Just in time for Valentine’s Day, we guide you through A Century of Romance, a series which brings together 10 superlative cinematic ruminations on love and love lost from around the world, one from each decade from the 1920s to the 2010s. Romance is timeless, but here’s our decade-by-decade look at cinematic love stories to swoon over, sob to, and snuggle up with, all streaming on Metrograph At Home.
1920s Expressionistic set design and downright goofy framing heightens the cartoonish anarchy of pre-Hollywood Lubitsch’s military-set romantic fantasy, in which a rakish playboy German Lieutenant Alexis (Paul Heidemann) falls for “Mountain Cat” (silent-era star Pola Negri), the daughter of the mountain chieftain who captures him.
Sagan’s pioneering all-female cast romance may have been made in the ’30s, but it still stands out today as a sophisticated drama of blossoming queer desire, following Manuela (Romy Schneider), the new student at a boarding school for military officer’s daughters who begins to develop an unusually passionate attachment to one of her teachers.
A seamy, gut-twisting noir, Lang’s milestone drama stars Edward G. Robinson as the fool who makes the mistake of loving femme fatale Joan Bennett, a heart-wrenching, model 1940s blonde schemer with a bad boyfriend in tow.
The curious kinship between American noir and Italian Neorealism, styles that coalesced around the same time on opposite sides of the Atlantic, is abundantly evident in Antonioni’s feature debut about a murderous coupling, in which an impassioned but fatal romance is set off against alluringly cool, hard modernist buildings and corporate architecture of postwar Milan, with heroine Lucia Bosé dressed to match.
Channelling countercultural zeal and the lusty languor of the Summer of Love, Cardiff’s work of psychedelia-tinged, mod-styled erotic delirium stars ’60s “It” Girl Marianne Faithfull as a catsuit-clad free spirit, riding her Harley between France and Germany—and meetings with husband Roger Mutton and lover Alain Delon.
A parody of the pornochanchada sex comedies that proliferated in Brazil during the ’70s, Andrade’s triptych farce delights in the travails of a young sexual deviant, an oversexed lawyer, and a senile couple malingering in abusive codependency. By depicting the bedroom as battleground, Andrade’s fourth feature provocatively wrangles with then-contemporary debates to explore the myriad ways that sex, class, and race intersect.
Embodying the best qualities of ’80s American indie cinema, Rathod’s charming and resourceful romantic “culture-clash comedy” concerns Vikram, a young Mumbai native who’s stranded in San Francisco with nothing to do after his college plans fall through—until he falls for the punkish artist Sue, and must dream up a series of ruses to keep himself from being deported.
A ’90s breakthrough hit, and the first film in Hùng’s much acclaimed Vietnam Trilogy, this sublimely sensitive and beautifully detailed evocation of midcentury Saigon patiently weaves its magic, enacting a decade-long slow-burn romance.
A timeless love triangle gets a late aughts do-over. Brize’s deceptively minor-key film about the developing romance between a married man and his son’s homeroom teacher, which recalls beloved romances such as David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945), shines extra bright thanks to exquisitely lived-in performances from Vincent Lindon and Sandrine Kiberlain.
Hittman’s intimate and remarkably authentic feature debut sticks to south Brooklyn teenager Lila (Gina Piersanti) as she navigates her own embarrassed, fumbling attempts to gain sexual experience and the pains of coming of age. A markedly millennial, unromantic depiction of romance, the film contains not a single false moment.