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5 Alternative Romantic Movies To Watch On Valentine’s Day

by Terry East

So Valentine’s Day is coming around again and you think that revisiting When Harry Met Sally and The Princess Bride isn’t necessary.

Maybe you have someone to spend it with, maybe you don’t. Either way, love is on your mind and it would be nice to avoid this year’s model of the romantic comedy, or for those of you who can’t stand them…chick flicks.

Well, take heart! Here are five “forgotten” movie alternatives worth a couple hours of your time.

What makes love so “explosive”?

This is the core question brought up in writer-director Hal Hartley’s second film Trust. Maria and Martin (Adrienne Shelly & Martin Donovan) are an unlikely couple. She is a pregnant, high school dropout whose father drops dead after an argument between father and daughter goes wrong. He is a young man who seems more interested in remaining principled than maintaining steady employment.

He also has a hand grenade that he may have a reason to use one day.

This was a movie that I first discovered in the heyday of VHS back when I had time to watch six movies in a day. Hal Hartley’s contribution to indie film of the 1990s is underappreciated. It is easy to see in the conversations between Maria and Martin how a young Kevin Smith would get inspired to make his filmi Clerks.

For fans of The Sopranos & Nurse Jackie out there, this film has an early appearance from Edie Falco who plays Maria’s sister.

Not a laugh-out-loud-funny film, but it’s filled with interesting and thoughtful characters.

Does love seem too elusive?

Next Stop Wonderland posterI’ll introduce Erin (Hope Davis), a young nurse who is dumped by Sean (Philip Seymour Hoffman). After recovering from the initial shock, she decides to peacefully settle into being alone for a while.

However, her mother (Holland Taylor) won’t have any of that so Mom decides to write a personal ad for her daughter. Meanwhile, Alan (Alan Gelfant) is a plumber who seems to have too much on his plate with a job, school and volunteer work. And all is certain to get sorted out in Next Stop Wonderland.

 

Before director Brad Anderson became known for films like Session 9 and The Machinist as well as directing episodes of Fringe, he was quite the fine director of independent romantic comedies.

Hope Davis has a quiet charm about her in this film but equally engaging is the bossa-nova soundtrack which was carefully selected by Anderson himself.

What if that first “magic moment” isn’t magical at all?

Heavy Petting poster

Here is a list of people who have a few words to say on the subject: David Byrne, Sandra Bernhard, Allen Ginsberg, Ann Manguson, Spalding Gray, Laurie Anderson, John Oates (yes, that John Oates), Abbie Hoffman and William S. Burroughs.

All these people and others not-so-famous offer their thoughts on their earliest sexual discoveries. These interviews are cut in with classic film clips and educational films (which may prove to be entertaining rather than educational).

Obie Benz is the director who tasked himself with weaving all of this footage together in the film Heavy Petting. It also features classic tunes from the 1950’s and 1960’s.

This was a VHS discovery as well. The cast of participants was certainly a draw as well and I probably appreciate them a little more today than I did as a teenager.

I also find myself fascinated with the educational films again probably for the wrong reasons, but this all provide a fascinating look back and offers a sharp contrast to how these issues are dealt with today.

Does love simply fade away?

One From the Heart posterHank & Frannie (Frederic Forrest & Teri Garr) have made it to their fifth anniversary in their relationship but their differences seem certain to end it all.

4th of July. Las Vegas.

They decide to break up and engage in a night of romantic fantasy. Hank meets Leila (Nastassja Kinski) and Frannie meets Ray (Raul Julia). Perhaps their friends Moe & Maggie (Harry Dean Stanton & Lainie Kazan) can offer a new look at their relationship.

So after directing The Godfather Part II & Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola turned his attention to the movie musical with One From The Heart. Trying some innovative ideas which are worthy of essays on their own, he made himself bankrupt. Of course had the film been another success, the temporary setback might have been forgotten. However, with this film Zoetrope Studios would be forever changed and the film would financially haunt him while being forgotten by film fans over the next two decades.

As someone who hadn’t yet seen The Godfather films, my appreciation of Coppola was not like many film fans. This film would eventually lead me back to those films. While this film was a crossroads for Coppola, it was also a crossroads for Tom Waits who contributed the original music for the film. It would mark the end of the first stage of his career and with meeting his wife on the set of that film launch the second stage of his career which would carry him into the 1990s.

The resulting soundtrack done with Crystal Gayle would be a hybrid of Waits’s early-era, booze-hazed ballads and his later-era’s more avant-garde creations.

What’s love without a good love triangle?

Electric Dreams tells the story of Miles (Lenny von Dohlen), Madeline (Virginia Madsen) and the computer (voiced by Bud Cort) that tries to come between them. This was one that I watched on cable during the 1980s but haven’t seen since. I suspect from the preview that I would find the computers in the film quaint to say the least.

It definitely has a so-very ’80s soundtrack (Culture Club, Phil Collins, Jeff Lynne) as well.

It was directed by Steve Barron who had made himself a name already as a music video director. He would go on to direct the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and I believe had a hand in the making of Max Headroom.

When I first starting working on the list for this, these films were more available specifically on Netflix “Watch Instant”. However, Trust and Electric Dreams are only available via VHS in the USA.

Electric Dreams appears to have a DVD release in the UK. The other titles are available on DVD with Next Stop Wonderland being available on “Watch Instant”. For those familar with all of this, availability could change rather quickly.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day and tell us your favorite Valentine’s Day movies in the comments!

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2 comments for “5 Alternative Romantic Movies To Watch On Valentine’s Day

  1. Twauna
    February 14, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    Wow, Electric Dreams is a blast from the past. I forgot all about that one. I got the same vibe from other movies I’ve seen since like Deadly Friend and Alchemy but didn’t really know why until reading this post. The others films I haven’t seen but will definitely check them out.

    • February 18, 2012 at 6:53 am

      Twauna, I’ve never seen ELECTRIC DREAMS, but I’ve seen the poster before. I didn’t even know what it’s about. Thanks to Terry’s suggestion though, I’m going to track down a copy. Thanks for commenting!

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