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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Just Break Up!

Thursday is the last day to see one of the greatest movies about a bad relationship ever made, Maurice Pialat’s We Won’t Grow Old Together. Usually in movies, you’re rooting for the central couple to get together (or get back together, or at least patch things up), but in WWGOT, you’re pretty sure from the beginning that these two don’t belong together. (By the way, this doesn’t make the film a downer. While being about romantic alienation and infidelity, it’s a funny travelogue and also ruggedly stylish.) This got us thinking about some of our other favorite movies featuring doomed couples, relationships that shouldn’t be, and lovers destined not to take the leap.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
You’re not allowed to talk about movies about bad relationships without mentioning Mike Nichols’ classic. It’s so obviously the king of this microgenre that we’ll just mention that one of the best parts of Beats, Rhymes, and Life is when Q-Tip mentions Virginia and asks the camera, “You ever see that movie? Whoooooo! Sometimes I feel like my life is like that.” –Nathan Gelgud

Perhaps the ultimate cinematic testament to sticking by your man no matter how much he beats you or how much he’s a slimy murderous psychopath, Carol Reed’s adaptation of the music Oliver! was one of my favorite movies growing up and was shockingly rated G regardless of the violence, both domestic and otherwise. Indeed, it remains the only G-rated film to win the Best Picture Oscar. The lovely tune “As Long as He Needs Me”— about Nancy’s willingness to be by Bill’s side no matter how awful he is—competes with The Crystals’ “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)” for the title of the most uncomfortably beautiful paean to staying in love with abusive assholes. –Troy Dandro

Zulawski’s divorce movie sums up how bad a break-up can be, and what a jerk your girlfriend’s new boyfriend is: he’s totally calm about you showing up at her crib, wants everyone to get along, and can kick your ass. Then it turns out she doesn’t even love him, but another slimeball completely. –NG

Another post-breakup masterpiece, the other side of the Possession coin. If Zulawski showed you how bad the ex’s new beau can be, Hitchcock shows you how much the rebound will pale by comparison. A masterpiece of not getting over it. –NG

Happy Together
Doe-eyed gay icon Leslie Cheung and hetero thesp-god Tony Leung tear into each other in the Buenos Aires-set Happy Together. The sex is impatiently dispensed with in the first few minutes, leaving the on-the-rocks couple to languish in post-coital ennui and bitterness for the rest of the movie. In anyone else’s hands, this would get old and depressing fast, but Wong Kar-wai and cinematographer Christopher Doyle turn all the urban squalor, chain-smoking, and emotional desolation into some of golden-age Hong Kong cinema’s swoon-worthiest images. When the opening half-hour’s gritty black-and-white photography gives way to a lush, almost aquatic palette, Wong surrounds his angry, emotionally withdrawn lovers with so much beauty that the film’s climactic affirmation of love and friendship feels completely earned. –Andrew Chan

King Kong
Love kills. King Kong falls for Fay Wray—hard—in this classic monster film about an overgrown gorilla apenapped from his cozy jungle and brought to New York City as a Broadway attraction. The mesmerizing effect that Ann Darrow (Wray) has on the giant beast is quite heartwarming and his desire to protect her from swarms of overzealous Air Force pilots is touching, but a love this pure is not long for the world. When King Kong plummets from his rosy-hued fantasy of amour to the cold hard reality of the lonely New York City streets, the man who brought him to Broadway writes a fitting epitaph: "Oh, no, it wasn't the was Beauty killed the Beast." –TD

Husbands and Wives
For a guy who’s made as many movies about relationships as John Ford did about cowboys, there aren’t that many doomed couples or gut-wrenching breakups in Woody Allen’s movies. Annie and Alvy only break up because their relationship is like a shark—it has to keep moving forward. To his own chagrin, Allen capped a happy ending on Hannah and Her Sisters, where everyone wound up content. (We think he shouldn’t sweat it; it totally works). But the break up in Husbands and Wives more than makes up for the absence of bad splits in the Woodyverse. You know when they shot the break up between Woody and Mia’s characters, Mia had just found out about the Soon-yi affair that week? Watch it again now that you know. You can tell. –NG

