- Come and See (Kilmov)
- The Shining (Kubrick)
- Three Colours: Blue (Kieslowski)
- Santa Sangre (Jodorowsky)
- Lilja 4-ever (Moodysson)
- Halloween (Carpenter)
- Vertigo (Hitchcock)
- In Cold Blood (Brooks)
- Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski)
- Paris, Texas (Wenders)
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Hooper)
- Breaking the Waves (von Trier)
- Blow Out (De Palma)
- Blue Velvet (Lynch)
- Blade Runner (Scott)
- The American Friend (Wenders)
- The Silence of the Lambs (Demme)
- Le bonheur (Varda)
- Apocalypse Now (Coppola)
- Shame (McQueen)
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick)
- Sorcerer (Friedkin)
- Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore)
- An American Werewolf in London (Landis)
- Zodiac (Fincher)
- Exotica (Egoyan)
- A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes)
- Hellraiser (Barker)
- Barry Lyndon (Kubrick)
- The Fly (Cronenberg)
- Audition (Miike)
- Beauty and the Beast (Malmros)
- Eraserhead (Lynch)
- All That Jazz (Fosse)
- The Conversation (Coppola)
- Dancer in the Dark (von Trier)
- Amadeus (Forman)
- Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai)
- Laurence Anyways (Dolan)
- Belle de jour (Bunuel)
- Half Nelson (Fleck)
- After Hours (Scorsese)
- Antichrist (von Trier)
- Two Lovers (Gray)
- The Face of Another (Teshigahara)
- Christiane F. (Edel)
- The Thin Red Line (Malick)
- Eyes Without a Face (Franju)
- Fish Tank (Arnold)
- Damage (Malle)
- Possession (Zulawski)
- The Thing (Carpenter)
- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (Ki-duk Kim)
- The Haunting (Wise)
- Hard Candy (Slade)
- Edward Scissorhands (Burton)
- The Bicycle Thief (De Sica)
- Hunger (McQueen)
- Nosferatu the Vampyre (Lynch)
- Into the Wild (Penn)
- Alien (Scott)
- A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick)
- La Femme Nikita (Besson)
- Donnie Darko (Kelly)
- Spring Breakers (Korine)
- Time (Ki-duk Kim)
- Mulholland Dr. (Lynch)
- Stoker (Chan-wook Park)
- The Graduate (Nichols)
- The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (Greenaway)
- The Apartment (Wilder)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman)
- Marathon Man (Schlesinger)
- The Godfather (Coppola)
- Little Odessa (Gray)
- Videodrome (Cronenberg)
- Mona Lisa (Jordan)
- Once Upon a Time in America (Leone)
- The Tree of Life (Malick)
- The Skin I Live In (Almodovar)
- Taxi Driver (Scorsese)
- Nil by Mouth (Oldman)
- Fitzcarraldo (Herzog)
- Show Me Love (Moodysson)
- Vera Drake (Leigh)
- Cronos (del Toro)
- Gone With the Wind (Fleming)
- Heathers (Lehmann)
- Boogie Night (PT Anderson)
- The Selfish Giant (Barnard)
- The Player (Altman)
- La Chienne (Renoir)
- The Loved Ones (Byrne)
- Niagara (Hathaway)
- Mean Creek (Estes)
- Dogtooth (Lanthimos)
- The Hunt (Vinterberg)
- Cache (Haneke)
- A Tale of Two Sisters (Jee-woon Kim)
- Lady Snowblood (Fujita)
Juliette Binoche is a performer like no other, turning in performances of immense emotion and penetrating force each and every time I witness one of her films. Without even thinking I’d not only declare her my favourite actress, but the most talented female I’ve ever seen hit the screen. Such is the weight of her work in Kieslowski’s masterful Three Colours: Blue or the excellence of her exertions in The Unbearable Lightness of Being that I thought we’d seen her at her absolute dramatic peak, but her descent here is devastating beyond belief.
As the titular Camille Claudel, Binoche takes on the role of this woman in 1915 as she is trapped within an asylum at the hands of her cautious family. We follow the struggles of this figure and it’s made immediately clear that she isn’t handling her confinement all too well as she separates herself from the other “inmates” and displays heavy indications of paranoia in her objections to food prepared by the asylum staff. Not only is the figure deeply saddened by the descent mentally, Claudel’s physical appearance is feeling the strain and it’s extracted by the heavy bags under Binoche’s eyes and the mortifying sadness within those very eyes.
