Inspired by the premiere of Ted 2 – a movie so awful that we here at Silver Screen Riot have declared it the “worst film of the year” [full review here] – here is our list of the five best films about interspecies relationships. These cinematic gems, like the relationship between a woman and a teddy bear, encourage viewers to wonder: how do they do it? Like, do it, do it?
5. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1988
One of the pleasures of having grown up in the 1980s is the strange experience of returning to the films of your youth and discovering just how raunchy and generally inappropriate they are. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is a perfect example of this: not only are certain scenes truly horrifying (who wasn’t scarred by the acid bath?), at the center of the story is a relationship between a goofy, bow-tie-wearing rabbit and a buxom beauty named Jessica. What does she see in this bumbling, ridiculously sincere naif? The film is riddled with sexual innuendo, but it’s not just between the betrothed: Jessica just can’t help being so damn seductive all the time, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is rotten with men who straight up want to have sex with this cartoon. Frankly, Kathleen Turner’s voice has no business in a children’s film. And why the hell are women in cartoons always so scantily-clad and shaped in such a way that they couldn’t possibly stand up straight if they were real? What kind of message are we sending to the kids? Anyway, the love between Jessica and Roger is one of the more heartwarming aspects of this film. It’s a bizarre movie (though it fit in well with freak shows like Howard the Duck), which is all the more reason it’s amazing, and we’re lucky to have it.
4. THE BEAST
Dir. Walerian Borowczyk, 1975
Guys, this is seriously the best erotic Polish film about bestiality out there. The Beast takes a familiar narrative – that of “Beauty and the Beast” – to its logical, perverse extreme. Brought to a country estate to marry the “dimwitted” stable-hand nephew of the recently-deceased patriarch, young Lucy finds herself thoroughly aroused by various accoutrement hidden throughout the home: a booklet (stored just ‘neath the Bible) with explicit illustrations of women having sex with horses, a claw-torn corset supposedly discovered floating in a nearby pond, and so on. As her groom-to-be drunkenly snores through the night, unaware of her attempts to seduce him, Lucy dreams of a woman who meets a large, black-hair-covered beast in the woods just beyond the heavily-draped windows. The beast chases her through the trees as her clothing is stripped away by snags and falls; when he catches up, the ensuing lovemaking is so rapturous (and vigorous) it leads to the beast’s untimely death. When Lucy finally awakens, she makes a disturbing discovery about her fiance – but surely the discovery that really matters is about her own “unnatural” desires, and the danger in repressing them.
3. LARS AND THE REAL GIRL
Dir. Craig Gillespie, 2007
Lars and the Real Girl is a movie about a guy in love with a sex doll. With a plot description like that, you probably assumed this film would be among the dirtiest on this list. Gotcha! It’s a devastating portrayal of a mentally ill young man’s attempt to “grow up” and the kindness of a community willing to embrace him and his “girlfriend.” Anchoring the film is Ryan Gosling‘s stellar performance as Lars, which is convincingly awkward, blinky, and damaged. The doll, Bianca, is described as “anatomically correct,” yet in fulfilling Lars’ need for a nonthreatening intimacy, she is devoutly religious and therefore, chaste; though we often encounter Lars in conversation with the doll from afar, we’re never privy to the details of their interactions, which keeps the film from becoming silly or carrying this particular interspecies relationship into the realm of cheap jokes (a la Ted 2, for one). Though the film tells a deeply moving story about the struggle to cope with childhood loss and the terror of the unknown (adulthood), the film also demonstrates something significant about the nature of relationships with species that literally cannot reciprocate: Bianca is malleable, and though in this instance the small town thoroughly embraces and even loves her, there is always the missing piece of being a grown up – that is, sacrificing for others; bending to your lover’s will; accepting loneliness, disagreement, and the difficulties of other people.
2. THE GUINEA PIG 6: MERMAID IN A MANHOLE
Dir. Hideshi Hino, 1988
Mermaid in a Manhole is a cautionary tale about the dangers of interspecies love. If you haven’t heard of the “Guinea Pig” horror series, you cannot be warned enough about how relentlessly disgusting, gory, and tasteless they truly are; if you are weak-stomached, don’t even think about it. If you love shit like this, still, don’t plan on eating anything just before, during, or after the film. That being said, Mermaid in a Manhole is an amazing movie. An artist wanders in his local sewer system seeking inspiration until he comes upon a recumbent mermaid and knows that he must paint her. He quickly realizes that she has a festering wound near the connection of her tail, and decides to bring her home and care for her in a brand-new, claw-footed tub. The patch of pulsating, pussy boils spreads as he works day and night to capture her other-worldly beauty; eventually, on her orders, he slices one of the boils open, and out pours pigments in a rainbow of neon hues, which he uses to continue the painting. Her slow-motion writhing and multi-colored death throes are accompanied by an operatic score and an array of splooging, oozing, gloopy sound effects that are truly nauseating. Before long even the mermaid’s face is partially covered in the ghoulish mess as the artist races nature to represent his love on the canvas, culminating in a bloody mess that eventually seeps through his apartment floor. Guys, seriously, don’t take mermaids out of their natural habitat, ever.
1: MAX, MON AMOUR
Dir. Nagisa Oshima, 1986
Max, Mon Amour is about a love triangle: Peter, his wife Margaret, and her lover, a chimpanzee called Max. The film is full of suggestive grooming and innuendo (you can’t beat the delivery men warning Margaret, “Chimpanzees can be very strong,” and her deadpan response, “I know”), an unusual state of affairs (pun intended) for director Nagisa Oshima, best known for the especially explicit In the Realm of the Senses. Max, Mon Amour is a study in French bourgeois hypocrisy: for example, Peter is flabbergasted and deeply offended by Margaret’s relationship with Max, yet cannot temper any such reaction to his own extramarital affair. This critique reaches its apex during Margaret’s birthday dinner party, when the entrance of her former lover, Archibald, is treated as unremarkable, despite his affectionate attentions to Margaret; but when Max joins the party and tenderly searches Margaret’s hair for insects, the party is incensed and disgusted. The apparent intimacy between Margaret and Max is endlessly touching and, frankly, pretty hot. Literalizing the relationship between King Kong and his damsel in distress, the film pushes you to share in Peter’s obsession: just what are they doing? And how are they doing it?