10 Alternative Cinematic Valentines

by Bill Gibron

14 February 2012


Love is in the air, as mandated by Madison Avenue, various greeting card manufacturers, and endless couples’ arguments. Yes, it’s that time of year again, time to celebrate a faux holiday originally created to honor a Catholic Saint, but was then later removed from the official Vatican calendar around 1969. Still, with untold dozens of roses to be bought and metric tons of candy and other confections to be divvied up, Valentine’s Day will not go gentle into that good night. As irrelevant as it remains—after all, why demand a day for affection and romance (shouldn’t that be a year-round thing?)—it still seems to make many a hellbound heart skip that intangible beat. For those without a significant other, or the desire to spend their hard earned money on commercially coerced emotion, 14 February can suck hard cheese. Perhaps that’s why true feelings are so mysterious… without a corporation telling you what to believe, sentiment has become stagnant over the decades.

Don’t worry, we are here to help. Instead of sitting around lamenting the fact that a media made love life seems to be passing you buy, check out our 10 Greatest Alternative Cinematic Valentines, movies that will make your lack of chalky candy nibbles and overpriced foliage festooned with baby’s breath a bit more bearable. For many, these films will appear like sacrilege, purposefully mean without truly understanding the need for Valentines. For most of us, however, they represent the real reason for hating the season. In Annie Hall, Woody Allen had an elderly woman utter the most brilliant line of dialogue ever to describe the fate of romance: “love fades”. Indeed… and these motion picture reminders are what happens when it does. From murder and mayhem to misery and melancholy, all forced celebrations can be wrapped up in these Decalogue for the desperate, dateless, and depressed.

#10: Kill Bill 1 & 2

Hell—and the homage heavy motion picture landscape—apparently hath no fury like a woman scorned… or in this case, beaten and brutalized to an inch of her life and her unborn baby’s life. When the sword wielding assassin known as “The Bride” comes out of her four year coma (under the heavy breathing of a potential hospital molester), she has just one goal in mind: REVENGE! Unaware that her child actually survived the attempted murder, she makes a beeline to the title character, slaughtering anyone that gets in her way. A good lesson for anyone thinking about leaving their betrothed (dead) at the altar.

#9: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover

Some have suggested that Peter Greenaway’s masterpiece of modern melancholy is really nothing more than a coarse political allegory disguised as a sleazy sex drama, but there is more here than amazing Jean-Paul Gautier costumes, abundant nudity, and creepy cannibalism. Indeed, buried beneath the title mobster’s rants, his disrespect of women, and his gourmand gluttony, is the tale of a beautiful, fragile woman trapped in a destructive marriage—and the man who tries to save her from same. Yes, it all ends dreadfully, but along the way, we learn some sickening lessons about food, domination, and individual evil.

#8: American Beauty

Love him or hate him, but Sam Mendes has got soiled suburban angst and ennui down pat. For the first of his two entries on this list, we revisit the 1999 Oscar winner which showed how modern male menopause can turn into something both celebratory and sad. Kevin Spacey’s disgruntled dad might think he is sewing the last of his drying wild oats, but in truth, nothing can save him from destroying himself and his family. Lusting after his daughter’s teenage friend is one thing. Showing maturity and compassion where cruelty is, perhaps, better suited ends up being his unkind comeuppance.

#7: Happiness

While the bottom down dad as secretive pedophile angle got all the attention (and why not—movies don’t often feature characters masturbating to a copy of Tiger Beat magazine), the hollow heart of this movie follows the depressing misadventures of three sisters, each so unlucky in love that their existence should be an educational example of anyone considering companionship. Even their parents can’t find the title emotion. Instead, they decide to slowly drift apart. Here’s how poisonous the Maplewood gals are. After a date with desperate Joy, one sullen suitor goes off and kills himself. Ouch!

#6: Antichrist

Loss is at the center of Lars Von Trier’s remarkable, controversial look at gender politics and man/woman wanting. While having sex in the shower, a couple are unaware that their child is headed for the open window of their high rise apartment. One horrific accident later, and the pair are off in the woods seeking healing. Instead, they tap into some surreal psychological miscalculations, the results of which turn their retreat into a weekend of terror. While many believe the movie’s motives to be misogynistic, the truth is that it is one of the most painful portraits of how partners split ever conceived.

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