Movies starring twin human highway flares
November 28, 2014 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for beautiful movies where love affairs are the jumping-off point for a critique of bourgeois society.

Recently I watched Teorema and Zabriskie Point, both of which involved mostly-wordless love affairs with beautiful people. But in Teorema in particular, these encounters led each of the main characters to different forms of critique or self-realization about bourgeois society. This reminded me of Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Brokeback Mountain, or The Piano, in all of which a love story illuminates (usually quite painfully) the constraints of racist/heterosexist/bourgeois society. Maybe I'm looking for classic "forbidden love" stories, but the thing that pleases me the most about these movies is how they refuse to fully re-integrate the characters into society. The more hopeless and bitter the social critique, the better.

Can you think of other movies that fit the bill?

Bonus points if they have that dreamy 60s/70s aesthetic like the Italian neorealist movies I mentioned earlier.
posted by a sourceless light to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Not 60s/70s, but otherwise When Night is Falling probably qualifies.
posted by treblemaker at 8:16 PM on November 28, 2014

Reds? I think both characters come into the story with revolutionary ideas about bourgeois society, but the overall storyline is that of the love between two people helping them to find their way in a turbulent bohemian/revolutionary landscape.
posted by Sara C. at 8:17 PM on November 28, 2014

I'm not at all sure but I think maybe David Lynch's Wild At Heart might qualify?
posted by doctor tough love at 8:29 PM on November 28, 2014

Mississippi Masala
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:33 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Les Jeux Sont Fait.
posted by adamrice at 8:42 PM on November 28, 2014

The recent adaptation of Anna Karenina might fit the bill. It has a nice visual conceit where most of the characters live in some sort of theater. It's not Italian Neorealism, but it's unlike anything I've ever seen before.
posted by infinitewindow at 8:46 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

David Lynch's Mulholland Drive would also qualify, I should think.
posted by Quilford at 10:30 PM on November 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ha ha. That's so funny.

I thought the obvious answer was David Lynch's Lost Highway, so I'm laughing pretty hard that Mullholland Drive and Wild at Heart qualify, too.


I feel like I have more.

Does Last Tango in Paris count?

I think there is more. Lemme think on it a bit!
posted by jbenben at 11:45 PM on November 28, 2014

Maybe Les amants du pont neuf though I'm not sure the critique of bourgeois society is consistent....(bonus entertainment: mistake in Australian translation of title)
posted by melisande at 1:38 AM on November 29, 2014

Ali (one of my faves as well) was intended as an homage to Douglas Sirk melodramas, especially All That Heaven Allows, about a romance across class lines, and between an older woman and a younger man. It's from 1959, and the cinematography is beautiful, so it hits your criteria pretty squarely.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:49 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and it's pretty bummery as well, if I recall correctly.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:59 AM on November 29, 2014

Pierrot Le Feu.
posted by Lemmy Caution at 8:11 AM on November 29, 2014

Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love might count? Also somebody gets smushed by an elephant.

I also think the 1990s remake of Devdas might count as well
posted by spunweb at 8:12 AM on November 29, 2014

Harold and Maude. Romance across age boundaries, class lines, while everything moves towards a tragedy, and a redemption.
posted by Atrahasis at 8:38 AM on November 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

You should probably check out the rest of Fassbinder's work. Ali: Fear Eats The Soul is one of his more optimistic films. Society is a mess but at least the relationship has hope, which is a rare move for him. One of my all time favorites is In A Year With 13 Moons, an incredibly sad and personal film.

Also, seconding Douglas Sirk who was a huge influence on Fassbinder's use of melodrama. Check out Written on the Wind and Imitation of Life as well as All That Heaven Allows.

Most of Antonioni's movies use strained/doomed relationships as critiques of society, so I'd highly recommend checking out more of his stuff.

