14. Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, 2005)
Three Times recounts the romantic story of the same two lovers in three different points of time. In 1911, a man falls in love with a woman who works in a brothel during the time when Taiwan was under Japanese occupation. A soldier meets a woman in a pool bar, in 1966, and the two of them become interested in each other only to be separated after a short while. Finally, in 2005, a bisexual female singer has to deal with the stormy relationship that she has with her boyfriend.
The film is devoid of any substantial dialogue and narrates the romances of the heroes mainly through their expressions and actions. The two of them meet each other in different chronological moments and their social surroundings influence the evolution of their relationship. The frailty of human romances and the difficulty of two people to establish a stable love affair is set on the foreground of the film’s minimalistic narrative.
15. Reconstruction (Cristoffer Boe, 2003)
It can be safely argued that Reconstruction is a film about time and space and how love can alter the way we perceive them. In its maze-like composition it places a man in its centre and debates his romantic affair with two different women that are played by the same actress.
Alex is in a relationship with Simone who he abandons one day with no explanation in order to be with another girl, Aimee. Aimee is, nevertheless, married to August who is an author writing a story about a tangled love affair with a hero that resembles Alex.
Reconstruction’s spirit is pretty eloquently expressed by the film’s title. It deals with the pieces that one has to connect in order to get the full image of a romantic relationship. The different places of Copenhagen that Alex visits to find his woman are the pieces and the book that August writes seem to be the whole puzzle. The sensuality and romanticism of the film spring mainly from its warm aesthetics and the colours that create it.
16. Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)
Before Sunrise, pretty much like its sequels, feels like a theatrical dialogue about love. The characters move inside the beautiful city of Vienna and they discuss with each other endlessly about all sorts of things interrogating each other and their selves simultaneously.
The immediacy and frankness of their encounter is reminiscent of a real love story like the one that every single one of us has experienced. Jesse and Celine immediately realise their unbeatable chemistry when they meet on a train trip and decide to spend one day together even if they now that they will not probably see each other again.
Linklater’s film is unconventional because it feels so real. The feelings of the heroes and their tiny little nuances is there on the the screen so graspable and familiar to the viewer. The whole movie is practically a homage to these magical moments that a couple shares just before they get together, the exposition of two different personalities and all of these elements that bond them and keep them apart at the same time.
17. Last Life in the Universe (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, 2003)
The film starts with a scene where we see a young male librarian trying to commit suicide. Kenji is an obsessive-compulsive man whose apartment is filled with books placed in perfectly symmetrical stashes. His suicidal endeavours are humorously interrupted every single time and after a series of unfortunate events he meets and teams up with a young girl named Noi. Kenji moves in with Noi whose lifestyle, being completely opposite to his own, will make the two of them create a strange but intimate bond.
Last Life in the Universe is a perfectly unconventional romantic film, infused with fair doses of dramatic, crime and comedic elements. The interaction of the two heroes is hilariously presented in a smooth and emotional tempo. The character development is carefully orchestrated and when the romance between Kenji and Noi flourishes it looks natural even if it is as atypical as their distinctive personalities.
18. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
Paul Thomas Anderson is not a director who would make a conventional romantic film. Punch-Drunk Love is as dramatic as it is romantic but manages to serve a heart-warming story about a man who is seemingly cold and stiff.
Barry is suffering from anger issues and his life is marked by the presence of his seven highly irritating sisters who don’t miss a chance to pinpoint all of his dysfunctionalities. One day after witnessing a mysterious accident the hero meets a friend of one of his sisters, Lena, who will awaken his amorous side.
Barry, just like Lars in Lars and the Real Girl, has a psychological condition that doesn’t allow him to interact with other people in a normal manner. In his days of loneliness, instead of trying to find a real girlfriend, he calls a woman on a telephone sex-line in order to channel his sexual drives.
This innocent action has an unexpected turn and the man becomes the victim of a scam. His relationship with Lena, nevertheless, helps him to overcome his practical and mental issues and see some light at the end of the tunnel.
19. Wristcutters: A Love Story (Goran Dukic, 2006)
Wristcutters has a plot that is so creative that it becomes unforgettable. Zia commits suicide only to find himself in another dimension where all of the suicide victims are transferred after they end their lives. In a reality that feels like a post-apocalyptic Alice in Wonderland he encounters various people who have already gotten used to their new existence. Among them is Mikal, a hitch-hiker who claims that her death was a fraud and she is not supposed to be there.
Zia and Mikal get closer to each other, form a romance and inspect all of their before-life doings that led them to this strange dimension. Wristcutters is a romantic road movie, invigorating and sweet despite of its dark theme. Playing with the idea of a second chance in life, it presents the suicidal people as actors in a surrealist black comedy. The love story of the two heroes lends the film with a profound sweetness and hope that everything can change for the better.
20. My Sassy Girl (Jae-young Kwak, 2001)
My Sassy Girl is one of the most unconventional teen-flicks ever, breaking the normative expectations about how a boy and a girl should behave in a love relationship. Gyeon-woo is a university student with a neat and calm life, completely unable to find a girlfriend.
When his family arranges a date for him, the boy catches the train to go meet his potential love. But he spots a drunk girl who is dangerously approaching the edge of the platform and pulls her away just in time. ”The Girl”, as the heroine is named throughout the film, is a temperamental and unstable creature with violent outbursts that will make Gyeon-woo’s life a nightmare.
Gyeon-woo, though, is attracted to her unpredictability and the two of them get closer and closer to each other, exposing themselves, their fears and insecurities. The film is unconventional because of its refreshing gender dynamics. The boy is clever, dynamic and insecure and the girl is aggressive, overwhelming but also sweet. The two heroes develop a romance that is truly based on respect and admiration and they are called to overcome obstacles in order to be together.
Author Bio: Angeliki is currently a student in the Master’s Programme in Cinema Studies in Stockholm’s University. She spent hundreds of hours watching Asian films but at the same time she keeps herself up to date with new releases of European and American Indie movies.