What to watch on New Year's Eve.
Few filmmakers have ever portrayed slushy nights out like South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo. Let’s single out Woman is the Future of Man (2004), in which three old friends reunite and spend the film suppressing their checkered history via an endless procession of bottles. The French thriller Red Lights (2002) poses a conundrum: Is it funny that middle-aged protagonist (Jean-Pierre Daroussin), whose pissed-off wife abandons him during a cross-country drive, quells his nerves and insecurities by stopping at every bar he encounters and getting gradually shitfaced? Can DUI be amusing? Kind of, maybe, just this once.
Must we dwell on the decidedly not-funny side of quaffing? Fine.
Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend (1945) scored a pile of Oscars for portraying an ex-alkie (Ray Milland) tumbling off the wagon. Albert Finney’s British consul spends the Day of the Dead drinking himself deeper into his grave in John Huston’s take on Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano (1984) while in the Ozploitation film Wake in Fright (1971) a kindly schoolteacher turns feral through booze and hard living after visiting an Outback township.
In Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s bleak-even-for-him The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971), a shat-upon fruit peddler (Hans Hirschmüller) gamely beats Nic Cage’s record in Leaving Las Vegas, drinking himself to death in one night while friends and family look on.
John Cassavetes’ Husbands (1970) exists entirely in the middle of the extremes: It captures both the fun and the despair of drowning sorrows in one long, crazy (and in this case, globetrotting) bender. Cassavetes, Peter Falk and Ben Gazzara proceed from the funeral of a close friend to a New York bar. There they spend at least two reels berating strangers—as with any Rat Pack movie, those aren’t prop drinks—then proceed to gob for several loud minutes in the bathroom. Over the next couple of days, the three men cut loose from their families and, allowing themselves to be obnoxious fuckheads for just a short window, howl at the despair of disappointments, wasted time, middle age, directions not taken, broads not banged—anything stuck in their craws. Like its characters, Husbands is hilarious, annoying, liberating, exhausting, ugly and beautiful.
Still, we hope that your New Year’s carousing will resemble Husbands less than it resembles a little movie called The Hangover (2009).