For the last couple of years, the Criterion Collection has done its best to offer a light in the life of unlucky in love cinephiles everywhere by offering a flash sale of its inventory in their online store on Valentine’s Day. If anyone woke up this morning initially feeling heartbroken and betrayed by the lack of 50% off Criterion announcements in his or her inbox, well, the wait was only a few hours for Criterion to announce its newest treat: to celebrate the company’s two-year anniversary with Hulu, all 800-plus Criterion selections on Hulu Plus will be availabe free of charge to non-subscribers through Monday. So if you’re looking for the perfect date movie this Valentine’s weekend, you have plenty of classic viewing to choose from. You and your loved one could try to endure the witheringly harsh relationship realities of films like Bergman’s “Scenes from a Marriage” or Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence,” or you could go with something a bit lighter. Here are our picks for five of the most romantic additions to the collection, all of which are available to stream instantly on Hulu.
Few films have depicted the visceral act of longing so vividly as Wim Wender’s love poem to the city of Berlin, a fantastical romace between an angel (Bruno Ganz) and a lonely trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin). A film so powerful it later inspired Nicolas Cage to creepily gawk at Meg Ryan in the 1998 remake “City of Angels,” “Wings” and it’s richly contrasted, starkly beautiful black and white cinematography by Henri Alekan has become a time-tested classic among the more romantic cinephiles. As an added bonus, It also features Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds playing live in the fantastic scene where Ganz and Dommartin finally meet.
Usually noted as one of the most influential and revolutionary films in modern history, announcing the arrival of the French New Wave and tearing apart traditional form and editing, it’s easy to forgot that Godard’s best-known film is also incredibly fun, sexy and romantic. The tale of the doomed romance between a French petty thief and his American girlfriend (Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg) as they plot their escape, “Breathless” is still cool to this day, and probably one of the most essential titles on Hulu.
Yes, it’s the least uplifting film on the list, but it’s hard not to include a work that elevates the love interest to the level of a timeless Greek goddess. As the mercurial Catherine, the acute angle of a raging love triange between writer best friends Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre), Jeanne Moreau practically invented the role of the idealized, enigmatic, protofeminist heartbreaker that “doesn’t want to be understood.” Equally heartwarming are the early bromantic escapades of the titular characters. You know it’s not going to end up well for the lovesick protagonists, but all of the setpieces and postmodern visual gags leading up to the tragic conclusion are still a lot of fun, as is the fantastic score by Georges Delerue.
For fans of Chaplin, “City Lights” is moving for a number of reasons. At the high water mark of the Tramp’s career, studios were beginning to embrace the use of sound in films, and yet Chaplin stuck to his old ways and created one of his most successful films. The story of Chaplin’s Tramp meeting and falling in love with a blind girl played by Virginia Cherrill, the film is also noteworthy for having one of the most emotional endings of a Chaplin comedy.
60 years before Richard Linklater explored fleeting romatic encounters in the European summer with his immaculate romance “Before Sunrise,” filmmakers had already discovered the appeal of the trope. Clocking in at just 40 minutes, partially the fault of a tumultous production history that left the film essentially unfinished, “Country” is still regarded as one of Renoir’s best films. The extremely brief romance between Henri (Georges Darnoux) and Henriette (Sylvia Bataille), lasts no longer than a moment together on a riverbank in the French countryside, but it stays with both characters through their entire lives.