Enemy [Mild Spoilers]: when a history lecturer spots his doppelgänger in the background of a movie scene he becomes increasingly fascinated by the actor. Quite a difficult film to articulate, this probably falls vaguely under the ‘Psychological Thriller’ banner. There’s a deliberately slow and intense build up, magnified by a doom-laden score that the intensity relies heavily on. This is completely Jake’s film, as we see him pull off playing two people, and then each character ‘impostering’ the other (Imagine Face/Off^²). Stylistically, there’s an intense amber hue for the duration, which I didn’t really see the point of – or understand. Naturally, there’s a lot of playing around with duality, repetition, mirrors, doubles, from the get-go, and although the film’s not explicitly wrapped up (the ending is a bit of a mystery/clusterfuck) there are a lot of clues and lines in there; namely that our lead may have a split personality. Definitely the least accessible film since he started working with ‘big’ names; this bleak, tense, and dark thriller is the perfect appetiser for Arrival; and lays out the “un film de Denis Villeneuve” style that he’s kept right through to his current, mega-budget films.
Tenebrae (Unsane): the author of a string of successful-but-violent novels goes to promote his latest book in Rome, but someone is stalking and killing his fans & entourage. From the opening scene this is like watching the essence of the 1980s – it’s all very stylish, with flashy direction, bold wardrobes, striking locations, and modelesque actors. Most impressively, there’s a lot of impeccable camerawork – like a completely unnecessary, but nonetheless beautiful, elongated single-take crane shot (with Bonus double-kill!!) that circles a building for minutes. It’s also one of the most bright and colourful slashers you’ll ever see, with phenomenal lighting and particularly eye-popping greens and reds. The soundtrack is dominated by a catchy synth rock earworm, which may sound familiar as it was more recently sampled by Justice (original by Goblin.) It’ feels smarter and better planned than most other slashers as it sets everyone up as a potential suspect, then slowly kills them off one by one, ending on a stunning finale with around 10 minutes of sustained blood, gore, and multiple plot twists – which plays out like a precursor to later and more aware horror films like Scream. Other than being almost exclusively suspiciously sexualised nudey babes that are being butchered right left and center there isn’t much to complain about here. Tenebre sees a visionary Italian (and Horror) auteur crafting one of his most mainstream movies – a dual language whodunnit – at the height of his notoriety. A truly classic and top-drawer horror / giallo film that’s a crimson blueprint for subsequent slashers; it’s still great fun to watch, and easy to admire.
Paprika (パプリカ, Papurika): a machine that lets others participate in your dreams has been stolen and hijacked; Paprika is the best shot at getting it back. It’s interesting that in Hollywood, any form of animation is almost exclusively reserved for kid’s films, whereas in Japan you get this: a fearless sci-fi film that explores technology, mythology, reality, iconography, dreams, reality and the psyche. As mind-meltingly complex as it gets, the film always remains interesting, engaging and entertaining – probably down to the super-stylized mix of animation techniques – the blu-ray is extremely vibrant. With a mix of luscious visuals and an abundance of ‘thinking’ material, you have the luxury of being able to tune out of the story and still be dazzled. However, both elements combine to create a screen-bursting, visual and mental extravaganza. “This is your brain on Anime” – great marketing line.
Inception: Follows Dom Cob – a man who can enter your mind in the dream state and steal your deepest thoughts & secrets – on his last mission that could finally get him back to his family. The first thing you realise about inception is how original, visionary and well thought out the story is, then worry about how good the film would have to be to pull it all off. Despite the elaborate plot and timelines it’s explained well enough to be understood first time round (if you pay attention), but is still complex and smart enough to be appreciated on multiple viewings. Nolan brings out the best in his outstanding, but not too obvious, ensemble: especially Di Caprio, Cotillard, Levitt, Watanabe & Hardy who all step up and do justice to the great premise. The special effects department deserve a year off after this, and Hans Zimmer’s modern score takes the last 30 minutes to a whole new level. Page is only OK and more could have been made about the infinite possibilities of the dreams but other than that, no real complaints. There’s subtle gestures towards Matrix, 2001, classic Bond, and a whole bunch of crime / noir films. Inception is an iconic, truly original, mind-bending film that has it all, and breathes new life into Sci-Fi, which is currently plagued with sequels & re-makes. My main concern is that this opus will be near-impossible to top, by Nolan, or anyone else. Stunning cinema that surpasses its own massive hype and is easily film of the year.