by Richard von Busack
I AM the man who thought it would be a dandy idea to take a shy, ballet-loving high school girl to Papillon. "It means 'Butterfly'! A charming Gallic farce!" By the film was over, I was not on speaking terms with her, since she had just witnessed a really bloody guillotining, a truckload of Devil's Island prison atrocities and other stuff you don't want to think about when you're nibbling chocolates.
Here are 10 suggestions to make sure your post Valentine's Day weekends will be wide open. I have chosen to ignore the usual much-vaunted trio of recent breakup movies—(500) Days of Summer, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Why? Simple. All three are about footy-pajama-wearing pre-adolescents who are, for some commercial reason, played by actors who are 20, 30—and in Jim Carrey's case—42 years old. The films below have adults in them. Messed-up adults. Mean adults. And they'll make you so, so happy to be newly single.
After Hours (1985) Just take a look at the poster: tell me that's not romantic. From dusk until dawn, a fleeing singleton (Griffin Dunne) in Manhattan, trying to get a date: such seriously tempting '80s actresses as Teri Garr and Catherine O'Hara only add to his persecution in one of Martin Scorsese's most excruciating films.
Closer (2004) Named after a Joy Division album that makes people want to kill themselves, Closer stars a quartet of vicious Londoners, including Natalie Portman as a lying exotic dancer, Julia Roberts (showing levels of wrath only her personal assistant had witnessed previously) and Clive Owen as a physician who says comforting things like "Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, wrapped in blood!" (Make it a Mike Nichols evening for your soon-to-be-dumped companion: program a quadruple bill of this, Nichols' Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Heartburn and Carnal Knowledge. Nichols has been married four times, says the IMBD. Well, that's a surprise.)
Antichrist (2009) A howling triple-X shocker, with really fussy surfaces, made by a Scandinavian director (see Shame below) who said he shot the film as a cure for two years of depression. "He" (Willem "I'm being skinned alive again" Dafoe) meets "She" (Charlotte Gainsbourg). After the couple's toddler commits suicide they head out to the forest of mutant critters for loads of really bad sex. Chaos reigns; it certainly will in your car on the way back home.
Fatal Attraction (1987) Ultimately, who is more reprehensible: lousy no-good, cheating husbands? Or bunny-boiling hookups who don't have temporary brains to understand what the three initials "NSA" mean? Answer: both! "I won't allow you treat me like some slut you can just bang a couple of times and throw in the garbage!" That's just one mood-settling line (from Glenn Close, of course) that'll ready that special someone for a night of canoodling. The moral of the story: You can't trust anyone or anything, except maybe your cat, your electric blanket and that half-read Patti Smith memoir on the nightstand.
Irreversible (2003) Director Gaspar Noe said that he wanted to put "Vengeance Is Man's Right" on the poster. The middle of the movie is a now famous 15-minute rape scene. Topic for discussion, while your soon-to-be-ex flees from the multiplex: "How about Noe's mise-en-scene? Is, then, vengeance a man's right? Can I call you? How about next weekend?"
Porky's (1982) Bob Clark's comedy about the wackiest bunch of teens who ever scored a chick separates the men from the women—right there in the theater. Why isn't she laughing at the scene where the gang drills a hole to spy on the girls' locker room? What is she, a virgin?
Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975) One of the many promoters of the Pasolini film on the Internet asks: "A work of rigorous moral intelligence or a descent into a nightmare of cruelty and lust?" Take the high road: Tell your date that anyone who changes the channel on this infamous film is collaborating with the fascists.
In the Company of Men (1997) Neil LaBute channels the creepy side of Restoration comedy in this really deal-breaking story of a pair of modern Midwestern rogues vowing to seduce and humiliate a deaf girl. Sample witticism: "I don't trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn't die." Aaron Eckhart plays Chad Piercewell, hint, hint.
Shame (Skammen) (1968) Ingmar Bergman's speculative-fiction drama of a near-future civil war affecting liberal cultured types. Eva (Liv Ullmann), already the kind of self-possessed Viking specimen that makes men curl up and want to hide, gets ever more seething. Her man, Jan (Max von Sydow), becomes more spineless and accommodating to the powers that be. What you've got is one unforgettable, beautifully conceived horror story about how a dictatorship cuckolds every man and whores every woman. It's that one date movie you'll want when you only want one date. They don't have it? How about Godard's Contempt? You're welcome!
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? (1966) An American couple with the significant names George (Richard Burton) and Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) hit the booze to endure the boredom of living at a cow college. Fortunately, they have a pair of callow young bores to sharpen their claws upon. There's drinking, taunting, braying, airing of grievances, rounds of "Get the Guests" and "Hump the Hostess." Inform that special someone that this is where you hope the two of you will be in 20 years.