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DVDs for V-Day: Love/Hate Stories

Posted on the 14 February 2012 by Cinefilles @cinefilles
I swear I'm not here to piss on love stories.
In all honesty, I have much love for more than a few well-known wistful weepies (see: the Brokeback Mountain still kicking around my bedroom wall). But, to build on an idea dreamed up by a possible plagiarist of an Englishman, I think love is much more interesting (not to mention real) when its either sprung from, or becomes remains steeped in, some form of highly repressed hate. And no, it's not because I'm perpetually single. (Although, I'm sure it helps.)
This Valentine's Day let's buck the happily ever afters and those til-death-do-us-part paramours, and celebrate the anti-romances we can't help but love.

DVDs for V-Day:  Love/Hate Stories
When I was in high school, I read the Edward Albee play which this 1966 film based on. Immediately, I compared it to my then-favourite movie, American Beauty. Looking back now, I admit there are some similarities between the two  - American dreams indefinitely deferred, fully grown couples acting like children towards one another - but this is much more heartbreaking. While American Beauty takes moments to grace our cheeks with rose petals and smidgens of helpless hope, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? laps up the irksomeness, focusing solely on an awkward dinner party between jaggedly jaded, long-married man and wife, George and Martha (real-life doomed duo, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor), and their clueless newlywed guests. Martha's words are so cutting towards her husband at times, her tongue ought to fly off.

DVDs for V-Day:  Love/Hate Stories
This 2010 drama was almost completely ignored come awards season due to its adverse effect on audiences, who apparently wanted to see Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling cuddle and make like Mr. and Mrs. Smith (no, not the Angelina/Brad kind) for two hours. What they got instead was something groundbreaking - an up close and too personal (both in script and suggestive shooting) exploration of a relationship that never really was and thus, never really can be, through the eyes of two, equally unremarkable characters. What they got was far too many people's harsh truth.

DVDs for V-Day:  Love/Hate Stories
Before this film, an adaptation of the Richard Yates novel of the same name, was released, it was touted as the much-awaited Jack and Rose reunion we had been waiting for since '97. But unlike Titanic, which brought a fresh-faced Leo DiCaprio and a fire-haired Kate Winslet together through the bow of a boat and the belts of Celine Dion, Revolutionary Road doesn't even try for a happy, heaven-set ending.  Every aspect of this 1950s suburbia-set drama - the bleak coloured clothes, the slow-progressing storyline, and DiCaprio and Winslet's brilliantly vacant, Oscar-deserving (but not nominated) performances - is depressing. But then again, so were plenty of marriages back then, when divorce was a fate worse than death.

DVDs for V-Day:  Love/Hate Stories
This one takes the poisoned chocolate cake simply because its doomed subjects - who led destructive, drug- and dagger-addled side-by-side lives until one of them died in a hotel bathroom - were real. The 1986 biopic documents the way-highs and skin-crawling lows of the infamously short-lived romance between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his peroxide-happy girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.
Vicious and Spungen's journey was a dirty, sex, suicide pact and syringe-filled one, a fact that is not only admitted in this film, but embraced with reckless artistic abandon. Director Alex Webb brings out an unmatched (unless you count this), brutally infected rawness in his stars, Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, making much of the movie, which is made up mostly of long-winded verbal and physical fights followed by rabid love-making, near-unbearable to watch. But there's also macabre beauty to all of it, like when Oldman takes to an empty, florescent light-covered stage to sing Vicious cover of "My Way" to his barbed wire crowned babe, or the bloody pair embrace in what will become one of their death beds.

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