Ah Valentine’s day, the supposed most romantic day of the year. The corporate holiday of praying on the single and lonely, when chocolates are more expensive then Easter (and somehow prosecco is now the new romantic drink), and where couples are forced to do something overtly romantic for their other halves (despite that if you truly love someone you’ll do it all year long and not just on one designated day).
As you can tell I am not the biggest fan of the day. So as you can already guess this list will be a bit different then the usual romantic lists (for some picks VERY different). After looking at other so called ‘anti’ Valentine’s lists I noticed how tame they all were and seemed to include the same films (500 Days of Summer will not be featured). Hope you enjoy it and have a happy Valentine’s.
Well, let’s start with the most anti-Valentine’s film shall we? Baise-Moi (which translates to F**k Me, which you will be saying a lot while watching this), in the simplest terms is a revenge film. Though if you know anything about the film you know that you can’t really describe this film as ‘simple’.
The story follows Nadine and Manu, who have to endure all sorts of perversion in their lives as they work as prostitutes, sex workers, and part time porn actors. Things take an even darker tone when Manu and her friend get gang raped. Manu (after shooting her brother in the head for saying she enjoyed it) meets Nadine at a train station (who just lost her best friend). They both realise that they share the same anger and bitterness of their surroundings. What follows is a very violent and sexually charged road trip of debauchery and depravity as they use sex and violence to try and fill a hole they both have in their lives, knowing full well that they can’t get away with the actions and crimes they’ve committed.
I should point out that this film is not for the faint hearted. If you’re squeamish in any way I would recommend watching something like Thelma and Louise instead. The sex is graphic (the rape scenes in particular are very hard to watch), the violence is very graphic and the language is filthy. There is a reason it got banned by several countries (and is still banned in Australia), and the controversy that follows the film is still very much there. Ask someone who has watched the film and they will either say it’s a disgusting piece of filth, or an art house cult hit.
Personally I like the film. One of the main themes of the film is friendship. Throughout the rampage Nadine & Manu’s friendship grows and you can see the bond between them. It also uses sex very well thematically. They’re not de-powered by sex (certainly not Manu); they use it as liberation and turn the tides on a fair few tropes (such as them rolling off their current partner after orgasm, losing all interest in them and telling them to get lost). I wouldn’t say it empowers them as they are already empowered by the drive they have and the disdain they have for their situations in life. It’s not a masterpiece by any sense of the word but the low budget setting and grainy camera work help keep the film grounded and real.
The Skin I Live In
Ooooh this is an unsettling film about obsession, but absolutely brilliant with (in my opinion) Antonio Banderas’ best performance to date. The story follows a plastic surgeon who after the tragic death of his wife in a fire, is trying to create an indestructible synthetic skin to withstand anything from cuts to fire. He conducts his experiments on a human guinea pig, a beautiful woman who holds some of the secrets to the surgeon’s tragic past and events that he would rather forget. We witness continual flashbacks into their pasts to see how events had led up to the situation they are now in.
The acting in this film is exceptional. Like I previously said Antonio Banderas is outstanding in the lead role of the surgeon Robert Ledgard. He’s such a complicated character but the performance doesn’t give anything away as his character only reveals the slightest of changes as the plot unfolds. The way the audience perceives the character changes as the film goes on but he doesn’t once make it melodramatic. It’s a great example of preparation for a role and an understanding of the character. Elena Anaya also does a great performance as his guinea pig Vera. Her innocence and frailty comes out well and as the story progresses and we see what brought her here, you can see that there is more to it then just innocence. Much like Banderas, a lot of preparation went into the role as her performance has a lot of internal conflict.
Anyone who has watched a film by Pedro Almodovar knows that he creates intriguing characters in a fully realised world in a set up that is always just so interesting to watch (there’s a reason he’s one of Spanish cinema’s great auteurs). The Skin I Live In has great pacing, everything moves at a normal rate but even when things start to build up and you want to know everything quicker it keeps the pace to keep you on the edge of your seat to make the reveals that more effective. Everything about the film will have you drawn in, and gripped as the story continues (I really want to say more but I don’t want to spoil anything, just watch it, this is the highest recommended film on the list).
This picture takes a delightful, sensual stab at marriage and how maybe ‘till death do us part’ is too long. This is a gripping, daring film that plays against how far and how much you can put into a marriage and each other until things go awry, with mind games going on all the time.
The story takes place on a cruise liner bound for India where Nigel (Hugh Grant) and Fiona (Kirsten Scott Thomas), a respectable English couple who meet the unusual pairing of middle aged American writer Oscar (Peter Coyote) and his young, beautiful wife Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner). Oscar introduces themselves and notices how Nigel looks at his wife and starts to tell them the story of how they met and their relationship. It disgusts Fiona but Nigel becomes enthralled, and over the next few days makes excuses to see Nigel (and hopefully Mimi) to hear the rest of the story, hoping to get closer to Mimi.
