‘An Unmarried Woman’
Perhaps there are people in stable, happy relationships who spend Valentine’s Day couched in front of their TV, watching nice movies about love that works out just fine. The rest may spend the day hiding indoors from the rampant cuteness, looking to stew in some good old-fashioned misery. So who’s up for a good divorce movie? Actually, Jill Clayburgh’s Manhattan trophy wife does finally rebound after getting chucked by her crappy husband (Michael Murphy) in Paul Mazursky’s 1978 hit. But there’s a good hour of productive waffling, with our hero grouchily throwing herself back into a world of flings and therapy in a brave new world where divorce, even with kids, is no longer gauche.
One can sense, especially nearly 40 years on, the film’s strain to say something topical, and as Dave Kehr pointed out it may be set in tough New York but at its core it’s Los Angeles soft. (Scenes with a therapist come close to feeling like the New Age-y silliness Mazursky’s was lampooning a decade earlier in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.”) And the deck is too stacked: Murphy is a cad from the start, and Alan Bates’ avant-garde painter is too dreamy, in a fashionably wealthy ’70s New York way. But it’s really Clayburgh’s show, and she has a combination of aloofness and neuroticism that’s simply electric. Her emotions can just barely be contained by the film, and her look as Murphy dumps her, while crying on the street, could kill.
‘Blue is the Warmest Color’
Its acrobatic sex scenes tend to get most of the attention, but let’s not forget this functions even better as a break-up movie. Covering a relationship from first bloom to bitter fallout, it’s not about a love for the ages. For Adele Exarchopoulos’ Adele, it’s an earthquaking life-changer, but for Emma (Lea Seydoux) it’s just another stepping stone to something better. Not only does “Blue” nail the hot passion of first-stage romance, it nails the feeling as you watch the love of our life find happiness with someone superior.
‘We Won’t Grow Old Together’
Unlike the pair in “Blue,” the couple in Maruice Pialat’s 1972 mordantly scathing French drama really shouldn’t be together. Owner of arguably the best title in film history, it’s a precise and cutting observation of a young woman slowly — too slowly — growing irritated with the emotional abuse of her filmmaker husband, whose toxic unpleasantness no doubt inspired future movie jerks like “Greenberg”’s Roger Greenberg. Watch it with someone you hate.
Let’s not forget: Quentin Tarantino’s two-part revenge grinder isn’t a mere pastiche of the breadth of action cinema. It’s a movie about a broken-up couple whose feelings about each other leave a trail of bodies, blood and severed limbs in their wake. It even ends with a literally broken heart.
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