In terms of thrillers, this is without a doubt in my mind one of the greatest I have ever seen. Tesuya Nakashima’s Confessions is not only a fascinating work of revenge cinema, but there’s so much genuine emotion and power running throughout this marvellous film. As the title would have you expect, Confessionsworks frequently in segments shedding light through different perspectives on the murder of a little girl and her mother’s desperation to punish the children responsible for this abhorrent crime. It begins with the mother’s opening monologue with that unbearably tense soundtrack lurking beneath and then Confessions just grows and evolves to the point where I could hardly pull myself away from the screen. There’s just this dark, unsettling idea of thriller cinema bubbling throughout and the genius of its screenplay goes without saying. Nakashima has crafted one of the most intelligent and raw films I’ve ever witnessed and the way the frequent twists are so precisely placed throughout deserves every bit of acknowledgement. A lot of this will seem like hyperbole, but I can’t recall ever really seeing a film as controlled and layered in its execution as Confessions.
I’d say Suspiria is the most iconic work of giallo cinema around in terms of how it represents the evolution of the genre all the way to Hollywood, but Opera is without a doubt Dario Argento’s most supreme and precise work of giallo he’s done. I’d even declare it my favourite giallo full stop. There’s such a tantalising sense of tension and terror here that it’s impossible not to find something worthy of appraisal. Argento sets Opera in the setting of an ill-fated and historically unlucky Lady MacBeth production, which when all elements of the common giallo picture are considered is arguably the greatest place to orchestrate a giallo killing spree. Sequences throughout flow with such an enthusiastic creativity with Argento unleashing the bloodshed with a bizarre brutality away from the vibrant colours of a Suspiria, which helps manifest a greater sense of dread and suffering. There’s even time for Opera to work on character more than the common Argento picture and when it’s all wrapped up in that stunning finale, you feel you’ve experienced something that works as a healthy reminder for me why I love horror cinema so much. Add in that spellbinding soundtrack and you’ve not only got the finest Argento film, but one of the most impressive and precisely constructed works of horror cinema ever created.
Horror is arguably the film genre you should take the least notice of when it comes to general opinion, because there are so many hidden gems beneath the overwhelming negativity towards something like FearDotCom. In a way it’s understandable why this wasn’t liked too much as there’s such a messy angle to everything Malone does here, but it’s done in the most creative and explosive way that the chaotic evolution of the narrative leaves a lot to be appreciated. It flickers regularly between glaring similarities to German Expressionism and the more contemporary torture porn sub-genre with even narrative connections to the Nightmare on Elm Street series in how it utilises the visceral dream sequences to its advantage. Add in some expressive camera work which skews the viewer to the point of distortion and that ever-present grimy, almost neon, photography and you’ve got a work of genre which doesn’t always feel as realised and substantial as it could’ve been, but one which never tires of showing a creative flare that helps overshadow its flaws.
This is as emphatic, brutal and uncompromising as they come. The Tin Drum chronicles the life of Oskar from before his birth, his actual birth itself as he peers out of the wombs and right up until he’s 21 years old. There’s something startling about Schlondorff uses the symbolism of the tin drum to express little Oskar’s emotions and the commentary on Germany’s suffocation of politics through war. He manages to craft a tale which works equally as a tale of adolescence, but also a study of its war torn era. Schlondorff, throughout, is quite clearly not afraid of really going for it with many sequences portraying a perverse and understandably controversial edge, but the deeper The Tin Drum goes and the worse the stakes get, the poignancy really shows.
As far as comparisons go, I couldn’t get the narrative similarities with Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Sante Sangre out of my mind. Much of that is owed to how both films document a tale of a young boy’s maturity in quite extraordinary circumstances, but while the locale is different and the consequences of both tales pans out different, there’s a real connection to be recognised between the two. I don’t say that lightly as Sante Sangre is one of my favourite movies of all-time. Saying that, I wouldn’t ever recommend anyone do back to back viewings of both as there is far too much pain, brutality and exhaustion to be witnessed throughout the two.
Rich, uncompromising and absolutely fascinating. Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats evokes photography similar to that seen in Claire Denis’ Beau Travail, while working the dirty personality of its narrative with connections to the films of Larry Clark and Gregg Araki, if I’m really stretching it. That’s the beauty of this movie. It reminds of other works of independent cinema in the purest way possible, but still creates an identity for itself as we witness its aimless protagonist on his journey to nowhere. He’s trapped in a mind that doesn’t know what he wants, but engaged by his exploits along this journey. There’s something very dark about how Hittman analyses this turmoil, while still portraying it with a tender edge that helps drastically. As it draws to a close and Frankie is no closer to knowing where his head is, we feel that uncertainty and it strikes like a bomb. It’s emphatic, complicated and quite extraordinary. I’d go so far as to not only claim it as one of my favourite movies of last year, but as a masterpiece deserving of a wide, open-minded audience. A staggering, confident work of cinema.