Sex, Violence & Sadism: 10 Atypical, Brilliant Films for Valentine’s Day

by Sin Popena

The Romantic Deviant’s Watchlist

Valentine’s day is that peculiar ‘holiday’ where single people feel awkward and couples feel obligated to publicize their love. Whether you’re amorously anchored-down or free as a fiddle, I’ve compiled a list of 10 films to get you through this day. It’s not your typical Valentine’s day watchlist. These films are sick and twisted, violent and manipulative, dark and seductive – as relationships can often be. More importantly, they’re very good movies (s0 don’t waste your money on 50 Shades of Grey).

Disclaimer: You won’t find The Notebook on this list. 

1. True Romance (1993, Tony Scott)

A romantic movie for film buffs

A romantic movie for film buffs

Don’t be put off by the cheesy title, because it’s meant to be ironic. Stripper Alabama (Patricia Arquette) drops her popcorn on Clarence (Christian Slater) in a cinema, causing them to fall in love and get married the next day (the power of a good movie!). But everything goes downhill from there as Clarence murders her pimp and unwittingly snatches a suitcase full of coveted cocaine. This Tarantino scripted, Tony Scott directed film is filled with plot twists, an incredible cast and great chemistry between Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater. It’s extremely violent, but the violence is not gratuitous. A perfect movie for cinema-lovers.

2. Natural Born Killers (1994, Oliver Stone)

Crazy meets Insane

Crazy meets Insane

Sometimes love is all about finding someone as messed up as you.  Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) are not just crazy in love – they’s actually psychotic. Representing modern day Bonnie and Clyde, they make their way down Route 66, killing everyone in their way, merely for the kicks. The media begin to glorify them, turning them into heros. Director Oliver Stone polarized audiences in the 90s with this critique of society’s obsession with gruesome headlines (by the way, it’s based on another Tarantino script). You will love this film for the violence, but you will start hating yourself for doing so.

3. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975, Pier Pasolini)

S

For Pasolini, sex and power are linked

Not a romantic film by any standards, this film is one for the sadists. Genuine warning: not for the faint of heart. Pier Pasolini’s film is an adaptation of the Marquis de Sade’s novel (sadism was actually named in his honor), and after 200 years the story is still entirely shocking. Four fascist libertines round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to a hundred and twenty days of physical, mental and sexual torture. The most disturbing scene involves coprophagy, which you can google at your own risk. Underneath the sexploitation, Pasolini’s film is a very complex study of power and a critique of Italian society as he saw it. It also makes 50 Shades of Grey look like a kid’s show.

4. Bitter Moon (1992, Roman Polanski)

The limits of love

Emmanuelle Seigner being the ultimate femme fatale

While on his honeymoon, Nigel (Hugh Grant) encounters the beautiful and enigmatic Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner), and immediately falls in love with her. Unexpectedly, he then meets her crippled husband Oscar (Peter Coyote), who recounts their torturous love affair. The whole film is from his point of view, and at times the spectator questions the authenticity of the memories. Mimi and Oscar take turns manipulating each other, engaging in extreme S&M acts, and are stuck on a path of mutual self-destruction. Oscar remarks: ‘Everyone has a sadistic streak, and nothing brings it out better than the knowledge you’ve got someone at your mercy.’ This is my favorite Polanski movie, and it’s outrageously sexy.

5. The Dreamers (2003, Bernardo Bertolucci)

The fun way to take a bath

The right way to take a bath

The Dreamers gave me unrealistic expectations about Parisian life when I moved there 2 years ago. I thought the city would be all about the cigarettes, threesomes and endless philosophical discourse. But that kind of lifestyle belongs to the Paris of 1968 (when the movie is set) – the year of the student revolutions. When American student Matthew (Michael Pitt) meets siblings Isabelle and Theo (Eva Green, Louis Garrel), they embark on a sexual adventure that reflects the liberalism of that time. The wine eventually runs out (tant pis) and the dreamers have to wake up to the harsh reality of being broke. But before that happens, Bertolluci gives us some truly intimate moments.

6. Nymphomaniac (Vol. 1 & 2) (2013, Lars von Trier)

Insatiable desire

Insatiable desire

I’m always a little terrified when I enter the cinema to see a Lars von Trier film. He is the master of emotional manipulation, and the scent of his movies lingers in your mind long after the credits are done. In Nymphomaniac, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg/Stacy Martin) is a woman who struggles with an insatiable sex drive her entire life, and in the process, loses the things which are dear to her. Although there are brief comic moments (Uma Thurman and her ‘whoring bed’ scene), the film’s tone is tragic. The very graphic sex scenes do not work as entertainment, but rather form a poetry that is pure Trier magic.

7. Secretary (2002, Steven Shainberg)

Causal Fridays at the Office

Causal Fridays at the Office

When Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) takes a job as an assistant to a demanding attorney (James Spader), they both realize they have something in common – a fascination for s&m. Their office conduct becomes more than a little inappropriate as Mr Grey (not the 50 shades type) begins to spank Lee when she makes mistakes with her typing. Quirky and seductive, this film is actually very romantic. Maggie Gyllenhaal is amazing, and James Spader has a knack for twisted characters. 

8. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989, Pedro Almodovar)

Stockholm Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome

Anyone who’s ever seen an Almodovar film (The Skin I Live In; Volver) will know that atypical sexual scenarios are a speciality of this Spanish genius. In Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Ricky (Antonio Banderas) is an unhinged ex-mental patient who kidnaps porn star Marina (Victoria Abril), hoping she will eventually succumb to his charm. At first terrified, she begins to develop Stockholm Syndrome and develops feelings towards her captor. It’s a dark comedy and a satire on traditional relationships, but ultimately has a light tone and a giddiness that only Almodovar can create.

9. Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989, Steven Soderbergh)

Spader has a knack for these roles

Spader has a knack for these roles

Another film with James Spader (he merges sexy and creepy extremely well), Soderbergh’s exploration of deep dark secrets is a nuanced and slowly-unfolding drama. Reserved Ann (Andie MacDowell) is unhappily married to cheating John (Peter Gallagher), but everything changes when Graham (Spader) shows up. Through a video fetish, they form an unlikely bond. The film is voyeuristic, intense and has a deep sense of honesty that pervades throughout.

10. Les Amants (1958, Louis Malle)

Baths seem to be popular...

Baths seem to be popular…

There had to be at least one truly French film on this list. Afterall, they are known for their amorous liberalism. This has to be my favorite Louis Malle movie. Jeanne (Jeanne Moreau) is not only bored of her husband, but also her lover. So naturally she seduces a third man, and everything becomes a bit complicated. This film was controversial when it came out in 1958 (on-screen orgasm!), but it has withstood the test of time. Its gorgeous cinematography lends poetry to the extreme romanticism that rules Jeanne’s life. Plus, a woman who expertly juggles several men without really giving a damn get’s my feminist vote.

 

So there you are. That’s my list. Think something should be added? Drop us a comment!

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3 responses to “Sex, Violence & Sadism: 10 Atypical, Brilliant Films for Valentine’s Day

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