My Last Valentine in Beirut – Movie Review

This movie is for serious and smart people only” said the marketing tagline. Then by all accounts, I’m a stupid person who knows nothing of seriousness.

My Last Valentine in Beirut is not a movie. I have no idea what to make of it actually. It’s a horrid mess. It’s a nauseating spectacle. It’s a disgustingly bad atrocity. It’s a jumble of scenes with no apparent link between them except a quest to build up into a running time of approximately 80 minutes. Meet Juliette, a whore in Beirut. Meet a movie director and his assistant wanting to make a movie about Juliette. That’s basically the entirety of My Last Valentine in Beirut for you.

There’s no depth in the movie. Not one bit. The characters are as flat as a board. The storyline – or lack thereof – is so void that you shouldn’t even attempt searching for anything in it. The jabs at Lebanese society are delivered by the characters turning to face the camera – there’s not even one hint of subtlety anywhere. The movie takes cheap shots at other Lebanese movies such as Caramel, Bosta and W Halla2 la Wein which by all accounts are much, much better than this mess. Juliette’s attitude, obviously hyperbolic, becomes more than grating at points. The point of this being a critique of Lebanon today becomes entirely detached from what’s happening on screen that any message the movie tries to pass feels forced especially as the last scene rolls around and you start wondering how the movie got to the conclusion it tries to bring forth with its obvious lack of build up towards anything mentally stimulating.

The absolutely useless 3D is only here for the extra revenue and it’s so distracting at times that it visually hurts. Some camera angles, which are supposedly “artistic,” don’t make sense – even to someone like yours truly whose expertise when it comes to movies is restricted to being an enthusiastic viewer.  Even the only sex scene in the movie is of such catastrophic execution that it becomes one of the movie’s funniest moments. Those are not many.

You’d think that struggling Lebanese cinema would actually bother to come up with good enough movies especially with production being so scarce. But no, you get movies like My Last Valentine in Beirut which keep throwing one crappy scene after another at you in order to break the worst movie in history record, which is a shame really because the premise of a movie discussing prostitution in Lebanon is so dense that this movie, if actually done like a proper movie with a decent script, could have turned out well. Maybe. Who am I kidding. At some point during My Last Valentine in Beirut‘s rather short running time, I wished I was watching Breaking Dawn again. This was one of the worst movie experiences of my life. And that’s not an easy feat at all. My Last Valentine in Beirut has shattered my faith in Lebanese cinema into so many little pieces that next time a non-Nadine Labaki Lebanese movie is released, I’ll rely on other people going on a martyrdom viewing mission before I venture out.

Do not watch this. Even if your life depended on it. Even if your mother’s life depended on it. You could use the $10 admission price in so many better ways, not to mention the time of your life you wouldn’t have wasted trying to watch this cinematic massacre.

1/10 – and I’m being generous. 

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Sex in Lebanon: How About We Stop Calling Our Women Whores?

The following is a guest post by an anonymous Lebanese woman.

I didn’t like my first time. Not because I was underprepared. Not because of the little pain I felt. Not because I didn’t feel pleasure after it. But because of what I thought people would think of me now that my hymen had been sloughed off.

I was 17 back then. Don’t faint. Yes, I was sexually active as a teenager. I’m 23 now. A lot has happened in 6 years.

I dumped my most recent boyfriend a while back. I had slept with him as well. Little did I know, however, that I’d get word that this so-called boyfriend was busy calling me a “whore” behind my back, letting everyone know about his exploits with me. He thought he had led me on. He thought I was so gullible I’d fall prey to his irresistible charm.

Time for a mini-vomit moment? Yes.

The thing my horrendous ex doesn’t know is that I wanted to sleep with him as much as he wanted to sleep with me. The thing I think most Lebanese guys don’t know is that we, Lebanese women, need sex as much as them. The only thing stopping us from pursuing it like they do is our fear from society turning on us.

“Chefto heide? Bento la flen? Eh heide charmou*a.”

