Singled out

Time Out New York
February 11-18, 1999

Dateless again on Valentine’s Day? These movies prove that life could be worse.

Last week you were perfectly happy to be single. Now, as February 14th approaches, you’re ready to beg the toothless guy at the Laundromat for a date. Still, if it’s at all possible, you’d rather get through the holiday with your dignity intact, right? Boycotting V-day doesn’t have to be a miserable experience, not when you can rent any of the following movies and feel justified (if not proud) about flying solo while the rest of the world aggressively pairs off.

Last Tango in Paris
Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci. 1973.
Marlon Brando is on the road to self-destruction: He loves one woman. She kills herself. He falls for another one. She won’t tell him her name. They have sex anyway (using, among other things, butter). She goes back to her boring fiancé. Brando’s raw performance, coupled with the film’s dark eroticism, is good for a perverse thrill. But this masterpiece of despair, longing and greasy condiments could make you swear off romance for some time.

To Die For
Dir. Gus Van Sant. 1995.
A hilarious satire starring Nicole Kidman as a conniving babe who will do anything to become a TV star. This includes enticing some dumb kids to off her adorable bonehead of a husband, played by Mat Dillon (alarmingly convincing as a doofus). He’s probably the most sympathetic character in the movie, and his sorry fate is a disturbing reminder of the toxic effects of ambition on relationships…a problem that you, as a single person, thankfully don’t have to worry about.

Death in Venice
Dir. Luchino Visconti. 1971.
What do you get for falling madly in love? Humiliation, a bad dye job and—if you’re lucky—a quick death to end all the pain. Dirk Bogarde is perfectly pathetic as the aging German composer who finds ultimate passion—and ultimate heartbreak—in the face of a pretty young boy in this swooning adaptation of Thomas Mann’s masterpiece.

Sid and Nancy
Dir. Alex Cox. 1986.
This loud, grimy, drug-infested movie chronicles the stormy relationship between the Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman) and his whiny groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). It opens in 1978 as the police arrive at the Chelsea Hotel to find her dead and him clutching a knife before flashing back to delve into the gory details. Exhausting, disturbing and intense, the film is all but guaranteed to make you finally give up that fantasy about nabbing yourself a rock star.

Happy Together
Dir. Wong Kar-Wai. 1996.
The only thing more depressing than couplehood is being single—and your ex refusing to leave. That’s the message of this arty Hong Kong movie about two gay Chinese ex-pats in Argentina who slither in and out of each other’s lives, torturing each other along the way. It’s the perfect movie for people who view each new relationship as just another nasty breakup waiting to happen.

What Happened Was…
Dir. Tom Noonan. 1993.
Two lonely coworkers (brilliantly played by writer-director Noonan and Karen Sillas) go on a date and spend most of the night at her apartment making complete fools of themselves as they try to impress each other with outlandish lies. It’s depressing, tremendously well-written and will have you howling with laughter as you imagine your paired-off friends experiencing similar humiliations in real life as you relax in the safety of your apartment.

Romeo and Juliet
Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. 1968.
If you’re ready to admit that you’re lonely and feel the need for a good cry, then here’s the movie to rent. Zaffirelli’s gut-wrenching version of Shakespeare’s tragedy of forbidden love is famous for its beautiful leads, Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting, who were only 15 and 17, respectively, when it was shot. Knowing how the story ends only makes it harder to stop blubbering. An underlying message that might lift your spirits: True love ultimately leads to death.