February 13, 2013 Bad dates.
I’m sure you’re aware that it is Valentine’s Day tomorrow, or maybe even today if you’re reading this on Valentine’s Day. It was, as I’m sure you’ll remember, Valentine’s Day at some unspecified point in the probably-recent past. All bases covered? Good. Let’s get on with it. I asked our writers about bad date movies – the movie might not be bad, just inappropriate. Or it might have been the perfect movie but somehow the evening went wrong. Well. Here are the answers I got…
It wasn’t really a date because we went with a few people, possibly including our own Indy Datta. However, I was once persuaded to see a film by a girl I had just started going out with; I’m pretty sure it was the first film we saw together, actually. It started well, we sat next to each other, she put her head on my shoulder, we held hands. The film progressed. There was quite a lot of fucking. One of our hands, and we were still holding them so it’s difficult to tell whose, got a bit clammy. Naked Ralph Fiennes got graphically killed by a bull. Some people left the cinema. A talking baby got killed, cut up and sold. We stopped holding hands. Members of our group left the cinema. Julia Ormond got raped to death. For ten minutes. By this point most people had walked out and I was gazing at my date with a sort of horrified fascination.
Reader, I married her.
(in case it’s not obvious, the film was Greenaway’s The Baby of Mâcon.)
If I have watched a film on Valentine’s Day I confess I do not recall doing so, so it can’t have been by design. What I do recall, with vivid clarity, is going to see “Threesome” at a suitably dingy little art-house cinema somewhere in Oxford.
This was a “friends” outing. The sort of cinematic date that involves no one individual really wanting to go on their own and also feeling a wee bit ashamed that they actually want to see the film. A shared guilty pleasure if you will. Considering it was called threesome you’d think we might have had an inkling as to what was coming, but I honest to goodness did not. Naïve, maybe, but this was an art-house cinema, in Oxford no less, you expect well, a different sort of clientele.
If you haven’t worked out where this is going let me spell it out for you: We three wholesome trio of boy, girl, girl were the only threesome in the cinema. All other seats were solo and spread out and single men. Single men in mackintoshes. Single men in mackintoshes who seemed to find their hands drifting down in to their pants. And then their flies coming undone. And then… you get the picture.
The highlight; one man (I can’t call him a gentleman) was sat on a particularly squeaky chair. During the films highlight – threesome scene – the squeaks were frequent and loud, or at least they were until a rather ominous sounding crack, a very real sounding squeal and shortly afterwards a limping leaver. One can only speculate as to what it is that happened precisely.
Oh and for those who are wondering – the film is not particularly erotic or indeed good. Perhaps you need to really like Stephen Baldwin, or Lara Flynn Boyle to “appreciate” its charms…
On paper it sounds fine – Neither of us knew much about the film, neither of us really considered our going together to be a date, it was a scary movie about reality TV getting its première at the London FrightFest. Hell, the director was going to introduce it in person. Sounds like a quality evening out!
Oh dear. My Little Eye is not a good film. It is a bad film. Notable now only for the appearance of a young Bradley Cooper, it was introduced as a paradigm-shift in shit-your-pants terror, an important film that had people talking. It touched on the reality TV phenomenon, how it could be insidious (this was some time before Geordie Shore showed us the true horror reality TV was capable of), how observation was blah blah fucking blah. Jesus. Within, oh, I dunno, fifteen minutes the first titters broke out in the auditorium. I forget why, possibly the crazily-overdone background ‘soundscape’ by Industrial producer Flood. The first big laugh was definitely the appearance of a bathetic carved wooden cat, and once hysteria set in on-screen a very different kind was rippling through the audience. No-one watching seemed scared, they were laughing at the film, with the director sitting right there.
Needless to say, my viewing companion and I were not huddled together, clutching at each other and bonding over a shared trauma. Not exactly. But that night we had The Night, the night spent awake till all hours, talking and talking until it gets light, drawing closer until you realise you’ve been staring into each other’s eyes for hours and you don’t want to ever stop. Ten years later, I am still staring.
And what were we talking about the whole night? That damn wooden cat.
SPOILER WARNING FOR BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
A little background first. I lived in southern Louisiana for nearly 5 years, and Katrina happened just after I arrived (complete coincidence, your honour). As such, when I learned about the southern Louisiana-set Beasts of the Southern Wild and its tale of a 6 year old girl called Hushpuppy, her daddy, said beasts and a huge hurricane, I was all set to see it when it came out in London (it debuted in the US back in June). Of course, the way things worked, I finally ended up seeing it in December on a date with a very attractive dancer from Australia.
I had enthused about Beasts, and he was game, so we went to the Odeon Panton Street with a secret bottle of wine, and sat down to watch. Suffice to say, it’s a very good film, and both Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry are to be commended. However, it is also a very sad film, and I’m man enough to admit I shed a few tears over the final reel.
My viewing companion had been snuggled up with his head on my shoulder for most of the screening, and after wiping my eyes, I turned to him, and saw that he was absolutely bawling with silent tears. My t-shirt had bravely protected me from realising that the entire upper sleeve of my jumper was soaked. I asked if he was all right, and it turned out that his own father had passed away when he was a similar age to Hushpuppy, and of a similar condition. I was mortified and apologised profusely for taking him to a film that provoked feels so close to home. Thankfully, he wasn’t that upset, and had enjoyed the film immensely, but the combination of alcohol and the closeness of the story had just proved emotion-wracking. Luckily, this is now (salty) water under the bridge, and proved a good grounding for future dates.
This happened sometime before my thirteenth birthday. I was nervous about meeting her since, in the time between making the date and the day The Mosquito Coast was on at the pictures, she’d gone and come back from a girls’ camp run by her Church. The camp became a minor scandal in the village I grew up in because the girls came back talking of bouts of uncontrollable crying and laughter; and about how each of them, in turn, had fainted. That morning I had heard the camp leader on local radio, arguing with a concerned parent, talking about how the spirit had moved all of the girls who had been away.
She was with two friends and they talked about the camp and how it had changed them, as we queued to get inside. I felt left out. Our cinema was a run-down old concert-hall. So the foyer was big and posters for films sat high on the walls. A grown man would have to look up to see them, so a boy like me certainly did. I remember going in, listening to those girls talk and raising my eyes. The posters were as vivid as stained glass window, and I remember this one in particular:
There’s a bit in Mosquito Coast when Martha Plimpton tells River Phoenix ‘I think about you when I go to the bathroom’. The girl I was with laughed after Martha said that. Probably it was just a girl laughing at what seemed to her a weird thing to say. But my memory has made her laugh into a knowing and throaty chuckle. A woman’s laugh.
I didn’t understand The Mosquito Coast then, so I remember very little of it now. I do remember the effect it had on me. I know now that the film explores messianic, religious impulses. And if I didn’t get any of that then, I think I sensed that, even though I could see Indiana Jones up there on the screen, this was another type of film. Something for grown-ups, wine without water. And as I watched Harrison Ford try to activate his huge jungle ice machine, I started to feel inspired. I could almost taste this new world that lay waiting for me. So my hand reached out through the darkness.
Her yelp was shushed and then the two of us were exposed – picked out by a beam of unmasking torchlight. By the end of the film she’d swapped seats with one of her friends and Harrison Ford was dead.