film primer: Offbeat Valentines Movies

by Luke Copping

Happily ever after?  Not in these films.  Who said a love story has to have a happy ending?  Check out these films with your valentine this year, or watch them yourself in a bitter film festival.  Either way, all of the following are great films in their own right, but will provide a nice alternative to the sugar coated Hollywood teen love-fests that seem to flood the market every year around this time.

Harold and Maude
Director – Hal Ashby

The mock suicides, the Cat Stevens soundtrack, memorable characters, and possibly the coolest car in the history of cinema all serve to make Harold and Maude one of the truly unique films of the 70s.  But on top of all that it also one of the greatest and most extreme examples of a May-December romance in film.  Harold and Maude is light hearted, funny, shocking, romantic, and tragic.

Director – Gregg Araki

The off-beat romantic comedy has become a modern film tradition, usually poorly conceived and even more poorly executed.  Araki’s tale of a young woman who restarts her dating life by jumping into a poly-amorous relationship with two men is an exception to the rule.  Abel and Zed could not be more different, yet they grow to treat each in an almost brotherly fashion in order to hold onto the women they both love.  The movie is full of genuinely sweet moments and off kilter comedy but never becomes overly saccharine.

Natural Born Killers
Director – Oliver Stone

Taking the Bonnie and Clyde archetypes to their natural extremes, Stone’s controversial mid-nineties criticism of crime, romance, trash TV, and violence is a love story in the most negative of ways.  Mickey and Mallory are, of course, morally reprehensible characters that simultaneously sicken and excite the viewer.  At the same time there is a very strong undercurrent of romance between the two that seems to cut through the blood, violence, and wanton murder.

True Romance
Director – Tony Scott

Written by Quentin Tarrantino and starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, True Romance is another love story that follows the same lines as Natural Born Killers.  Featuring appearances by some of the best actors of the time and also by many who went on to become stars.  This hyper violent and quirky story is the perfect blend of cool/geek love.

The Fountain
Director – Darren Aronofksy

A timeless love story in three interwoven narratives.  Aronosky’s film is a study of mortality, love, meta-fiction, and Mayan legend.  The visuals are stunning but the quality that standouts the most are the centuries-spanning romance between Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz which is so haunting that it embeds a cosmic event of culminate and resolve to the story.

Director – Kim Ki-duk

This mostly silent film illustrates that sometimes love goes deeper than words.  A nomadic young man who breaks into and lives in the apartments of others while they vacation meets a battered housewife during one of his extended “visits”.  Despite the woman’s husband trying to keep the two apart, a silent romance develops between them, culminating in the young man developing a very peculiar talent that lets them finally express their love for each other.

But I’m a Cheerleader
Director – Jamie Babbit

The life of a mundane high-school cheerleader is turned on its head when she is sent to a rehabilitation camp for homosexual teens despite her protests.  What ensues is not only her journey of self discovery, but also one of the most romantic films to come out of the 90s.  Babbit’s first feature is notable for the controversy it caused when it was suggested that the film was rated harshly by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) for its homosexual content.

The House of Yes
Director – Mark Waters

Between the incest and the Kennedy assassination fetish of the main characters, The House of Yes still manages to bring passion and the weird together, though ending tragically in more ways than one.  The film adapted from Wendy MacCleod’s play of the same name, is a low key drama spiked with scenes of manic intensity (mostly brought about Parker Posey’s portrayal of the unstable Jackie).

Annie Hall
Director – Woody Allen

Proving that just because a movie does not have a happy ending does not mean it has to have a sad one.  Allen’s film is an all too realistic interpretation of modern relationships.  Equally heartbreaking and hysterical, Allen and Keaton’s characters are very flawed and very real people, just like any of us.  This is a move that made me realize that I liked Woody Allen’s films.  It is also worth seeing, if you are a Christopher Walked fan, for his short but unsettlingly funny role of Duane Hall.

Director – Takeshi Kitano

Three stories that visually overlap, while never really connecting or interfering with each other, Kitano attacks the notions of love and obsession from three very different angles.  A silent couple who are bound together wander the country as the seasons change.  A lonely young man is obsessed to dangerous degree with a pop star.  An aging gangster longs for the romance of his youth and goes to many troubles to find it.  These are the stories that Kitano tells in a very non-linear and colorful style.

from the February Issue of Auxiliary Magazine

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