Godfather II
You kind of had an idea that the honeymoon was over for Mr. & Mrs. Corleone at the end of the first Godfather when the recently minted Don Corleone 2.0 books his enemies a first-class to corpse town and white lies to wife Kay before his minions shut the door in her face. Any marriage counselor will tell you that a relationship constructed on a foundation of lies just can’t last, especially when that foundation is made from bleeding Italian gangsters. Formerly weak-willed Kay wises up to her wise-guy breadwinner in Part II and does the unforgiveable, taking out a hit on their unborn son and rubbing the information in his face. No marriage counselor on Earth could fix this one, and Kay is ousted from the family and has the door shut in her face a second time. Happy postscript: The Godfather Part III reveals that Michael eventually came around and granted custody of the bambino and bambina to Kay, but audiences had to wait 16 years to learn about that happy development. –TD

Days of Wine and Roses
Hare-brained runt Jack Lemmon is lucky enough to get total fox and Go-Betweens muse Lee Remick to go out with him, makes her start drinking, turns her into a wino, then he decides to clean up and drops her when she won’t join his sober-up cult (AA), public confessional and Bible-thumping included. Lemmon, you’re a real dick in this one. –NG

Right before Lars von Trier made the best movie of 2011 (Melancholia), he hit us with this generally dismissed cringe piece. Genital mutilation scenes got all the blog talk, but there’s something memorably substantial in the way Antichrist treats a failing marriage as one between a psychotherapist and his client. But no, we’ll probably never watch this again. –NG

The Brood
We all have our own emotional baggage. Sometimes we live with this stuff, deal with it, and have happy relationships. However, sometimes it can corrode a marriage to the point of disintegration. And sometimes, this baggage can give you the ability to spawn mutant dwarf children. Estranged from her husband Frank and in “psychoplasmic” therapy with quackish Dr. Raglan, Nola’s devastating memories of parental alcoholism and abuse cause her body to grow a gruesome womb that deposits homicidal little dwarf children into the world to kill anyone who pisses her off. When Frank tries to gain custody of their daughter Candice, Nola turns her brood against the child and Frank has to seek a divorce through irreconcilable strangulation in order to rescue her. –TD

(500) Days of Summer
Zooey Deschanel and JGL aren’t actually in a torturous relationship, but it’s torture to watch them in this movie that thinks it’s about doomed romance but it’s really about … oh, who cares. –NG

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Talk about a mid-life crisis: Richard Dreyfus tears up the garden, breaks the windows, alienates the neighbors, and goes chasing spaceships. And who’s got to clean up the mess and look after the gaggle of kids bouncing off the walls? His lovely wife, Teri Garr, that’s who. She tries to understand, but he’s too busy playing with mashed potatoes to bother helping her...

... And then five years later, Garr would be on the receiving end of another diminutive jerk with issues too big to explain in Tootsie. You sure can pick ‘em, Teri. –NG

Max Mon Amour
Can a love affair with a chimpanzee ever be healthy? Charlotte Rampling goes ape over well, an ape in this deadpan and bizarrely funny send-up of bourgeois codes of conduct. While Oshima is no stranger to obsessive/destructive relationships (In the Realm of the Senses), this film stands out for its surrealism—it was scripted by Jean-Claude Carrière, who also worked with Buñuel. What’s even stranger is that Charlotte Rampling’s husband isn’t unhinged by her unorthodox choice of paramour; on the contrary, he invites Max the monkey to live in their tony apartment (and even invites him to eat with them at dinner). Unsurprisingly, the situation gets a little hairy, as homo-sapien sophistication clashes with animal instincts in this transgressive exploration of the bestial taboo.      
–Cynthia Lugo

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