Anti–Valentine’s Day movies

Michael Atkinson looks at streaming movies with the power to squelch out romance.

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If you feel the bile rise at the merest whiff of ensemble romcoms, old-Top-40 song montages, dewy gazes and crampingly happy endings, there are plenty of rentables that sing your battle hymn. Say Monday has rolled around, and you haven’t plotted your Netflix queue strategy properly—here are some streaming options, always ready to deliver a loveless chill.

Gaslight (1944)
Amazon Video on Demand
George Cukor’s Gaslight is the paradigmatic Hollywood my-husband-is-a-vicious-bastard thriller, with Ingrid Bergman subjected to psychological abuse and suicidal encouragement from Charles Boyer, who’s difficult to trust in any movie that came after. While Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941), also downloadable from Amazon, takes a slightly different tack, Cary Grant’s oblique, homicidal lizard of a spouse is, like Boyer’s creation, indelible enough to make you wonder how his career survived.

Diabolique (1955)
Netflix Watch Instantly

Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic French thriller pioneered a double-nipple-twist murder plot that’s influenced countless films and works of fiction since. What’s pertinent here is the French-fried love triangle: fragile wife Véra Clouzot, loutish hubby Paul Meurisse and his lover Simone Signoret, who bonds with the wife and decides to take the beast down for good. Few movie marriages are as blighted with rot, but the third act, famously, raises the stakes and destroys any hope of even vengeance-sated happiness. Forget about the 1996 remake.

Videodrome (1983)
Amazon Video on Demand; VUDU

In a universe where love has been crushed like the cigarette Debbie Harry puts out on her own breast, this David Cronenberg classic about entertainment corrupting flesh and vice versa could put you off the idea of dating for months. The image of James Woods with a giant stomach VCR-vagina should render you temporarily celibate, regardless of gender.

Fat Girl (2001)
Amazon Video on Demand; Mubi.com; VUDU

From Catherine Breillat, this outrageously uncomfortable 2001 film trains in on two unhappy sisters: one a saucy 15-year-old (Roxane Mesquida), the second an obese 12-year-old (Anaïs Reboux) who must abet and observe her sister’s ill-advised sexual adventures. The result of their interface with boys is never less than scathing. It could cure iCarly fans of mush-mindedness for life.

4 (2005)
Mubi.com

Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s little-seen Russian debut is a raging, unsettling, rule-incinerating monster of a movie, scrambling irreverent structuralist high jinks, cloning, absurd yarn-spinning, pagan burial chaos and quadruplets. There’s no romance on this movie’s planet; watching it will make you forget about human intimacy altogether.

Climates (2006)
Amazon Video on Demand

In Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s 2006 masterpiece, the director and his wife, Ebru, play the couple at its center, a worldly architecture professor and his younger designer mate, vacationing in Greece and photographing the ruins. It gradually becomes apparent that their relationship is in complete meltdown. Shot, perfectly, on digital video, Climates is restrained enough to make every fracture and realization feel like an inevitable kidney punch.


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