Valentine’s Day: a feast day meant to celebrate and honor the lives of two Christian martyrs that, over time, inexplicably evolved into a day about chocolates, roses, and dinner and a movie. Some hate it; some love it, but regardless of how you feel about it, we’ve at least got the movie part covered. We give you 5 art-house films for the discerning viewer.
MY NIGHT AT MAUD’S (1969)
The first of many French films on this list. My Night at Maud’s is one of French New Wave director Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales. (Initially a novelist, Rohmer adapted his short stories into six movies.)
Snow falls on Jean-Louise’s face as the pious and rigid Catholic stands outside the cathedral pining after the mysterious Francoise, a woman he vowed to himself to marry one day. However, he’s shaken to his core after unexpectedly spending the night at Maud’s, his friend Vidal’s seductive, Blaise Pascal-quoting friend. It’s a movie about philosophy, sexuality, commitment, love, and above all, being a fallible human being.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000)
A masterfully shot period-piece romance about neighbors that slowly turn into lovers. Chow Mo-Wan and Su Li-Zhen live next door to one another, where their innocuous, brief encounters blossom into a full-blown love affair. The film is style itself, famously influencing American directors Barry Jenkins and Quentin Tarantino. Christopher Doyle and Mark Lee Ping Bing’s cinematography in tandem with the stirring soundtrack evoke a feeling perfectly unique to itself. For all these reasons and more, Wong Kar Wai’s masterpiece is more than worthy of viewing this Valentine’s Day.
TWO ENGLISH GIRLS (1971)
It wouldn’t be a Valentine’s Day movie recommendation without a plot involving a love triangle. Two English Girls is the story of a young French man named Claude who holidays in Wales with the widowed friend of his mother and her two daughters for a summer. Claude’s love affairs with each of the two sisters are unique, tender, and heartbreaking and are amplified by one of the most underrated soundtracks in a film by the illustrious French film composer George Delerue.
BAY OF ANGELS (1963)
Jean, a young banker from Paris, falls for Jackie (played by the inimitable Jeanne Moreau) on holiday in Nice, France while at a popular casino. Despite a warning from his father that he’s prone to gambling addiction, and that it will ruin him, he allows himself to get caught up in a whirlwind romance where Jackie’s desire to continue to gamble leaves him an impossible choice: self-destruction in the arms of the woman he loves or a broken heart.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE (1993)
Scorsese has said that this is his “most violent film.” And sure enough, upon viewing, despite there being not a drop of bloodshed throughout the entire movie, it’s hard not to agree.
Daniel Day-Lewis plays Newland Archer, an intelligent Gilded Age aristocrat who is happily engaged to be married to May Welland. This happiness is short-lived when May’s cousin, the charming Countess Ellen Olenska comes to town. Mr. Archer finds himself utterly consumed by her and simultaneously awakened to the cruelty of old American society in this tale of impossible love.