For some of us, the sadistic annual ritual of Valentine's Day might recall "The Lottery," that Shirley Jackson short story we all read in junior high. That story, we'll recall, concerns the inhabitants of an average American hamlet gather together once a year to perform a ritual stoning of a local citizen. Most people secretly hate the event, and one man says cautiously, "Over in [the next town], they're thinking of doing away with the lottery."
But the stoning goes forward anyway, and so does this year's installment of Valentine's Day.
This weekend, there are several movie options to suit a variety of romantic tastes. On the campuses of Duke and N.C. State, Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch Drunk Love will be shown. This is a romance for seething masochists, as Sandler plays a toilet supplier who falls in love with Emily Watson, who more or less drops in his lap. At one point, Sandler says something like, "I love you so much I wanna punch your face in." And Watson responds in kind. Not for every taste, but still a potent mixture of rage and sentiment. Catch it Friday night in the Griffith Theater on the Duke campus, or at State's Witherspoon Theater on Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
This Thursday, Freewater will also be screening Wait Until Dark, a 1967 thriller in which Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman, trapped in her apartment with a killer. This film wouldn't be filed under "Romance" but it seems an apt metaphor for sexual and emotional vulnerability between the sexes.
Over at the NC Museum of Art, the Winter Film Series continues apace this Friday with Pépé Le Moko. Julian Duvivier's classic of French poetic realism. Set in 1930's Algiers, the film has glamour and ruin to burn: colonial politics, the criminal underworld and sexual treachery.