Binoche translates every instrument of this character and it is soul destroying. Seeing this woman feel the excursions of her misery is painful for the viewer even in her sporadic moments of peace as she laughs at the inadequacies during a rehearsal of Don Juan and whilst she enjoys the freedom of the courtyard at lunch time. All of this force is solidified by Bruno Dumont’s spiritual observations of Claudel’s suffering through frequent breathtaking shots looking out to something better and a quite terrifying use of silence most prominent during the film’s decisive sequence.
Camille Claudel 1915 is a devastating watch, but not for everyone as Dumont’s style requires patience and an open mind. Even if you have little interest in the subject matter it’s worth the time to witness Binoche pour her heart out and deliver a performance of equal strength and vulnerability.
Vertigo is everything people adore about the works of Hitchcock with his technical precision, the ever-pressing state of panic resting on his characters, the mind-bending challenges he creates and the overall mysteries which truly astound audiences. I’ve always been a fan of the man’s work, finding such masterpieces as Psycho and Rear Window (amongst so many others) to fully deserve their momentous acclaim, but my prior viewing of Vertigo left me a little underwhelmed even if the force and initiative of the great man was ever present.
A second viewing, a good few years on now, has finally displayed to me the full force of Hitchcock’s insanity. Here he utilises so much of the eloquence and subtle which made Rope and The Wrong Man the masterstrokes they truly are, but the genius of Vertigo remains in Hitchcock’s tightness to manifest challenging themes of obsession and identity to absolute definition. Escalating the obsession is James Stewart’s Ferguson who finds extraordinary fascination in the actions of Madeleine played by the glowing Kim Novak, but the simplicities of the romance which inevitably blossoms isn’t anything of convention with Hitchcock instead choosing to challenge the psychology of his focuses with an alluring mystery which always fascinates.
It’s masterfully done and the lack of convention in Vertigo doesn’t only amount to the director’s analysis of a relationship, constantly throughout do we finding him fiddling with the regularities of horror expectations and without failure he always turns them on their respective heads. I found myself at so many points considering the possibilities of how this remarkable director accomplishes certain aspects and yet always providing the integral depth which allows the twists to have significant thematic depth. Vertigo is an alluring, addictive masterpiece. Surely one of the finest films ever made.
A couple of months back I introduced myself to the mad world of Alejandro Jodorowsky with his sadistic, poetic Santa Sangre masterpiece. To say I wasn’t prepared for it would be an understatement, but it truly changed the way I see horror cinema in more ways than one. Intrigued to see if Jodorowsky could top the insanity of Santa Sangre which is oddly deemed tame in its symbolism when compared to El Topo – a bold statement to say the least – here I find myself witnessing something not as irrepressible in its mystical, bloody beauty, but more so a film that is as far detached from any other western I’ve ever seen.
El Topo is brutal. Immediately Jodorowksy drowns the film with his trademark imagery of death and carnage, instantly demanding a disorientated viewer to witness the symbolism and bloodshed with a watchful, wary eye. It’s unsettling to say the least, Jodorowsky doesn’t allow the viewer to catch their breath or get used to the isolated realms of the desert before exploding his massacred villagers and decapitated animals onto the screen. You can barely believe what is happening, but that’s part of Jodorowsky’s depraved, charismatic mind and you can either endure the brutality or walk away from it.
I kept with the sadistic force and it paid dividends. Jodorowsky’s film is one of animalistic contortions, the man constantly providing powerful illusions of death and mayhem but there’s something so fascinating about how it’s all systematically illustrated as an acid message of man’s mind gone fucking bonkers. That alone makes it worth watching. Jodorowsky brings this fear in a cauldron of pain, both through his removed performance and possesed direction. Santa Sangre is the pinnacle of cinematic madness in my eyes, but whilst El Topo isn’t the shattering masterpiece Jodorowsky would later go on to make it remains an testament to the delirious mind of its creator.
I like to think my knowledge and experience with the horror genre is rather accomplished – it’s my favourite – but I can’t quite recall ever experiencing something as profoundly disturbing as this. Encapsulating the atmosphere and nerve-shredding unbalance that makes horror the most creative of genres, Jodorowsky fills his film with utterly compelling imagery and a terrifying use of decaying silence, all illustrated by the man’s unsettling capabilities to bestow amusement and fright upon his viewers.
