompanying her photographer husband on a work trip and struggling to find her place in the world.
The two form a relationship that quickly blossoms, but not in the obvious or traditionally romantic way, with Bob serving almost as a mentor of sorts as they wander the vast, sense-assaulting and unfamiliar streets of the Japanese capital, getting into all manner of scrapes and adventures.
The beauty of the film lies in how it so simply yet delicately allows us to join the two protagonists as they veer towards their point of self realisation. The closing scene, played out to the nostalgic sounds of The Jesus and the Mary Chain’s “Just Like Honey”, is like a warm embrace, a realisation.
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