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#4: Are You Still Watching? Valentine's Day Edition 🌹
Musings, conversations, and recommendations for your Valentine's Day viewing from In the Mood Magazine ❤️
By Raph Sandler
The Matrix (1999) and its sequels have been talked about to death, claimed and reclaimed, finding fans through each wave of sincerity and irony, in part because there are so many ways to key into them. The various modes of The Matrix films include: stark neo-noir influenced cinematography, body horror, absurd and meticulous fight scenes sandwiched between stilted philosophical discussions about fate and choice, all orbiting and dependent upon a core love story.
To me, the first two films have the most affecting movie kisses of all time. So much of these movies is about blending and recognizing human and digital experiences literally, visually, and aurally. Tribal drums give way to EDM and everybody starts fucking. The first movie is sonically filled with buzzing hot electricity, smashed concrete, trumpet stabs mixed with DnB, boots on metal grates, digitally altered whooshes, and then for the first time: a choir of human voices, moments after Trinity kisses Neo back to life, with literal sparks flying. “You can’t be dead, because I love you.”
The kiss from The Matrix Reloaded is a mirror of the first, this time Trinity being saved by Neo. Inside the matrix, Neo reaches his hand inside Trinity’s dying body and pulls a bullet out. He then closes his hand around her heart and squeezes it until it starts beating again. Covered in leather and blood they hold each other and kiss, the same choir of voices from the first film heralding another miracle.
Perhaps more than any other filmmakers, the Wachowskis believe in the manifest power of love, or “love conquers all.” The stylized action of The Matrix films is of course exciting and even awe-inspiring, but it’s also imbued with futility by design. No matter what gravity defying moves Neo and Trinity can pull off inside the matrix, they’re fighting immortal digital enemies, with no physical bodies on the line. Eventually they are overwhelmed and face death. In a series of movies that works with a lot of modes and ideas, the one that stays with me is that the concept of love can have tangible, bloody ramifications, reversing and fulfilling fates. No matter how many times I watch these films, I always forget how good the kiss is going to make me feel.
Raph Sandler is a filmmaker living in Montreal.
Battle of the Faves: Moulin Rouge vs. Eyes Wide Shut
The Editors of In the Mood discuss two of their favourite romances in a Nicole Kidman double feature.
Gabrielle: As we covered in our holiday newsletter, I am not really a rom-com fan, but I love romances. Done right, it feels like it’s what cinema was made for. Any faves?
Sennah: I recently rewatched Titanic for the first time as an adult, and was shocked by how much it affected me. I had unconsciously reduced it to “it’s been 84 years…” memes and karaoke songs, and forgot how much of a truly amazing love story it was! I cried during the movie, before going to sleep, then again when I woke up the next morning; it was really startling!
I also recently saw Happy Together for the first time and sobbed tons, too. I guess I just love a good ‘ol cry these days lol. What about you?
Gabrielle: I feel like this is going to sound so teen poet of me, but I don’t cry easily, especially at films. I wish I did, seems cathartic! But I did sob after seeing Powell and Pressburger’s Gone to Earth, which was embarrassing because I saw it at a film festival and people must have noticed. But when I went into the bathroom another girl was crying in the stall, so I wasn’t alone.
Sennah: That’s so sweet that there was a fellow bathroom cryer with you! That happened to me after I saw Portrait of a Lady on Fire too.
Gabrielle: That’s definitely an emotional one. I recently watched The Passionate Friends, which was incredible. Something about the 50s really allowed for big, sweeping, unapologetic romances! But the ultimate one for girls my age might be, another Leo vehicle, Romeo + Juliet…
Sennah: Ooh yes — which leads us to your pick for today’s Battle of the Faves, also directed by Baz Luhrmann… Moulin Rouge! Why did you pick it for our chat?
Gabrielle: I’ve been wanting to revisit it for a while. It was such a huge deal when it came out among my group. I went to theatre school so we were always about a wine cooler away from singing it out loud. And I think it has that reputation, as a corny, theatre kid movie. But some of the images from the film have really gotten stuck in my mind, I wanted to see if it was as gorgeous as I remember.
Sennah: Totally — I don’t think I saw it until much later because I so strongly associated it with the theatre kid vibe haha. But it’s really memorable and striking. All the lush textures and colours popping out, the weight of Satine’s diamond necklace... did it all live up to your memories?
Gabrielle: My hope is to rescue it from the theatre kid gutter! And yes it did, I got emotional watching it, not because of the romance, but because it was so stunning and unrestrained, and I don’t think we get films like it anymore. I’m glad you mentioned the necklace, I looked it up and it has 143 diamonds in it and cost 3 million to make. I was struck at how incredible it is to watch a film where they built all these stages, someone painted the moulding gold, someone upholstered that elephant! It doesn’t feel like we get much of that excessive beauty these days.
Sennah: Yeah, that kind of lavish attention to detail feels really rare now. And “excessive beauty” is such a great way of putting it — it’s similar to how I felt while watching Nicole Kidman in this haha. I kept saying “she’s too much!” out loud, in awe. I was completely overwhelmed by her hair, her skin, her lips. She’s like this jewel in the film, and you can see why the whole story centers around everyone fawning over her!
