Love… will it keep us together? Or will it tear us apart, again? It’s the eternal mystery behind so much great (and awful) art. In film, it’s the engine driving a thousand rom-coms, but in many-splintered tribute to Valentine’s Day, Fandor devotes the entire month of February to the theme of “Bad Romance,” shredding those idealistic fantasies while going gaga over the emotional (and sometimes actual) apocalypses that happen when two hearts stubbornly refuse to beat as one.
The collection of streaming titles joins Fandor’s two big exclusive premieres: the twisted, sex-and-psychedelia romp All Jacked Up and Full of Worms (Feb. 7), a dizzying debut set in a Chicago netherworld of manic vermivores, and Jethica (Feb. 14), a supernatural dark comedy about a woman’s efforts to rid herself of a very persistent stalker.
To complement those bracing excursions to love’s outer limits, here are a few more anti-romantic hits from the Fandor catalog. Watch them with someone you at least kinda like:
Burning (2018): Like a slow-blow fuse, this love triangle psychodrama takes a spell to reach its flashpoint, but the social tension and character shadings it sustains are exquisitely wrought by Korean director Lee Chang-dong and his cast: Yoo Ah-in, as a would-be novelist/malingerer who falls hard for the flighty and manipulative former classmate played by Jeon Jong-seo, who in turn discards him for a flashy fuccboi (Steven Yeun of “The Walking Dead”). One of the best adaptations from the stories of Haruki Murakami, with a nod to Faulkner’s classic “Barn Burning,” the Cannes-vetted film hews to a familiar dynamic: a loser obsessed with an enigmatic (and, eventually, vanished) woman, building to an extra-dark denouement.
The Color Wheel (2011): Alex Ross Perry’s sophomore splash is, a decade on, still a landmark of cringe. The writer-director, who has gone on to work with such A-list talents as Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman and Chloe Sevigny, casts himself opposite Carlen Altman as an oddball brother-sister duo whose extreme dysfunctionality makes any reasonable engagement with the world—whether friends, lovers or colleagues—not only impossible, but a slow-motion trainwreck of epic (if somehow pathetically mundane) proportions. Especially notable for Sean Price Williams’ 16mm black-and-white camerawork, and heroic portrayals of narcissistic self-loathing. (Ed. note: We’ll leave you to discover why it’s in this collection.)
Fireworks Wednesday (2006): Iranian master filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, a two-time Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, co-wrote and directed this dramedy of manners and errors–his third feature–before becoming more widely known to American audiences with stunners like A Separation and About Elly. Despite its sleeper status, the saga of a deceptive husband and domestic discord amid a national holiday (akin to the Fourth of July) is a compelling social study, made even more so as we watch the lies around a secret affair unravel through the eyes of a maid, hired for a day of temp cleaning, who stumbles onto a bigger mess than expected.
Bellflower (2011): A surprise Sundance discovery turned cult-film sensation, this handmade adventure about true love gone wrong is a gearhead ode to flamethrowers, cricket-eating, the hypermasculine mythos of The Road Warrior, and a hellacious muscle car named Medusa. Indie auteur Evan Glodell and his band of misfits hand-forged a twisted DIY fantasy about toxic relationships under a hazy Southern California sun that still stings with real suffering—and shines with outsider ingenuity.
Brain Damage (1988): A flashback to the NYC of crime-riddled mean streets and subway psychos, this cult goop-fest belongs in the gutter pantheon of low-budget, high-anxiety Gotham horror yarns, alongside the work of Larry Cohen (God Told Me To) and William Lustig (Maniac). Exploitation auteur Frank Hennenlotter (Frankenhooker, Basket Case) recounts the simple if gruesome story of a boy and his homicidal brain-eating parasite Aylmer, a squiggly worm-type grotesquerie that addicts and controls its host with a hallucinatory chemical secretion.
Another Girl, Another Planet (1992): Cinematic experimenter Michael Almereyda resorts to child’s play for this portrait of an unlikely East Village Casanova. Really. The filmmaker deployed a Fisher-Price PXL 2000 Pixelvision camera, which used audio cassettes to capture grainy, smudgy black-and-white footage that was transferred to 16mm stock for the completed project. Two years later, his modern vampires in the city fable Nadja also included the consumer cam in its visual toolkit. Elina Löwensohn, the striking star of that later film, appears here as one of several paramours entertained by Barry Del Sherman’s slacker, whose tenement is the drab backdrop for some surprisingly lovely closeups.
Ghosts Can’t Do It (1989): Is this one of the worst movies of the last 40 years—or so deliciously bad that it transcends questions of taste? You be the judge. The swan song of writer-director and Hollywood Svengali John Derek managed a near-sweep of the Golden Raspberry Awards (including a nomination for Donald Trump as “Worst Supporting Actor,” playing himself). The usually great Anthony Quinn plays a billionaire whose death is no barrier to the passion he feels for his much, much younger wife (’80s sex symbol, breakout star of Blake Edwards’ 10, and director’s wife Bo Derek). Sent back to earth as a spirit, he conspires with his widow to find a new host body to possess. Sure, OK. Antics ensue! Love wins! (Or does it?)