Thursday, August 20, 2009

I love you, but I wish we'd never met.

Mick LaSalle wrote recently about great movies you wish you'd never seen. An interesting concept, as many moviegoers tend to rate films by how much they enjoy them and want to see them again. La Salle's pick was a documentary entitled The English Surgeon, in which doctors, speaking a different language from their patient, decide right in front of her that they're not going to tell her she has a brain tumor and will only live five more years, at most. An effective scene in a good movie, to be sure, but one that maybe doesn't have the best effect on the viewer.

Commenters to his post have listed their own "love it, but wish I'd never seen it" picks, which include:
* Running Scared - Not what I'd classify as a great (or even terribly good) but yeah, the pedophile scene does me in, too.
* Titus - I've never seen this, possibly because the play on which it's based, in addition to not being Shakespeare's crowning achievement by a long shot, is on my Probably Never List.
* Don't Look Now - Essentially a thriller, but with one of the most heart-breaking climaxes you will ever see.
* A Nightmare on Elm Street - Oh yes. Ruining the simple act of sleep for at least a generation. Say what you want about how good a movie it is, but if you've seen it recently (I mean the original, and maybe throw Dream Warriors in there as well), you're not going to be too eager to go to sleep for at least a few days.
* Spoorloos (a.k.a. The Vanishing) - Another one that might ruin your sleep. Or your willingness to go into a convenience store alone. I won't dare ruin the ending if you haven't seen this amazing film, but ... yeah.

All excellent choices, but I confess I find it difficult to regret seeing any film, even one I don't think is that good. I'm tempted to put Addio Zio Tom in that category, but the jury's still out with me on whether that is a great film or atrocious slavery porn. And even so, I still can't really say I regret seeing it. But I do have a pick that I feel fits the original question:

In the Company of Men

Quite possibly the best film of 1997, but it went virtually unnoticed in a year that gave us L.A. Confidential, Good Will Hunting, and oh yeah, some movie about a boat. Being written by Neil LaBute, and based on his own play, it eschews showy effects and action - not to mention the merest hint of sentimentality or heart - for good old fashioned dialogue and character development.

Two guys, Chad (the Alpha male asshole extraordinaire on the right) and Howard (the Alpha-wannabe Beta male on the left), are stuck in an out-of-town assignment for several weeks. Consoling each other over being treated cruelly by the women in their lives, they agree upon a scheme concocted by Chad. They will select a random, insecure woman, simultaneously woo the pants off her, and then pull the rug out from under her and break her heart just before they leave town. Their choice is a deaf woman who works in the office with them. They set about getting her to fall for them, but there's a twist. Howard actually falls for her and starts regretting the scheme, but she's fallen hard for Chad.

The last few minutes of this film are deeply upsetting to me, as a woman and as a human being. You can't really take either man's side, but Chad in particular plays on all our worst fears about men. His GOTCHA to Howard is more jaw-dropping than just about any throw-away dialogue line of that ilk ought to be. I don't think I could watch In the Company of Men in, you know, the company of men. Because I fear that someone might get hurt in the blind rage this movie engenders in my very soul. I feel for all the decent men named Chad out there. Props to Aaron Eckhart for a flesh-scrapingly real and bitter performance, but this is one film I wish had never been imprinted on my brain. Sometimes, you're just better off not knowing, man.

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