movies you shouldn't watch with your family at christmas
Films to avoid at family festive time.
When i-D asked me to suggest a few films not to watch with family over Christmas, I did not exactly find myself short of suitable candidates. With all respect due to The Great Escape, whichever Harry Potter film happens to air this year, et cetera, my taste tends to run counter to traditional Christmas fare, and I fully admit to being a grim, un-festive, pretentious jerk. Narrowing down which incest flicks, literal pornographic romps and perverse scat scenes to include proved trickier. (In my personal experience, the rule of watching films with family is exactly the same arbitrary, ass-backwards rule enforced in cinema in general: violence generally fine, sex bad. Never mind that every family, by dint of being a family, required the latter in order to actually exist.) If some of these are obvious choices, know that I’ve selected them because how could I not. A fake eleven-inch dick! A Christmas-Eve-orgy! Mother-son sex! Wagner-sound-tracked porn! These five films are an embarrassment of riches — or, now that I think about it, of embarrassment.
Eyes Wide Shut
Nicole Kidman, playing Alice Hartford, has the final line of Eyes Wide Shut: “I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible — fuck.” She is addressing not only her onscreen husband, but her actual then-husband, Tom Cruise; and although the camera shoots him from behind, and we do not see his reaction, the preceding one-hundred-and-fifty-minutes do not give much indication that he’d find the prospect thrilling. I completely understand the impulse to watch Kubrick’s final film — a classic tale of boy meets girl, girl tells boy that she fantasises about other boys, boy spins out at the revelation and ends up enacting a surrealistic psychosexual odyssey, peaking with his attendance at an orgy — around Christmastime, given the irrefutable fact that it is a Christmas film. I would not personally advise it. While the logical assumption would be that the orgy scene would be most likely to offend, I think it’s arguable that the deadening lack of chemistry between the actually married leads is worse: have any two people on film ever seemed less like “there [was] something very important [they] need[ed] to do as soon as possible — fuck”?
“The relationship between Kidman and Cruise,” The Globe and Mail reported retrospectively, in 2014, “felt as hot and bothered as a Bingo tournament.” Eyes Wide Shut was first released in July 1999; Kubrick had died in March that year, and by August 2001 Kidman and Cruise had divorced. Believe it or not, I like Eyes Wide Shut, but it is — to use a particularly ‘online’ phrase — a cursed picture. It is a document of death; of the death of a marriage. Do not watch it with your parents, lest they start to contemplate divorce.
To choose one film starring the genius actor Isabelle Huppert to appear on a list of films whose content is not family-friendly is a task not unlike choosing one film starring “Marky” Mark Wahlberg that’s dumb: Herculean, perhaps impossible. I thought about Elle, Paul Verhoeven’s perfect pitch-black “rape comedy” from 2016, in which Huppert’s character has a consensual sexual relationship with her serial rapist; Michael Haneke’s 2001 The Piano Teacher, featuring a scene where Huppert cuts her genitalia with a razor, and another where she crouches down and pisses next to a parked car for sexual kicks, did not escape the shortlist. I ended up choosing Ma Mere for the simple fact that I can think of fewer things more discomfiting or queasy to watch with one’s parents than a tres Francais, tres graphique incest movie. Based — bien sur — on the posthumous novel of the same name by George Bataille, its Wikipedia entry contains the immortal line: “Hélène asks her son to cut her abdomen with a razor while he masturbates, and as he climaxes she slits her own throat.”
When I said that it was probably impossible to choose the dumbest movie starring Marky Mark, I was not being truthful. Obviously, it is The Happening, the M. Night Shyamalan film where he finds himself — along with all mankind — at war with trees. (Miss this one, too; it’s family friendly, yes, but also trash.) His best film, indisputably in my opinion and very disputably in his, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s porno-epic Boogie Nights — a film not necessarily advisable for family viewing both because, duh, it’s about porn, and because it contains one of the most famously eye-popping fake-schlong scenes in cinematic history. “When we were shooting,” Anderson has said about the scene in which Wahlberg, as Dirk Diggler, finally bares it all, “I kept thinking, this is exactly like seeing the dinosaur in Jurassic Park or seeing the shark in Jaws or seeing E.T. for the first time. It's a reveal.” I watched Jaws and E.T. for the first time with my family — Boogie Nights, thank God, I watched alone. Man eating sharks and aliens are one thing. Manmade dicks, entirely another.
Nymphomaniac Parts I and II
Content aside, Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac is unlikely to end up being chosen for Christmas day viewing due to being — like the aforementioned silicon schlong — way too long. Combined, the two director’s cuts clock in at somewhere around seven hours; most of the material reinstated for Von Trier’s full version is surprisingly sedate and philosophical debate, although there is also a home abortion scene so bloody I could barely stand to watch it. The tale of a woman proudly addicted to sex, played in early life by Stacey Martin and in later life by a fantastic Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nymphomaniac may be the most explicit film to feature major movie stars to date: pornographic actors are electronically body-mapped in order to allow the leads to look as though they’re doing their own sexual stunts, and few stunts are left off-camera. Deliberately un-hot, a true test of endurance, as explicit as actual pornography and as electrifying in as many places as it is frustrating, even the most open-minded family members will prefer to watch material like this alone. I would not dare to say no Grandmothers will like it — maybe yours will. This does not mean that it ought to go on after the Queen’s speech.
Technically old enough to be a grandmother at 60, I admit that my own mother — an unusual woman with a taste for extreme, art-house cinema — first introduced me to Takashi Miike, showing me Audition in my mid-teens. (Obviously, I turned out just fine.) My family not being everyone’s family, and this being too much even for us, it would probably be wise to skip over this later, grosser Miike effort, which begins by asking the audience whether they have ever had sex with their fathers. A man solicits sex from his own daughter, who is working as a prostitute; a woman lactates for her lover. Intercourse with a dead woman ends up interrupted by an unexpected bowel movement. If it is not the most grotesque film I have ever seen, I’m certain that it’s somewhere in the top five, and although I would not say by any means that I dislike it, I do not find it especially easy to recommend. Added into the mix: Christmas, a time for eating as well as nominally for, you know, Christ, does not exactly lend itself to faecal humour. Christmas pudding is no longer likely to appeal after a screening of Visitor Q. Nor is…anything, now that I think about it.