Fantastic Fest is over but that doesn’t mean we should stop promoting the incredible line-up of movies programmed. It has become a Sound on Sight tradition that once the event has finished, we post a festival wrap-up highlighting our favourite films. Here are the top three picks from four of our writers. You can check out all our review here.
There’s hardly anything to compare the film with, as it co-exists as both a “down the rabbit hole” experiment and a seething condemning of the current state of film. The film is shaped in such a way where attempting to reduce it to one meaning or idea would be rightfully foolish. It casually inhabits a realm of odd-ball richness rarely seen or demonstrated in contemporary cinema. In some respects, Holy Motors has the feel and temperament of a swan song for the director, producing both confident and playful hymns that reverberate well beyond the images presented to us.
Room 237 is a potent, one-of-a-kind exploration into obsession and fanaticism that calls into question the underlying value of art and those who seek to unearth it. Whether or not you’re a fan of Kubrick and his films is moot. Rodney Ascher’s documentary serves up mind-boggling theory after another, absorbing the viewer into a bubble of references and theories surrounding Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining.
I Declare War
Youth imagination and violence reaches newer-ish peaks with Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson’s I Declare War, a film that will instantly be compared to the likes of The Hunger Games, Battle Royale, and potentially The Lord of the Flies. While War is seemingly more influenced by the aura of pubescent jealously and betrayal, its core concept of youngsters brutally battling it out is far too familiar to ignore. There’s both good and bad spread throughout the picture, but the film’s most pleasing trait revolves around the believable relationships that the kids maintain.
(excluding films I’ve seen at previous festivals such as Looper and Sightseers)
Writer/director Leos Carax dreams up a strange, horrific, heartfelt mind-fuck of a film, and one that toys with the theoretical basis of cinema itself. Carax challenges our expectations of narrative by indulging us in something else, a bizarre glimpse of the behind-the-scenes mechanics of the dream world. Holy Motors is the product of an expansive vision; it is ecstatic, provocative and a loving tribute to cinema as well. This preposterous piece of filmmaking is exhilarating, opaque and heartbreaking – a truly unique work of art, and the sort that comes along once in a life time. Carax’s baroque imagination leads us into our own obsession to untangle the spools of film and dream. We are never sure of what just happened, but nonetheless we leave mesmerized… (click here to read the full review)
Berberian Sound Studio
Berberian Sound Studio reminds us of the power of sound over the visual image, and can surely join the ranks of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Brian DePalma’s Blow Out as a fully absorbing appreciation of sound design. But both thematically and visually, Berberian is more of a descendant of the school of David Lynch and Roman Polanski. As things get increasingly, insanely bizarre, a pervasive mood of exploitation and corruption seeps through every frame. Although shot on a limited budget, the detail in this film is exquisite. Cinematographer Nic Knowland’s dreamlike imagery is mesmerizing and the Goblin-esque music from a fake band called Hypnotera is terrifying. While Strickland challenges our expectations of narrative, leaving many frustrated, Berberian is a fascinating and unsettling viewing experience, one that is obsessed by the process of creation and duplicity.
I Declare War (2012)
One of the more surprising films of 2012, I Declare War pulls no punches about the various methods of bullying. Summer war games between neighbouring kids turn dangerously violent as jealousy and betrayal quickly factor in. With a touch of Lord of the Flies and a dash of Roald Dahl, I Declare War understands that no one is innocent when it comes to manipulating or hurting others to get what they want. Through smart direction, I Declare War captures the naïveté of adolescence, their inability to separate reality from make-believe, and the capacity of the youths to win at all costs. Often hilarious and sometimes horrifying, War is a must see.
Berberian Sound Studio
Set almost entirely in a small Italian recording studio, Berberian Sound Studio achieves a level of abstract dread appropriate for a much more horrifying film. The film follows the dubbing and sound engineering of a 70s Italian horror film–a film that is never seen, the focus instead on the actors, props, and machinations of the process. The film itself is a marvel of editing, and from its deliberate and mechanical beginnings to its supremely, transcendentally odd finale, Berberian Sound Studio is transfixing.
Leos Carax’s imaginative, baffling, and absurd meditation on art evokes Italo Calvino’s novel If on a winter’s night a traveler in construction and attitude. Composed of a series of bizarre vignettes and featuring an astonishing central performance by Denis Lavant, Holy Motors is the work of a brilliant and discontented man. This is one of the most thought-provoking, exhilarating and funny pieces of storytelling to come along in a while.
Ben Wheatley builds on his tried and true formula of British black comedy and extreme violence to produce his most well-balanced, hilarious film yet. He here tells a simple story of a couple on holiday who keep killing people. But Sightseer’s success lies in the nuance of its central relationship and its surprising mix of tender emotion and horrific violence. This is a fantastically entertaining and oddly moving film.
Cynics will cry nepotism and perhaps rightfully so, but Antiviral, the feature film debut from
Brandon Cronenberg, son of genre innovator David Cronenberg, rises to the occasion with a darkly comical and skin crawlingly creepy indictment of celebrity obsessed culture. Channeling the spirit of his father circa 1983 (the year Videodrome was released), the young and assured director has deftly filled the void that has existed in techno-surreal cinema the past few decades.
Chronicled over the course of several episodes, the exploits of five international crime fighters unfold as they jet-set across the globe thwarting Hitler’s nefarious, albeit ridiculous schemes. Creators Dario Russo and David Ashby look to extend their cultish following with their pitch perfect satire of 60s action-adventure television in Danger 5.
Holy Motors follows the mysterious Monsieur Oscar, masterfully played by Denis Levant, as he prepares for a string of meetings each more cryptic than the last. Bringing to mind the concept that we are all simply actors agreeing to play the roles that society dictates, this kaleidoscopic parable explores the personas which we shroud ourselves in in the vain attempt to protect our innermost self. Esoteric, heartfelt, and utterly bizarre, Holy Motors blurs the lines of traditional narrative, at times opting to erase them all together.