And if you haven't yet, check out Pasolini's Trilogy of Life followed by Salo or The 120 Days of Sodom. The former is about love and sex (among other things) and their potentially revolutionary/liberating possibilities. The latter is his own very bitter and angry response to how bourgeois society responded to those films (among other things).

For even more Italians, see Rossellini's films with Ingrid Bergman. Stromboli is my favorite but Journey to Italy is great as well.
posted by AtoBtoA at 8:56 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Elvira Madigan.
posted by jamjam at 9:41 AM on November 29, 2014

David Lean's Brief Encounter and Summertime might meet your criteria, but any societal critique might be too subtle. I guess the endings aren't truly bitter, but bittersweet.
posted by missmerrymack at 10:20 AM on November 29, 2014

I haven't seen it, but if I understand correctly Revolutionary Road begins with a promising young couple in love and ends in disillusionment and tragedy brought about by their inability to resign themselves to the limits of a life in 1960s suburbia.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:17 AM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

i am Love seems to fit the bill exactly.
posted by felix grundy at 11:29 AM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Atrahasis: Harold and Maude. Romance across age boundaries, class lines, while everything moves towards a tragedy, and a redemption.

I've answered "Harold and Maude" for so many film questions here, but it was practically made to answer your question!

As Atrahasis said, as a whole the movie covers all the themes you mentioned, even the dreamy 60s/70s aesthetic. The movie can also be seen as a series of individual vignettes woven together, and in that respect I'd point to the scenes of Harold talking to the priest and to the psychiatrist, and of course, his mother.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:28 PM on November 29, 2014

Not neo-realism except by association, and not the 60's or 70's either, but have you seen La Strada (1954)? (Which is in my personal top ten btw.) It's both haunting and sentimental, and one of a kind.

And have you seen Beau Travail (1999)? Which again is one of a kind, haunting, surreal. Not sentimental this time.

The protagonists in both these make some baaad mistakes. You need to have a tolerance for a slow pace and lots of space and not much obviously happening to enjoy both films. I find them mesmerising.

And then you could go cheer yourself up with Romuald et Juliette, if you needed just a drop of sweet with your bitter.

Oh, just thought of another one. The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Social criticism, people doing the wrong thing all over the place. It is a marvellous film.
posted by glasseyes at 3:00 PM on November 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to second La Strada and I Am Love...both fantastic movies in this sub-genre. I Am Love, in particular, really stuck with me.
posted by Atrahasis at 5:48 PM on November 29, 2014

I had never even heard of this movie but somehow it came through our Netflix (we still get delivery via mail) and it blew both of us away — Code 46.

IMDB description: A futuristic 'Brief Encounter', a love story in which the romance is doomed by genetic incompatibility.
posted by Brittanie at 6:24 PM on November 29, 2014

Kim Ki-duk's 3-Iron
posted by Chenko at 9:39 AM on November 30, 2014

Thank you all! I am best-answering the things I've seen that fit this description, and will come back to best-answer some more once I've devoured these movies.
posted by a sourceless light at 10:40 AM on November 30, 2014

A movie that very powerfully fits the idea you're searching for, but is rather far afield from the 60s/70s vibe, is Howards End. It's the story of a well-intentioned woman of wealth, Margaret Schlegel, who lives in a bubble and believes that she can truly provide a leg up in the world for the equally well-intentioned but poor Leonard Bast. The story weaves into a much bigger (and more unexpectedly tight) social web than that description would lead you to believe, and it is equal parts dark and illuminating.

Ang Lee may also be worth looking into more generally (as you noted Brokeback Mountain) because nearly all of his films have been about forbidden romance, and The Ice Storm (about the emptiness of 70s Connecticut bourgeois monogamy) might be particularly up your alley.
posted by sidi hamet at 5:34 PM on November 30, 2014

I'd suggest Y Tu Mamá También, by Alfonso Cuarón.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:00 PM on November 30, 2014

« Older Now, bring us some (vodka-soaked) Figgy Pudding...   |   DjVu (all over again) Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.