With movie theatres closed – and likely to stay that way in major cities until at least the fall – there is comfort in knowing that, thanks to streaming and video-on-demand, we can all program our own mini film festivals at home, focusing on whatever genre or theme we dang well please. This week, as the summer heat reaches its peak, let’s get hot and heavy with the best romance movies available for your streaming pleasure.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Crave with HBO Passionate, elegant and devastatingly romantic, Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire earns every right to slowly burn itself into your mind and heart. In 18th-century Brittany, artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned to paint the portrait of an Italian noblewoman’s reclusive daughter, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel, from Sciamma’s Water Lilies). Héloïse has so far rejected all artists who have come before her, in the hopes that her painted image cannot be sent abroad to potential male suitors, and Marianne enters her life in the guise of a mere hired companion. Soon enough – but with a deliberately cautious speed that suggests Sciamma’s narrative philosophy holds patience as a prime virtue – the pair disarm each other and form a bond intimate and profound.
True Romance, Netflix Finally available to stream in all its problematic glory, this 1993 movie works as both a nostalgic romp and a mind-blowing time capsule. Directed with a hardcore sensibility by Tony Scott and written to an inch of its life by a pre-Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino, True Romance is so filthy and politically incorrect that it would surely be “cancelled” were it to come out today. Yet the story of Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette’s star-crossed lovers (who are also certifiably nuts) is also a hell of a ride, romantic and thrilling in equal measure. And then there’s its supporting cast, which is stacked to an absurd degree: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, James Gandolfini, Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Val Kilmer, Chris Penn, Tom Sizemore and an all-time scenery-chomping bit from Saul Rubinek.
Queen & Slim, Amazon Prime Video Toward the middle of Queen & Slim, one character jokingly greets our titular heroes as “the black Bonnie and Clyde.” And indeed, much of the film’s marketing has leaned on that easy-to-digest comparison, focusing on two innocent people who go on the run after one brutal encounter with a racist Detroit cop. But Lena Waithe’s screenplay is not a neat little narrative to be packaged and sold. It balances the passion of the lovers-on-the-run genre with the defiance of political resistance. And when Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) come together and embrace their shared reality, the moment is freeing and glorious – the first love scene in some time where the passion feels earned, and the intimate physicality sincere.
Paterson, Kanopy Jim Jarmusch tends to make quiet, subdued and poetic films. Adam Driver does the same thing, just with 10 times the frequency. So it was natural that when the director and actor teamed up, the result would be compelling. And 2016′s Paterson is indeed highly watchable, but it’s as much a rambly Jamusch-ian character study as it is a loving portrait of a tiny romance. Following the relationship between Driver’s wannabe poet and Golshifteh Farahani’s artist, the film has a lived-in intimacy that will leave you feeling as calm as Driver’s stanza recitations (which is to say: very calm indeed).
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