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Monday, July 23, 2007


Films not to watch with your partner

You know the experience: you go to the movies with your boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, sit through the film, wander out into the daylight... And then you do it. You say The Phrase, that booby-trapped question which usually does no harm at all. But this time, you're going to be fighting all the way home.

'So what did you think of the movie, honey?'

Because some movies are like that. You can sit through Bride and Prejudice or The Terminator and go home perfectly good friends, but others contain so much tension that you come out rattled and start a gender war.

Here's a fewI can cite that I gather are famous for starting domestics:

Capturing the Friedmans

Really a superb documentary, but a film in which nobody behaves impeccably, and that tends to lead to people siding with their own sex. The mother of the family is sharp-tongued and unsupportive, but buried under the coldness is a very fair point - her husband turned out to be a paedophile and that's not a situation in which you want everyone pressuring you to be a better wife at the tops of their voices. The director remarked that he'd see couples walking tensely to their cars, and give it up and start shouting as they unlocked the doors:

Him: What a bitch!
Her: How can you say that? She was the person holding the family together!


Yikes. A film by a recently-divorced man all about a disintegrating marriage, with some very intense surreal horror thrown in. When my boyfriend and I went to see it in the National Film Theatre, the announcer actually told the audience beforehand it was a film likely to provoke fights. Actually we managed not to fight - I think we both reeled out too dazed to argue about who was going to do the washing-up, never mind about gender politics. Very interesting, very good, very, very strange film. One of those wavelength movies - you know how certain glass bowls are supposed to ring if you sing the right note near them? Possession is one of those films that strikes a note and you either ring back or you don't. It freaked the life out of me; for about two hours after watching it I was thoroughly convinced that I was an evil person - and I swear, I hadn't done anything drastically bad during the screening...

Raw Deal: A Question of Consent
(Note - this link goes to the film-makers' website, which includes a 20-minute preview: very interesting and a legitimate documentary, but not work-safe or suitable for children or the easily-offended, as it includes footage and discussion of sexual activity, swearing, and the topic is rape.)
The documentary's subject: one night in 1999, a fraternity house held a party at which two women were hired as strippers. One went home, the other went home then returned later, and emerged half-naked the next morning and reported being raped. Shortly afterwards, she was arrested for filing a false report, but that charge against her was dropped, and a legal tangle resulted, not to mention a social and political scandal which was never properly resolved. Reason: two fraternity members had videotaped a considerable proportion of the evening (though not the time at which the alleged rape took place), and the footage was profoundly ambiguous. Some people watching it come away convinced that the encounter was absolutely consensual; some people watching it come away certain that the woman was raped. Basically, there's a lot of physical grappling which might be a couple playing or might be the woman struggling to resist; she was very drunk and said things like 'Does this make you feel like a man?' rather than 'Stop it', which might be encouraging him or might be trying to shame him into better behaviour. The frat witnesses describe it as 'role-playing', which is pretty suspicious, as plenty of rapists use the exact same excuse - it was consensual rough sex, that's why there are bruises, your Honour... To my eyes, it looks like a sexual assault in which the victim is exercising bad judgement: clearly it was a nasty night, it's hard to see her early behaviour as anything other than consensual sexual contact with the alleged rapist's room-mate, and the interaction between the alleged rapist and victim looks, at least in its early stages, like a drunken argument between two people who disliked each other too much to stop quarrelling, which the young man deliberately escalated into a physical contest she couldn't possibly win. Which I think makes it rape; being reckless about consent is a legal definition, the fact that she'll make out with your friend doesn't mean she'll make out with you, and you don't just fuck someone to win an argument. But it's impossible to prove anything conclusively based on the footage they show, and any disagreement about rape can turn to a quarrel very quickly, so if you watch this movie in company, make sure it's with people you know you can disagree with calmly.

Actually, aside from gender politics I'd recommend both Capturing the Friedmans and Raw Deal as the best two documentaries I've ever seen. They do something that film is uniquely able to do but seldom does: present you with footage of a real event and alternative interpretations of it, leaving you with Rashomon minus the conclusion, and both are honest and thoughtful attempts to take a serious look at some incredibly difficult subject matter.

What movies have had that effect on you?

This is weird, Kit. While not the exact same topic, check out what I posted today.
Interesting point - my comment added...
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