dazzling and interesting on a shoestring
Or how the Destitute get romantic without being boring or broke.
Warning gentle readers: The following post is Valentine’s Day- themed, but focuses on the more physical aspect of adult relationships—aka sex. Be forewarned that this three-letter word appears liberally throughout the post, delving as far into the deep end as to use the word porn, though tempering it a bit here and there with the more palatable word love. If thou thinkest you shall be offended, then check back with Lifestyles of the Destitute and Obscure in a few weeks when we shall return to the land of thrift stores and culinary craftiness. But if you dare, read on and please allow yourself to be amused. Kiddos, check this one with Mom and Dad; Mom and Dad (as in my parents) read on and please remember that I am an adult and well as your child.
The calendar and American consumerism say it’s time to do something canoodling and romantic, but before you buy another dozen toxically sprayed inorganic red roses that will wilt momentarily (though Ms. D is whole-heartedly in favor of drying roses—preferably organic ones—and using them in a scattered Gypsy-era Stevie Nicks way to decorate the tops of bookshelves, bureaus and other dust-collecting spaces) make it an evening in (cheaper and no need for reservations or a babysitter) with a movie rental or two and a few well-chosen nibbles—think beyond microwave popcorn for this one.
Ms. D would also suggest for those entirely domesticated couples that everyone put in the extra effort to shave and put on a nice pair of underwear for the occasion. But if you must be comfortable, go ahead and wear your sweats. It is, after all, your house and your comfy hand-me-down couch.
Something to Nibble on, Besides Your Partner’s Ear
Valentine’s Flicks to Spark and Smolder
This is not a list of romantic comedies, which in my opinion do nothing but inspire women to demand silly public displays of devotion and testosterone-fizzling pillow-talk. Neither is it a list gleaned from the pages of Maxim, Playboy or Penthouse—this is not a list of ‘Best Sex Scenes in a Movie.’ I watched a few of those and was disturbed that many of the movies were meant to be disturbing/psycho-thrillers. And so, I propose a middle ground: sexy movies that have romantic elements and require most of the actresses (and actors—this is an equal-opportunity flesh-fest) to be mostly naked. There are sex scenes; there are no scenes of Meg Ryan weeping. Men and women alike should enjoy most of these movies, and hopefully find them inspiring. Because, really, does a box of chocolates in a frilly box make you want to jump into bed with someone? No, but time spent together, enjoying a bit of culture can be the start (or the re-start, or the continual ignition) to something wonderful.
Belle Epoque—This little flick, now almost a decade old, is directed by Fernando Trueba and stars Penelope Cruz when she was practically a girl. It is a stunning romantic caper set in Spain. Yes, you will have to read the subtitles. A young soldier finds himself stranded in a small town, and befriends a local man while waiting for his train. Upon hearing that the local has four daughters, the soldier ‘accidentally’ misses his train, therefore depending upon the older man’s kindness and hospitality. Naturally, all four daughters are gorgeous in their own way, with Cruz playing the youngest. The escapades that follow are both sexy and humorous, with enough of a central plotline and amusing peripheral characters to keep it from slipping into silly soft-core. Plus, it’s all in Spanish, which keeps it just above cheesy, or at least an exotic imported cheese rather than American ‘cheese’ (which really isn’t cheese at all, but a highly processed dairy product).
The Lover— If you want a steamy locale and can handle a bit of French-styled forays toward the sexual exploits of the young that don’t quite dip into pedophilia, then watch this delicious and sexy story of the affair of a young French girl and a Chinese man that takes place in colonial Vietnam. The movie is based on the book of the same name by Marguerite Duras. Go ahead and read the book, too, which is still steamy, but melancholic and wrapped in that mysterious and sometimes incongruous French je ne sais quoi. But for a two-hour foreplay-seduction-by-celluloid, watch the movie. The setting is a little bit exotic, but always just a little bit raw and dirty (in both the literal and figurative sense) and the costuming is simple but alluring. I love a man in a linen suit and I myself would love to look as beguiling in a simple tea-dyed shift, braids and a fedora. Jane March would look only like a school girl if it weren’t for the red-stained lips of her sulky smile.
Crazy, Stupid, Love— Yes, it’s American, yes it’s cheesy and processed. But it is funny for both men and women. There is just enough of Julianne Moore’s legs and plenty of Ryan Gosling’s chest (swoon) to make it sexy and there’s a whole lotta love going around in strange directions. It’s not R-rated (PG-13, but probably not one for the kiddos) and a smart romantic comedy, without getting into Woody Allen-wackiness territory if that’s not your thing. Think of it as a chocolate milk-type movie—sweet, smooth going down and sits comfortably in your stomach (unless of course, you’re lactose intolerant, but we don’t need to delve into the depths of that analogy).
Porn Star: The legend of Ron Jeremy— If you don’t mind a bit of porn, with high levels of humor and a whole lotta heart, this is a great film. Yes, there’s pornography; they’re not just sex scenes. But I stand by this film as worth watching and not just full of closet-sex-addict-porn outtakes. Ron Jeremy, an adult film icon, is gifted with a few natural talents that make him perfect for his job—not the least of which is a sense of humor and playfulness in an industry that would do well not to take itself too seriously. This porn-star wears his heart on his sleeve, which doesn’t exactly make him romantic (or even particularly attractive, though usually that is the job of his female counterpart) but it makes him wonderfully human and he is, in many ways, eager to please. Ron Jeremy even dabbles in Hollywood— ‘real acting’— movies in an effort to become just a little bit more legit. But he does his current job so well and with so much a genuine heart, which is next-to-non-existent in the porn industry, that he has become a legend in his field— if not necessarily a movie star.
Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona— Okay, so sometimes Woody Allen can be sexy. I don’t mean him personally, unless you’re into that much-older-man thing, and I don’t intend to go there. This one pairs nicely with Belle Epoque, getting to see Penelope Cruz mature— and go crazy—in an entirely beguiling and sexy way. Scarlett Johannson is cute, sexy and pouty in that wonderful way that only a naïve, idealistic American college student can be while travelling in Europe. Javier Bardem gives us a lovely flavor of rugged, older Spanish man, speaking in poetry and smoky stares. And you can’t go wrong with Mediterranean sunshine on red-tile roofs, especially if yours is currently covered in snow.
There’s my list. Snuggle, partake, be inspired and feel the love. Then share the love and send me your favorite list of Valentine’s movies—to be viewed any and all times of the year. Though be warned, I may suddenly become deaf/blind to any Meg Ryan/Julia Roberts romantic comedies, and shame on you if you glean yours from Maxim.
Love and hugs,
Hearts photo by: Salvatore Vuono