This was originally posted on January 19th, 2019 on Taste of Cinema. A link to the original post can be found here – http://www.tasteofcinema.com/2019/the-10-most-awkward-movies-to-watch-with-your-parents/
We all know that horrendous, creeping feeling that occurs when we are watching a movie with our parents and then… all of a sudden… there are two, or more fully naked people all over the screen engaging in some sexual act.
Whether your approach to this problem is to ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening, to blush awkwardly and say nothing or maybe even to turn the film off and find something else to watch, Taste of Cinema present ten of the most awkward films you could possibly have the misfortune of viewing with your parents.
Be warned, there will be spoilers for:
Enter The Void (spoilers for this one are only mild, there are details regarding one specifically shocking shot and the overall themes)
Irreversible (some spoilers, however, as the film goes backwards, you do essentially start at the end)
Antichrist (spoilers for the opening sequence, which is stellar)
10. A Woman Under The Influence (John Cassavetes, 1974)
This one may seem a little random to be included on this list, however, once reading an extract which mentioned the embarrassment felt watching this one alone, due to the extremely real setting and a general feeling of discomfort as we are seeing a life so real on screen that it feels almost like our own, it just had to be included. Few films can make one so uncomfortable in their own skin, and as much as the film is incredibly real and emotional from start to finish, it is that reality that comes crashing down on any innocent audience member.
From the incredibly moving performance from Gena Rowlands and the terrific turn from all time great Ben Gazzara, A Woman Under The Influence is powerful in a way that very few other films are. It’s severely upsetting, incredibly poignant and seriously hard to shake off. There’s no forgetting it. And that is what makes it so much better, and so much more uncomfortable.
Any one of Cassavetes films could have been considered for this, however, none of them match the absolute cinematic powerhouse that A Woman Under The Influence really is. The camera stays so close you can almost feel the presence of the characters, the performances are so good and so distressing that you could swear the film was a documentary all along and the terrific script just enhances this absolutely crushing reality. As much as Gena Rowland’s character may say to herself, “No emotion now.”, good luck finding any audience member able to bury the power of this film away.
9. Flesh (Paul Morrissey, 1968)
Flesh is most likely the most unknown film on this list, so there will be no spoilers and little to say about it generally – it is one best seen without knowing much, however, the film is about a heroin addict turning to prostitution to pay for an abortion that his wife’s girlfriend needs. Not only is that a confusing premise, it’s also an insanely provocative one coming from the late 1960s.
The film has a general focus on the sexual ideas shared by Americans at the time, which makes for a genuinely fascinating film and one that works as a fascinating time capsule type film, whilst simultaneously being ridiculously ahead of its time in terms of a focus on the male body and a focus on representation. However, if you wanted to watch some of the more sexually honest scenes in all of 60s cinema, maybe all of cinema generally, with your parents sat beside you… there might be something wrong.
8. Last Tango In Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
Bernardo Bertolucci is a surprisingly sexual director, when also taking into account his 2003 film The Dreamers, which details the gradual turn from friendship to a sexual relationship between three young adults in Paris, but his 1972 film Last Tango In Paris is much more interesting to look at through this lens. Wit excellent performances from Marlon Brando, as a man broken by the death of his wife, and Maria Schneider as the curious young Parisian woman.
The film is very sexually frank, consistently showing some really quite long sex scenes, and just like Brando’s damaged character, there isn’t much of a focus on the emotion aside from in small, intimate moments (and even those are shared totally naked, more often than not).
Furthermore, those familiar with the stories surrounding the film will know of one horrific scene, both hard to watch and disgustingly produced. The scene sees Maria meet with Brando, and she explains that she doesn’t want to have sex in the scene, however, disturbingly Brando holds a lump of butter, and lunges at Maria and used said butter as lubrication before raping her. It’s a horrific scene, and the story surrounding it just makes it so much worse, especially when watching it with someone you know.
7. Antichrist (Lars Von Trier, 2009)
No one will be too surprised to see the inclusion of a Lars Von Trier film on this list. And what a haunting film this one, in particular, is. Antichrist is simply crushing, from the beginning to the end.
It is one of the most exhausting films ever made, and considering it has the relatively short runtime of just 108 minutes, it is stunningly powerful, able to cast a spell on audiences so incredibly deep that it lasts for the rest of their lifetime. If one can manage to sit through the film, it is very rewarding, in fact, one of the most rewarding films made in the last ten years, and Von Trier seems to know it.
From the stellar, unforgettable opening sequence, which must be spoiled here (sorry!), in which, as the parents engage in intercourse, a baby, surely no older than two years of age, horrifically falls from a high window, falling to its death in somber black and white as classical music bellows, engraving the images in the brains of any innocent audience member, all the way to the seriously grizzly and genuinely disturbing events of the third act, which go from subtle discomfort to one of the most disturbing scenes ever made for any film, ever.
Antichrist is a truly shocking film, and one so connected to the heart crushing loss of a child that watching it with any parent sounds just horrific, however, it would most definitely be an experience you wouldn’t be forgetting for quite some time. Antichrist is perhaps Von Trier’s harshest film, with relentless discomfort and cinematic form that forces the audience down a horrific road. Watch with caution.
6. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
A Clockwork Orange, directed by Stanley Kubrick and released in 1971, is one strange, disturbing film from the most acclaimed director of all time. Coming from Kubrick, it seems a little off, and from the iconic intimidating opening shot of Alex DeLarge’s eye the film is an uncomfortable odyssey.
The relentlessly fast pacing, the sharp editing (particularly when Alex goes to bed after his night of ultra-violence, and listens to some Mozart before sleeping) and the really quite terrifying performances make A Clockwork Orange difficult to watch, and that’s without going on to mention that the film is about a despicable gang of criminals.