To describe Santa Sangre as horror understates the thunderous power of it; it’s more than that. It’s a demolition of the genre, working more as a hypnotic nightmare unleashes the most relentless of terrors. Focusing on the tortured soul of a man (Fenix) trapped in a mental hospital, we witness the destruction of his mind as he experiences the savage cycle of life through the most powerful of flashbacks. His life is fractured from early on. Cornered into the circus lifestyle with his family, the decay begins: his mothers are chopped off by his father and his father killed. Witnessing this from the darkly depraved cinematography Jodorowsky pronounces, Fenix is shown from a distance with a hint of cautiousness, but he understands the tragedy unfolding before his very tears.
Before the psyche of Fenix is truly tested there is an agonising sequence involving an elephant. Fenix approaches the elephant and discovers that is in fact dying, bleeding out from its trunk. Disturbing visually, to say the least, this moment however minute on approach is earth-shattering for Fenix. It allows Fenix, and the viewer, to prepare for the annihilation the film will shortly unfold. Poetically remorseful, the shot of Fenix holding the trunk pans out to display the magnitude of the situation. It’s devastating.
As the tagline reinforces you to “Forget everything you have ever seen”, Santa Sangre is a film of decaying sadness. A film of poetically profound imagery and disturbing presence, Jodorwsoky’s demolition is one that steps on a lot the simplicities that form horror as a genre. It’s an unmistakable film of true independence and evil. Fearsome and lucid, Sante Sangre might just prove to be one of the most astonishing releases in existence. I was exhausted by the prophecies Jodorowsky suggests throughout, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the bizarre force unfolding before my eyes.
Being only my second non-American Herzog after the atmospheric masterpiece that is Nosferatu the Vampyre, my expectations of what I would be witnessing were baffling. Perhaps I expected a chaotic tale of a terrifying figure – this is a Klaus Kinski film – but I was shocked by the calm, softening approach by the remarkable Herzog even despite the razor-sharp darkness portrayed on screen.
Like he did with Nosferatu the Vampyre, Kinski’s ambient silence early on is excruciating. He strikes a maniacal balance between invisibility and explosive force, most emphatically noteworthy during the film’s parting sequences. A hypnotic, dark performance is what Kinski has made his name with, but I couldn’t in my wildest dreams (or nightmares) have predicted such a fearsome, provocative performance. Even despite the bulging, penetrating power of his eyes and body movements, Kinski establishes a vacant dread, never indulging too heavily in evil or reservation.
Deeply unsettling, Kinski’s work here defies all excellence. Herzog, likewise, utilises the reckoning of Kinski to a pivotal advantage, captivating on his menacing astonishment whilst never lingering too heavily in an almighty attempt to frighten the audience. Ambiguous and worrying, Herzog’s cinematography is remarkable and demolishing; it traps the audiences with the evil spirits features and never extinguishes its grip.
Deathly vacant and scarce of any angst or over fulfilment, Herzog brings a wretched, yet poetic presence to proceedings here. I regard it as inferior to Nosferatu the Vampyre, but there’s a sufficient power laced in the murky surroundings of the Amazon River. An unsettling piece that almost certainly is an influence for Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising.
Neil Jordan’s earlier Mona Lisa is undoubtedly one of my favourite films. It has a calculating discipline to it and assured amount of sincerity even despite the tough, dark narrative it centres around. Jordan’s utilisation of calm aspects and a more detailed assault is extraordinary as he brings together polar opposite characters – Bob Hoskins’ rough gangster figure, Cathy Tyson’s charismatic call girl – remarkably well.
In a way, despite the more advanced and challenging premise surrounding The Crying Game, I found a connection between it and Mona Lisa. The rough force of Stephen Rea’s IRA soldier Fergus is compounded by guilt for his involvement in the death of the husband of Jaye Davidson’s Dil, whom he seeks out to expectedly apologise and give himself salvation. Reckoning and atmosphere, the way Neil Jordan utilises the differences between his leads is incredible. We witness the growth of their relationship and the devastation caused by the film’s intelligence in turning the wheel, so to speak.
Gripping and deathly in its combination of thriller aspects alongside more standard romantic elements, The Crying Game is a film of majestic qualities. Like no other, the intelligence to constantly challenge the expectations of the viewer is extraordinary and whilst the film’s more action driven sequences may displace the nerve-shredding wit and charisma tacked before and after, The Crying Game remains one of the most intoxicating thrillers of the 90’s. The performances are dynamic, the screenplay penetrating and the atmosphere piercing.