Garry Marshall’s Valentine’s Day is merely the latest — and most explicitly titled — Hollywood rom-com with designs on blitzing the mid-February box office.
Its starry ensemble cast, which includes a pair of Taylors (Lautner and Swift) and two Jessicas (Alba and Biel), will probably entice plenty of couples to the multiplex, but our advice to cinema-loving lovebirds is to stay in, turn the lights down, and sample one of the more offbeat titles on the following list.
Greg Mottola’s follow-up to Superbad was advertised as another crude crowd-pleaser, but it’s a more delicate piece of work. There’s a plausible slow-burn to the relationship between amusement park wage-slaves Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, and the scene where they joy-ride bumper cars with a Cure song in the background should hit a bittersweet nerve with ’80s babies.
Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) go boating — and walking, driving and maybe to bed in Richard Linklater’s sublime two-hander, a mediation on time and memory that might be the best brief encounter since Brief Encounter. It’s also probably the best sequel ever made, narrowly edging out Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Claire Denis is one of the cinema’s great sensualists, and her 2002 film about a young woman’s last night of single-hood — and the handsome man she meets in the midst of a Parisian traffic jam —fairly tingles with visual pleasure: Under her gaze, even the late-night clean-up at an empty café feels like an enchanted moment.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
A Hong Kong apartment complex is transformed into a hothouse of repressed desire in Wong Kar Wai’s achingly beautiful period piece. As neighbours staving off mutual attraction for the sake of their respective marriages, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung embody longing like they hold the patent.
A troubled loner (Joaquin Phoenix) sets his sights on a blonde goddess (Gwyneth Paltrow) while dismissing the affections of a family friend (Vinessa Shaw). James Gray’s tortured love triangle resonates with empathy for all its characters, and articulates the dark side of infatuation with real eloquence.