The story of how Oscar and Mimi met and their subsequent romance is the main story of the film. How they became infatuated with each other and at different times became dependant on them. It’s a story of extremes. How Oscar’s extreme lust and caught by Mimi’s extreme sexual tastes blended that they became tied to each other and on never being able to leave the other. It can get uncomfortable viewing at times (not in a graphical sense, in an atmospheric sense) in how they treat each other, first when Mimi becomes submissive to Oscar and then later when Mimi takes her revenge on him. All the while when it comes back to the present on the ship, Fiona is becoming increasingly fed up with Nigel and decided to flirt with an Italian dancer.
This is one of my favourite Roman Polanski films, and though I’ve seen it a few times I won’t forget how the film made me feel whilst watching it and how I felt at the end. It drew me in and made me feel the uneasiness of how these people treat each other and at the same time fascinated by the characters and story. This film has polarising critics some just call it overacted smut while others call it one of Polanki’s best works. I don’t find the acting to be over the top at all. It was great to see Hugh Grant in a different role from what he became typecast for.
Let’s have something on the list that isn’t so heavy shall we? Why The Terminator I hear you ask? The answer is simple. If you are watching it with your other half it has everything. For those who like action, it’s The Terminator, for those who want romance it has the now immortal story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and Kyle Reece (Michael Biehn), a love story that transcends time (he did come to the future to save her and end up fathering the hope of the future).
The story (if you need telling) is about how in the future, an AI programme called Skynet becomes self-aware and deems humanity obsolete and launches a nuclear strike on the planet. Humanity has one hope in John Connor, the leader of the human resistance. To beat them Skynet sends back in time a Terminator, a cyborg that has been programmed to kill Sarah Connor before John is born. Luckily they resistance sends back Kyle Reece to stop the Terminator and save Sarah.
As love stories go the one between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reece is quite organic as the film progresses. The chemistry between the two actors helps show their love blossom (in between bouts of running for their lives). This all culminates in one of the best sex scenes in cinema. There is a burning passion between them and the way the camera keeps focusing on their clenched hands help show the intensity and how this could be their only night together with the very real possibility of at least one of them being killed by the Terminator. Why have I just contextually analysed their romance (which I myself have just questioned since I stopped typing it)? It’s the first time I’ve thought of it, but it shows that The Terminator is more then just an action film; it has more layers and makes it an even better classic.
War Of The Roses
This film has appeared on a fair few ‘anti-valentine’s’ lists but it’s so enjoyable it has to be spoken about. The third film in the ‘trilogy’ of films to star Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito (the other two in case you were wondering are Romancing The Stone and Jewel Of The Nile). The story starts off with divorce attorney Gavin D’Amato (Danny DeVito) discussing a divorce case with his current client. The client is so insistent about divorcing his wife it reminds Gavin of a previous case and proceeds to tell his client about the story of the Roses. A couple that met 20 years earlier Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) meets Barbara (Kathleen Turner) at an auction. They quickly fall in love and get married. Over the years Barbara increasingly disliking of Oliver and he can’t figure out why. Eventually Barbara wants a divorce and after wishing he died in hospital Oliver agrees. What follows is the pair of them trying to destroy and discredit each other while trying to fight over who gets the house, which they are unknowingly tearing apart.
One of Danny DeVito’s best films that he directed (he hasn’t directed enough films in my opinion), also with the three of them not being together since Jewel Of The Nile which was 6 years previous, the chemistry between them all is still fantastic. Having seen Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas be a great comedy couple in the previous two films and then hating each other in this one is a great contrast (apparently Douglas and Turner had to go for lunch after shooting to remind each other they were still friends).
This is a very witty film with a great script, it’s a black comedy in every sense of the word with a very believable arc of absurdity that ends with the surprising climax (also the lighting used in the film cleverly shows this with it starting all bright and sunny in the open and ending in the dark confined boarded up house). With the other heavy films on this list I thought it would be best to end with a comedy (but keeping it in terms of the style of the list obviously), and this is definitely the one to choose. Just make sure if you do choose to watch it with your other half, that you do care for each other.
There is my list of alternative films to watch this Valentine’s Day. I thought I would stick with five as that should keep you entertained for the evening and give you some choice. Though of course there were many other films I could have chosen but these were the first that sprung to mind and I believe make the list varied and work well.
Here are some honourable mentions in case you finish these films:
–Terminator 2: Judgement Day (well you have to finish the story and find out what happens next).
–Fatal Attraction (nothing says Valentine’s day more then a regrettable one night stand)
–Dangerous Liaisons (why not a love triangle full of deceit and revenge be worth watching?)
–To Die For (basically Dial M For Murder but the roles reversed. Still very much worth a look).
–Lolita (because why not have a lover story that is controversial done by the best director of controversy).
–Dial M For Murder (you need to have a classic on the list).
Thank-you for reading (or just looking at the pictures) and I hope you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for my next list coming soon (about something).
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