The opening half an hour details their horrific night filled with violence, going from a gang fight and gradually escalating to a horrendous rape sequence set to “Singin’ In The Rain”, and from there on, the film is full of subtle hints, alluding to the sexual abuse of a teenager (from both the police and from a teacher who comes to the house of Alex) until the film eventually shows how Alex is reformed and how the victims of his horrific actions exact their eventual revenge.
It’s a stunningly daring film, especially when you take into consideration that it was directed by Stanley Kubrick and banned for many years. The fact that it remains shocking even now, almost fifty years after it originally released, leads one to only imagine how mentally disturbing this film would have been when it originally released. And this is even more impressive when you consider that just 11 years before A Clockwork Orange released, Hitchcock was considered foul for showing a shot of a flushing toilet!
5. Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
Ah, David Cronenberg… making audiences feel uncomfortable in their own skin since 1975. Crash, particularly, may just take the cake for the most uncomfortable David Cronenberg film, as the films sees him investigate sex and the horrors of the future through the repeated use of seriously intense car crashing sequences and very explicit sexual sequences. The film’s atmosphere is the real kicker, though, as it is impossible to shake yourself out of it, or to stay detached unless, like some viewers you’re taken out of the film because “it’s just wrong”, morally to some.
The quote that BBC critic Mark Kermode often uses, even if not in response to Cronenberg’s film, is that films make him “want to bath in Clorox”, and this one can be accurately used to describe the feeling that Cronenberg’s Crash gives. It is a disturbing film, one that becomes hard to sit through for the amount of discomfort in every shot, and for that reason, it’s most certainly not one to watch with your parents.
4. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe, 2002)
Gaspar Noe has rapidly made a name for himself as one of the great contemporary provocative directors, from his 2015 film LOVE, which details the sex life of a young student, using real sex and showing it in 3D, to his earlier Enter The Void which is a bizarre, long messy spiritual journey going from life to birth, literally showing the cycle of life through one of the most colourful films ever crafted. The neon is everywhere, including in an incredibly uncomfortable close-up from inside of a woman as a man ejaculates in her, leading to a baby being born later on – rebirth.
Irreversible is the most shocking and uncomfortable of them all though, and it takes that achievement and earns it. It’s a dizzying portrayal of one horrendous day, that goes backwards in time as we see the desperate actions of the characters and gradually learn their reasoning for them. It’s incredibly disturbing, severely uncomfortable and seriously depressing, with the nihilistic ideology of “time destroys everything”.
The camera spins, the sound design of the film is literally intended to make the audience feel nauseous and the use of special effects to enhance a five minute long, one take rape sequence and to show a man as his head is crushed by a fire extinguisher, with each hit to the head being more disgusting than the last, it feels like everything in this film is intended to make the audience as upset as humanly possible, and that’s before we see the tender romance shared that morning at the very end of the film, and before Noe throws us into the deep end one last time with a swirling shot that would make anyone dizzy.
3. Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
A John Waters film was bound to be here, if we’re honest. He is one of cinema’s most relevant provocateurs, with Multiple Maniacs In 1970 being one of the most easily recognisable bizarre midnight movies to ever be made.
John Waters has quite a reputation as one of cinema’s most wonderful weirdos, and it was arguably with Pink Flamingos that he really started to build this reputation. And deservedly so, the film is completely and utterly bizarre. From the bizarre characters, the low budget style and the overall Waters feel, as if it wasn’t enough, to the possibly real scene wherein Lady Divine literally eats poo, needless to say Pink Flamingos is one of the strangest films ever mad.
It is strange, uncomfortable and horrendously awkward just to see alone, and watching with parents sounds like a literal complete nightmare.
2. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)
Shame, directed by Steve McQueen and released in 2011, is an absolute masterpiece. The performances are breathtaking, the story is shockingly emotional, the score is the best score produced this decade and the cinematography is stunning. Sounds great, right? Well, what if you found out that it was about a sex addict, crippled by his need for a fix, as it were.
There’s a distinct kind of desperation portrayed in Shame, one that sees a man (literally) stripped down to nothing. And if the frequent sex and masturbation scenes on screen weren’t distressing enough, or awkward enough to watch with a parent, just wait until the ending, which is so incredibly poignant that you will likely find yourself close to tears.
It’s an incredibly saddening film, and on top of everything else it also features scenes regarding troubled pasts, suicide, desperation and all kinds of other severely depressing things, portrayed in such a brutally honest fashion that they’re impossible to ignore and even harder to forget.
Not only is Shame a masterpiece of the highest order, it’s also one of the saddest films ever made, and that kind of severe sadness placed against the explicit sex scenes creates a truly uncomfortable atmosphere. As it happens, Michael Fassbender, the film’s main actor, is said to have brought his mother to the first screening. Oops.
1. Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
This just had to have a spot on here, and if any film earns the absolute top spot for extreme cinema, it just has to be Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. Pasolini is well known for being one of the most provocative directors to ever make films, and Salo is definitely his most offensive film, or at least, the one most likely to offend. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, the film contains literal poop-eating, nudity, frequent torture sequences and just about everything that could offend someone.
It is so straight faced in the approach, too, that it is even harder to stomach. But what makes it all so much stronger as a film is the fact that there is a legitimate reason behind the extreme images on screen, the film is a harsh, borderline satirical takedown of fascism, and a haunting one at that.
Surely, there simply can’t be a more extreme film out there, anywhere. Salo takes the prize for the most difficult to watch, and what makes that so interesting is the fact that it is genuinely an awarding watch, despite the brutality of it all.