The Watchlist: Valentine’s Day

The Watchlist is Klassiki’s occasional series of themed viewing recommendations drawing from the cinema of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. In this edition, we pick seven films from the Klassiki Library to match your every Valentine’s Day mood – whether you’re a hopeless romantic or a cynical singleton.

April (dir. Otar Iosseliani, 1961)

When it comes to compiling a Valentine’s Day watchlist, the biggest problem is the sheer volume of options. The Klassiki Library contains all manner of romantic tales: from animation to musicals, silent film to contemporary drama. Below are seven titles available to watch right now from some of the most beloved filmmakers in our collection, all concerned with matters of the heart but ranging in tone from heartfelt sincerity to witty deconstruction.

 

April (dir. Otar Iosseliani, 1961)

First up, it’s only right to pay tribute to the great poet of Georgian cinema, Otar Iosseliani, who passed away in January. This early medium-length film is typical of his work: lyrical, romantic, and quietly radical. Shot as a silent film, April charts the hope and fear of young love through an ingenious conceit: our fresh-faced couple, while searching for the perfect place to share a kiss, find themselves increasingly trapped within the consumerist domain of their apartment, lorded over by animate furniture and furnishings. A sly commentary on the commodification of human feeling and the forces that keep us from expressing our true emotions.

Watch April on Klassiki now and explore our collection of Georgian titles here.

 

Motorcycle Summer (dir. Uldis Brauns, 1975)

Motorcycle Summer is the sole fiction feature from Uldis Brauns – the Latvian maestro who helped to reinvent non-fiction filmmaking as part of the so-called “poetic documentary” movement that emerged from the Baltic states in the 1950s and ‘60s. It’s an endearing Soviet twist on the biker movie and a touching romance that never succumbs to outright sentimentality. When Māris (Pēteris Gaudiņš) receives a motorbike for his eighteenth birthday, he hits the road with his friends. There he meets unhappy bride-to-be Inese (Inese Jansone) and her thoughtless fiancé, and a whirlwind romance blooms that soon sees the pair riding the roads of Soviet Latvia. But will theirs be any more than a fleeting summer of love? Brauns explores the clash between youth and tradition with sensitivity and a keen eye for human drama.

Watch Motorcycle Summer on Klassiki now and explore our collection of Latvian titles here.

Motorcycle Summer (dir. Uldis Brauns, 1975)

Love Affair, or The Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (dir. Dušan Makavejev, 1967)

Flipping the Valentine’s script entirely is this gleefully subversive, formally skittish, and surprisingly moving romantic oddity from the inimitable Dušan Makavejev, scion of the Yugoslav Black Wave. Centred around the titular doomed affair between a Hungarian switchboard operator Izabela (Eva Ras) and a Muslim, middle-aged sanitation specialist Ahmed (Slobodan Aligrudić), this parable about the political implications of free love jumps between tense personal drama, pseudo-documentary addresses from sexologists and criminologists, and grotesque comedy. A perfect entry point into the radical, off-kilter humanism of the Black Wave, with its concern for the marginal and the unhinged, it’s also a delicious dissection of the darker side of romantic passion.

Watch Love Affair on Klassiki now and explore our collection of Yugoslav Black Wave titles here.

 

Spring on Zarechnaya Street (dir. Marlen Khutsiev, 1956)

The release in 1956 of Spring on Zarechnaya Street, the feature debut of the much-loved Marlen Khutsiev (I Am Twenty, July Rain), signalled a sea change in Soviet cinema. The film was one of the first statement pieces in the nascent “Thaw” that followed the death of Stalin. Khutsiev and co-director Feliks Mironer captured the sincerity and optimism of the newly liberal and enthused 1950s, making Spring an instant hit that remains a touchstone to this day. While the film has much to say about the process of post-war reconstruction, at its heart is the charming, odd couple romance between a literature teacher and a happy-go-lucky factory worker (Nina Ivanova and Nikolai Rybnikov), refreshingly free of cliché and full of feeling.

Watch Spring on Zarechnaya Street on Klassiki now.

 

Brief Encounters (dir. Kira Muratova, 1967)

Another debut feature, this time from the inimitable Kira Muratova: one of Russian-language cinema’s most idiosyncratic auteurs. Relationships are never simple in Muratova’s films, and Brief Encounters is no exception. The director described the film as a “provincial Chekhovian melodrama”, and while it’s certainly an apt label, it doesn’t do justice to the witty cynicism and quiet devastation that Muratova wrings out of what might have been a tawdry potboiler premise. The director stars opposite legendary singer Vladimir Vysotsky and debutante Nina Ruslanova as one member of a fractured love triangle, with the tale of female rivalry and dashed dreams related through a series of disorienting flashbacks. Banned for twenty years and only rediscovered in the late ‘80s, Brief Encounters has long since been recognised as a classic: right from the off, Muratova knew how to get to the thorny heart of a love story like no other.

Watch Brief Encounters on Klassiki now and explore other titles from Kira Muratova here.

Farewells (dir. Wojciech Has, 1958)

Farewells (dir. Wojciech Has, 1958)

Romantic narratives often reflect the broader social context in which they are made: if Khutsiev’s Spring on Zarechnaya Street captures the optimism of post-Stalinism and post-war reconstruction, then Wojciech Has’s melancholic adaptation of Stanisław Dygat’s novel evokes the despair pervading Poland in the years before and after the Second World War. Made at the start of Has’s singular, often surreal career, as the title suggests Farewells is a story of love found and lost. In 1939, bourgeois student Pawel (Tadeusz Janczar) rebels against his conservative upbringing by running away to the countryside with cynical dancer Lidka (Maria Wachowiak). Their idyll is disrupted first by their families, and then by the catastrophe of war. Reconnecting years later, the pair reflect on the traumas suffered since and question their capacity to love again. Has’s fatalistic vision of a relationship – and a society – riven by unbreachable divides proved highly influential for the nascent Polish Film School of the late 1950s. A perfect blend of romanticism and cynicism.

Watch Farewells on Klassiki now.

 

Ana, mon amour (dir. Călin Peter Netzer, 2017)

The Romanian New Wave has produced a huge array of biting social and political commentary since the turn of the millennium – but it may never have turned out a better love story than Călin Peter Netzer’s Ana, mon amour. The follow-up to his Golden Bear-winning Child’s Pose, this intricate and intimate dissection of a long-term relationship charts the heady highs and agonising lows of the romance between Tomas and Ana (Mircea Postelnicu and Diana Cavallioti) from student dorm to divorce and eventual, tentative reconciliation. Netzer’s film is an unsparing but empathetic portrait of depression and emotional dependence that never loses sight of the redemptive potential of romance. With clear nods to Bergman and Cassavetes, the fragmented and non-linear narrative speaks to Netzer’s interest in the stories we tell about ourselves and our relationships, and the painful path to true self-understanding. Not the easiest of Valentine’s Day watches, one of the most clear-eyed.

Watch Ana, mon amour on Klassiki now and explore our collection of Romanian New Wave titles here.