Looking up St. Valentine’s Day on the Internet revealed that not much is actually known about its patron saint or the holiday bearing his name. We do know that February has long been a time for honoring love.
My daughter points out the awkwardness of the holiday by referring to it as Singles Awareness Day.
Love, however, can often be just as perplexing as the lack of it. So in honoring love with all it’s diversities, benefits and difficulties I would like to recommend some films that are not of the traditional Hollywood formula. Truth be told, some of these movies require much from their viewers in terms of emotional cost, but are that much more rewarding as a result. These films are great for movie nights and are sure to spark interesting discussions afterwards.
Director Wong Kar-Wai, with the aid of his renowned cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, has given us many stylized films, many of which have focused on love in some form. I urge you to explore his catalog of work. In this forum, however, I want to suggest his masterpiece, “In The Mood For Love.” The film is brilliantly conveyed through its cinematic stylization, soundtrack, and performances. The circumstances that surround the protagonists are uncomfortable and painful, yet the two show caution toward their new relationship.
Lars Von Trier’s “Breaking The Waves” may strangely be the greatest love story of all. Breaking ground, as well as waves, this movie was a precursor to the Dogma 95 movement, and helped pave the way for a wider acceptance of unrefined hand held camera work. This school of filmmaking places its emphasis on story and characters, taking the stance that technical tricks and expensive props often serve only as distractions. Emily Watson gives an astounding performance to a love that truly knows no bounds. The movie is heart-wrenching, but Trier did leave room for hope, helping to make it unequivocally fantastic. “Breaking The Waves” should be on everyone’s top ten list.
Wim Wender’s “Wings of Desire” shows us that not only can love be inspiring, but also be an avenue for monumental personal change. A new love can draw one out from the safety of familiarity and hurl them into a fiery unknown. Beautifully shot in Berlin, this is perhaps Wender’s best effort, and Peter Falk is a wonderful addition to the sweet sentiment of this movie.
The often underrated, Roberto Benigni, directed and starred opposite of his real-life wife Nicoletta Braschi in “Life Is Beautiful.” The story takes place during the horrors of World War II, but depicts a blossoming romance which develops into a long lasting love relationship. A tough balance of the whimsical and funny, to the serious and sad, it equates into a heart-warming tale of inspiration.
Honorable mentions: I do not believe I have heard a Buddy Holly song that was not about love in some fashion. Perhaps equally prolific on the subject is Woody Allen. Many of his finer films like “Manhattan,” “Hanna and Her Sisters,” Annie Hall and Husbands and Wives show him meandering on a quest for satisfaction, which may actually be unobtainable for him. Other close runners up were “Fireworks,” “Talk To Her,” “To Live,” “Wild At Heart,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Girl on the Bridge.”
This is a truly short list for such a universal muse and I hope you, your friends and loved ones view them as mature and thought provoking works of art.
Enjoy, and happy Valentine’s.
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