I’m not afraid to walk around Hamra, my neighborhood, today with my head held high. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Who should be ashamed is every single person in Lebanese society who has no problem deflowering a girl or penetrating her, both literally and figuratively, and then pretend it was her fault for being receptive.

I have to ask those men busy calling women whores. Who are you sleeping with exactly? Dolls? Fleshlights? I rest my case.

For the women criticizing other women who sleep around, why don’t you do something useful instead? Like trying to get us into power, like trying to lobby against our current laws which are way more degrading to us than a reputation you think I’m forcing on you. Instead, you’re busy bringing down every other women who doesn’t fit into the conservative mold society has implanted in your head. I’m not judging you because of it. You have the right to be critical. But I’m pretty sure there are lots of things I can criticize about you. You don’t see me doing that, right?

People with glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Lebanese society, when it comes to sex, is slowly opening up. No pun intended. But we have a long way to go. No one has a problem admitting sex is a beautiful thing. And it sure is. But many have a problem acknowledging that people are actually having sex.

I spent last summer in Paris and it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I wasn’t afraid of what people would think of me if I had a little more than I should to drink at a pub. I didn’t care about what some guys would think if I was obviously hitting on them. I didn’t think what other girls would think about me being happy on a Saturday night.

I do that in Lebanon too.

But the thing is, the girls and guys of Paris didn’t care as well. Their equivalent in Lebanon would be eyeing me either as a potential prey or as a threat. Take your pick.

I recently read an article on NowLebanon by Angie Nassar titled “A Culture of blame” and while I believe her analogy between what happened with Myriam Klink and NewTV’s Ghadi Francis is a little far-fetched for my taste, I have to say that the most poignant point is made early on:

If a woman steps outside the strict boundaries of behavior prescribed to her, she faces communal rejection, stigmatization, violent assault (as in the case of Francis), and even death by way of “honor killing.”

The sad thing is that everyone’s participating in painting the box that women are allowed to be free in: the men, the women and our media.

For example, when it comes to the Myriam Klink incident, no one had a problem rejecting Nemr Abou Nassar for calling her a whore. Her song is sexually suggestive? Of course. But what right does that give anyone for calling her a whore, regardless of how “obvious” you might believe that is?

When it comes to the Ghadi Francis incident, if the SSNP – horrible as that party may be – had beaten up a man, wouldn’t that have caused a bigger stir than the basically irrelevant ripple that the Francis incident caused?

When it comes to everything in our society today, don’t you find that there’s a flagrant double criteria applied to women, the most simple of which is the issue of sex? Men are allowed to have sex. Women are not. If men become promiscuous, then they are deemed as studs. If we fool around, then we are whores.

People tell me that I need to appreciate my body and not let it defiled in the way that I think should be permitted. But I have to ask, what business does my body have to do with you? Isn’t this my skin, my muscles, my face, my breasts and – gasp – my vagina? Don’t I own all these things? Aren’t they the byproduct of my parents having sex to bring me here? Aren’t these my property and no one else’s? Don’t I get to do anything I want with something I own as long as it doesn’t hurt you?

I don’t see how me having sex is hurting you.

I don’t see how me having sex can be hurting anyone.

I don’t see how me having sex should elicit any response apart from the question from my girlfriends “so how was it?”

Sadly enough, getting to that point is still so far that the questions many of my girlfriends as me today is “how could you? After only the first date?”

Perhaps I’m a little hasty and upfront. Perhaps I should be a little slower. But the whole point is the reputation of Lebanon doesn’t rest on my body. Stop making it seem as if me having sex is hurting our country indefinitely. Stop making it seem as if the whole Lebanese situation rests on my hymen. Stop making it seem as if the whole solution of the sectarian system is contingent upon me being forever untouched. Stop making it seem as if being a good person can only happen with me not spreading my legs – ever – except for my future husband. Stop making it seem as if the only interaction men would want with a girl like me is to get into my pants. Not gonna happen.

If me spreading my legs for you will make you go all conservative on my reputation behind my back, then let me tell you something quite honestly. It’s going to be you and your hand every single night.