Cuba, in many ways, has long been a place of lore. An isolated Caribbean island that has been systematically secluded by its ideological foe to the north, Cuba has often been cast as a victim of circumstance, a child caught in a petty argument between petulant parents. But such narratives remove agency, such stories make Cuba a place where interpretation is cast upon it without Cuba itself having much of a say. It is a colonial perspective and one that is becoming ever more fraught. This perception — or at least a small fraction of it — is what the documentary “Cuban Food Stories” seeks to challenge. The film, which aims to catalog the myriad cuisine from around the island, also wants to recast the country as a historied place full of vibrant culture and marvelous uniqueness. For all it’s goodwill, though, “Cuban Food Stories” never feels like anything more than an appetizer to whet your appetite.
Well, it’s officially February, which means Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and it’s time to catch up on the cinematic canon of erotic thrillers. In part, because there’s no better way to spice up this dreary winter month than with some truly salacious thrillers, and partly because the Quad Cinema is bringing back the best of the genre in a 20-film series to celebrate the Valentine’s Day release of Francois Ozon’s pitch-black and wildly indulgent “Double Lover.”
There are few genres that are more firmly established and more at ease with the uncouth than erotic thrillers. Born from the same cocktail of romance and danger as the post-war noir thrillers, it was only a matter of time – as popular cinema became more and more liberal – before the softcore delights of the ‘80s would turn up the heat and give birth to the erotic thriller. At the heart of the best erotic thrillers, is the blurring of the lines between sex and violence and the exploration of the base carnality of human beings. It’s a tenuous — and thrilling — duality. The titillating mixing of danger and pleasure and the complex concoction it takes to strike the right balance is exactly what makes the genre so exciting (and what makes so many erotic thrillers disappointing bombs). The Quad’s “Crimes of Passion: The Erotic Thriller” will bring some of the best — and some of the most unfairly overlooked — of the genre back to the big screen: “Basic Instinct,” “Cruel Intentions,” “Fatal Attraction,” “In The Cut,” “Cat People,” “Bound,” “Body Double” and “Dressed To Kill.” The list, of course, goes on, including a handful of genre precursors like “Double Indemnity,” “Trans-Europ-Express” and “Vertigo,” which alone should make the series worthwhile.