Psychotic women, manipulative men, murder, incest, doubles, and dangerous sex. Films like these have always interested me and I’ve already talked about some of them in my article Cinema of the Flesh. However, I also wanted to talk about some other titles that I think are simply too amazing to be left in the dark. Here are nine outstanding films about psychotic relationships that you wish would never happen to you.
The Fourth Man (1983) by Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven is mostly known for movies like Elle, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls, but his bests ones were actually made in Dutch. The Fourth Man is one of those and follows the story of a bisexual writer who is having disturbing nightmares. When he starts dating a woman he met in one of his lectures, he ends up discovering she has another lover and becomes infatuated by him. However, the more the writer invests in this love-triangle, the more dark secrets he starts to unfold, resulting in a dream-like feature that mixes sex and death in an ambiguous and queer manner that is simply fascinating to watch.
Death in a French Garden (1985) by Michel Deville
Despite being a movie that is hard to find, Death in a French Garden is definitely worth taking a look for telling the story of a guitar teacher who starts having an affair with the mother of one of his students. When the teacher receives an anonymous video of someone witnessing these secret encounters, the teacher starts to investigate who may be behind this and ends up facing situations that may put his life at risk. With an amazing mise en scene by Michel Deville, Death in a French Garden is a very sensual and sensorial film with many Hitchcock references that will blow your mind.
The Bridesmaid (2004) by Claude Chabrol
And speaking of Hitchcock, Claude Chabrol has been named many times as the Alfred Hitchcock of French cinema, but are the movies like The Bridesmaid that makes him significantly different. Following the story of a man who falls in love with the bridesmaid at his sister’s wedding, this couple starts an intense relationship that is put to test after the woman asks the man to murder someone to prove his love. Despite not taking her very seriously, he realizes he may be in a dangerous situation when she reveals that she has already murdered someone for him. The result is a film that is clearly inspired by Strangers On a Train, but way more powerful when it comes to sex, secrets, and violence.
That Cold Day in the Park (1969) by Robert Altman
Robert Altman has very interesting movies regarding psychological subjects and That Cold Day in the Park is probably one of his bests when it comes to this theme. The movie tells the story of a woman who sees a nineteen-year-old boy sitting on a bench in the park through her window. She invites him in, gives him clothes, a bath, and fresh food. The boy ends up staying in her house but when he decides to leave, he realizes the woman has other plans for him. Despite having a Misery vibe, That Cold Day in the Park is better and more different than Stephen King’s novel for being brilliantly directed by Altman and his incredible sense of duality.
The Story of Adele H. (1975) by François Truffaut
Based o the true story of the daughter of Victor Hugo, The Story of Adele H. follows the period when she moved to a remote island to look for her unrequited love. Being on the edge of her desperation, François Truffaut’s film follows her obsessive and crazy acts to make this man, a military officer, marry her — even though he doesn’t want to. The ending is quite shocking, making you wonder how terrible the life of this woman must have been. More impressive than that, is Isabelle Adjani’s performance, which brings Adele Hugo to life in such an astonishing way that I dare to say her performance is one of my favorite of all times.
The Wounded Man (1983) by Patrice Chéreau
Probably one of my favorite movies on the list, The Wounded Man is a beautiful and disturbing exercise about homosexuality and desire. The film follows the story of a young man who goes cruising for sex with men at train stations and ends up falling in love with an older man. As the day passes, he keeps looking for this man and enters a transgressive state where his body seems to control his mind while he enters a dangerous and sexual world. More than a film about homosexual desire, it’s a film about losing control of your feelings, resulting in a controversial and shocking film.
The Collector (1965) by William Wyler
William Wyler may have directed masterpieces like Ben-Hur and Roman Holiday but The Collector is without a doubt my favorite one. Starring Terence Stamp, the film is based on the novel by John Fowles about a butterfly collector who suddenly decides to kidnap a young art student and keep her as a prisoner. With amazing performances and a brilliant script, The Collector isn’t only a great film about psychopaths but also one of my favorite films.
Road to Salina (1970) by Georges Lautner
Being the latest film I’ve watched from this list, Road to Salina has every element that makes me like these types of films: psychotic and crazy women, murder, sex, and double characters. More than that, the film feels like a mixture of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Theorema and Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point by telling the story of a traveler who stops at a gas station and encounters a woman who claims that he is her son. The traveler decides to play along and suddenly, other members of the family start to say the same, making this man start an investigation of who is this other man they claim he is. Shot in the beautiful desert of the Canary Islands, Road to Salina is a surreal and sexual film with the spirit of the 70s Hollywood cinema.
Mademoiselle (1966) by Tony Richardson
And last but not least, Mademoiselle is a film that I had been wanting to watch for a while and I was finally able to do so thanks to its new restoration. Shot with outstanding cinematography in new wave style, the movie tells the story of an uptight teacher who lives in a small town in England’s countryside. She has strong desires towards a foreigner who does not only have a reputation for being a lady’s man but is also the main suspect for the terrible crimes that have been happening in the village. Little does everybody know that these crimes are being provoked by the teacher as a response to her love and hate relationship with this man, resulting in a beautiful and dark tale of desire.