Gabrielle: Absolutely, and she does have a quality that seems precious, like porcelain, like she might break if you dropped her, and the film loves to drop and catch her! Have you ever known someone like that in real life?
Sennah: Yes! It’s honestly magical to watch, especially when it’s this subtle yet effective slow burn. I remember at first wondering if I was the only person who found this person magnetic— I’m easily charmed!— but then I realized watching others interact with/react to her, that we were all equally bewitched haha. What about you?
Gabrielle: I’ve known a few people like that, it’s interesting to watch, but challenging as well. Everything submits to that kind of beauty! A friend was talking about Kristen Stewart and described her as a plaything for directors, and how she is willing in that exchange. It was really interesting, like both her and the director are curious to see what she’ll look like in this scenario or in that outfit, or saying those lines… and I feel like Nicole is also a plaything, she likes to pick projects where she’s an object to admire or torment or be tormented over, where her beauty becomes the object of interest, the stuff of the film. I’m thinking Dogville, Birth, and of course Eyes Wide Shut, your pick for today’s chat.
Sennah: Totally. And I had forgotten how much of Moulin Rouge was all about jealousy/possession over Satine as the object of everyone’s affection. Satine “belongs” to so many different people, who all want her for their very own and can’t live with the idea of others touching or “having” her, too. They repeatedly mention how jealousy can drive you mad, which I thought would be fun to talk about. Do you consider yourself a jealous person?
Gabrielle: I am very prone to jealousy and competitiveness, with women and men, around love, beauty, success, clothing… you name it. It’s an ugly emotion but it fuels me, it feels painful and pathetic but the intensity can be invigorating. And it often points you to where you need to go, what your true desires are. How about you?
Sennah: I’m the same! But I love what you said about how jealousy can be energizing, and a signal of your desires. I think this is how I’ve tried to rethink my jealousy more as envy, which I feel is a more positive feeling of wishfulness and admiration, rather than feeling threatened. I find it’s really similar to being infatuated!
Which reminds me… I liked in Moulin Rouge when Zidler catches Satine and Christian kissing, and she tries to convince him that “it’s nothing, it’s an infatuation!” To me, infatuation is far from “nothing”! What do you think — do you get infatuated easily?
Gabrielle: I remember Chuck Klosterman, who I was obsessed what in high school lol, said the only difference between infatuation and love is that we call it love when it works out, but if it ends quickly, or turns out badly, we call it infatuation in the hopes of undermining it. But love can be temperamental and destructive and burn out fast. I do get infatuated easily, and once, as an exercise, I started saying that I was in love when the feeling of infatuation came up (not to the object of my infatuation, I’m not insane, but to my friends and myself and in my writing). I thought: love is an arrow, you don’t get to choose when you get pierced.
Sennah: Omg I love that, and you. 🥺 I love how that puts more trust in the word and the feeling. And as they say in the movie… “without trust, there is no love” lol.
Gabrielle: How did you feel about the romance between Satine and Christian, did you feel they had chemistry?
Sennah: Similar to what you said, the film’s set pieces and atmosphere drew me in more than the actual romance between Satine and Christian. I loved all their intense eye contact haha but I’m not actually sure if I bought their chemistry. I wonder if it’s because I’m more attracted to Nicole Kidman when she’s playing more cold, detached. What did you think?
Gabrielle: I was a bit disappointed at first that they didn’t have much chemistry. I didn’t really buy the romance, and I wondered why the film was so romantic in spite of this. But I figured that it was more about the romance we invest in pop music, the way we can apply a pop song, with its simple, universal lyrics, to our own experience of love. Moulin Rouge is about the idea of love, but it still has so much heart and feeling!
Gabrielle Marceau is a writer and editor-in-chief of In the Mood Magazine.
Sennah Yee is the author of How Do I Look? (Metatron Press) and My Day With Gong Gong (Annick Press).
Feeling Devastated? Sophy Romvari recommends There’s Something About Mary
Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly, 1998
Hold onto your hats, this might not be the pairing you were expecting. Everyone has experienced something awful in their life that made them want to simply exit their body and walk away from it all. There are many films that might allow for that kind of literal existential catharsis, but this extremely lol movie has done the trick for me in ways that few others have. It’s a true comedy, the kind that does not pull its punches the way that most contemporary comedies do. Its absurdity is absorbing, the performances are career highs, and the concept is everything you could ask for from a screwball romantic charade. It’s the type of comedy that is not geared toward any particular gender, but at the same time, it’s an unquestionable critique of the astonishing lengths men will take to idealize and objectify a woman they deem to be “perfect” — for each of them. Not all will see this aspect of social commentary, but the film works hard to keep you laughing at their expense regardless. And if its charms work, perhaps you too fall in love with Mary and forget who and where you are, if only for a moment. Let yourself indulge in this comedy of errors, and remember, this too shall pass.