Badlands Directed by Terrence Malick (1973)- Malick’s debut, the lyrical tale of two young lovers on the run, remains one of his most poignant and beautiful films. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are perfect as the two alienated youths. Spacek is innocence, accepting the twisted “wisdom” of Sheen’s Kit, with an acceptance of all the good in the world. Her voice-over is haunting because of the killings taking place but it is also poetic. The astounding cinematography makes the American landscape irresistible yet imposing. It invites you in, to a more natural state, but is unforgiving and harsh. Kit’s more natural and animalistic state pulls him into the abyss, with Holly not far behind. The music, imagery, and the generally elegant way it is put together make it such a pleasant and almost uplifting experience at time but when the darkness at the heart of the film becomes more and more evident everything feels melancholic. Something about Malick’s point of view always seems surprisingly optimistic though. He’s kind of like the antithesis to Herzog when it comes to man’s relationship with nature, or at least it feels that way. I always come out of a Malick film, no matter what hardships and horrors the people have been through, with a good feeling of it seeming like wonderful things have been enlightened. Herzog often delivers the same thing but oftentimes it feels like he enlightens how humanity fails, while Malick has a bit of hope that some can be better. Simply as an experience Badlands is an excellent film. It flows so well and is always a pleasure to watch in every way, while also having so much impact.

Mauvais Sang/The Night is Young directed by Leos Carax (1986)- Carax’s Holy Motors was one of my favourite films of 2012 but everything I’ve seen of his since has failed to resonate with me as much as that film. Mauvais Sang is probably the one to get closest to my appreciation of Holy Motors but even it is not quite there. Michel Piccoli stars as an aging gangster stricken by fear who ropes in a young Denis Lavant (a son of a dead cohort) to help with a heist. While staying with Piccoli, Lavant becomes drawn to Piccoli’s young mistress played by Juliette Binoche. Carax seems to pick up where Godard left off with Breathless. There’s a relentless and wild energy to the film that plays with the tropes of gangster films while also making the gangster film both absurd and beautiful. Carax jumps from the kineticism of frantic but controlled handheld camerawork to static close-ups and composed shots, and more, which makes it a whirlwind of style. Denis Lavant brings his own unique energy too. He’s always great to watch because of how he moves and here that’s put to great use, one scene in particular of him running and thrashing to Bowie’s Modern Love got me pumped ‘cause he really match’s the energy of the song. On top of everything it’s also kind of a sci-fi film with a virus that attacks those who have sex without love and other odd additions. All the little oddities and film references never really distracted from the film though, if anything they just enhanced the powerful bond between Binoche and Levant as they are so unfazed by the madness due to being consumed by each other. Regardless of how much I end up enjoying the film I think I’ll always come away from a Carax film feeling fulfilled in some way. Mauvais Sang is sweepingly romantic, visually electric, and wonderfully lyrical. It takes so many elements of stories we have seen before and crafts them into something completely unique and original, which isn’t too dissimilar from Holy Motors after all.

Post Tenebras Lux Directed by Carlos Reygadas (2012)- Though much of it still remains a mystery to me, Post Tenebras Lux has really stuck with me ever since I saw it. Reygadas’ film jumps in time and occasionally jumps to connected or disconnected stories, so storytelling isn’t its major concern. It paints a picture of a family, of many little moments that surround this family, and different impressions of the country where they live (Mexico). The title means “Light after darkness” and that does shed a light on some of the themes but at times the film itself seems to reverse this statement. Cycles of violence, irrepressible anger, unbreakable connections, innate evil, living with trauma, and many other themes weave in and out of the film’s elusive story so even when it doesn’t always necessary come together it always leaves one thinking. What really makes the film special is how it looks. As much as I love some of these stills it is not always a film that lends itself to this structure as many times it is the movement of a shot or how the image evolves while the camera stays on it that makes it so intoxicating. Reygadas makes us of this strange, near kaleidoscopic, visual effect in many shots that turns normality into something astounding. Not all of the images are elevated normalcy though, it goes from beautifully sweeping landscapes to the surreal and dreamlike. One of the things that always pops for me is how varied and distinct its colour palette is too. The opening scene of a little girl running amongst animals combines the luscious greens of the countryside with otherworldly purples and it makes for one of the most mesmerising opening scenes. I saw around 500 films in 2013 and Post Tenebras Lux left one of the greatest impressions. Rarely do films really show or do anything genuinely new but here is one that does. Maybe it’s due to my own lack of knowledge of Mexico as a country and Reygadas as a filmmaker that the film still somewhat eludes me but I’m kind of ok with it being an impressionistic poem about many things rather than a neat package.

When I was twelve I played and loved the Rockstar game Red Dead Revolver, I particularly loved the main theme to it: The score was amazing but that theme in particular really stuck to me. It was my dream to make a Western just to be able to re-work that piece of music (riff most of all) into an iconic and classic Western theme. Then Quentin Tarantino used the music for King Schultz’s theme and stole my dream So let it be known, do what you wanna do now or Tarantino will rob it from you. He’s a comin’.

Ms. 45 Directed by Abel Ferrara (1981) and Manhattan Directed by Woody Allen (1979)- “It really is a great city” says Woody Allen’s character as he and Diane Keaton sit and take in the wonderful city of New York. In Abel Ferarra’s version a mute woman is told a rambling story by a man who hasn’t noticed she cannot speak, a story that becomes increasingly sordid. The shot shows how the image of this city and its people are cemented in the eyes of the characters too. In the case of Ms. 45 her hatred of men is solidified while the seedy uncaring city looks on. For Allen it’s romantic, for Zoe Lund in Ms. 45 it is a cesspool of sickening men but at least it’s one where you can get away with killing (them to a point). Two different sides of a city in two excellent films.

Ms. 45 Directed by Abel Ferrara (1981)- After a mute seamstress is sexually assaulted twice in one day she breaks and begins killing every sleazy man she can. All rape/revenge exploitation thrillers are kinda seedy and though Ferrara shows a particularly seedy version of New York City the film definitely transcends that. Ms. 45 is part Repulsion and part Death Wish but with cool pulpy 80’s music and colours. New York is at its nastiest here and the men that walk its streets are even nastier. Ferrara captures the hostility, aggression, forcefulness, and all the general unpleasantness of being a woman in a city like that. It really is tense and scary, something the main character is able to fight back against. Zoe Lund is brilliant as the protagonist Thana. She is mute, though rarely do men ever notice it, and shy though as the film goes on she just gets more and more empowered but sadly more unhinged. Destroying terrible men makes her feel great but as she kills more and more it seems like the act itself may be what she enjoys and not just who she’s doing it too. Though the film doesn’t necessarily make grand statements it does come across as incredibly angry. Angry that something like this, as cool as it is to see, could happen because people are awful enough to let it happen. Probably not a film for everyone but it’s really well made, sparingly but strikingly violent, really funky, and still feels incredibly relevant.

3:10 to Yuma Directed by Delmer Daves (1957)- Until watching this I hadn’t realised how forgettable the remake of this was. Some of the action was cool but it pales in comparison to the original. Daves mixes sweeping landscapes with the intensely intimate while also using shadows in interesting and atmospheric ways. Like a lot of Westerns it is surprisingly sensitive, with very vulnerable and complex characters. Van Heflin stars as a farmhand who is dragged into the transport of a well-known outlaw played by Glenn Ford. Heflin struggles with being powerless to stop bad things, as endangering himself could doom his wife and children, but along the journey he becomes fixated on doing this one good action. Glenn Ford as the outlaw Ben Wade is the real highlight. He is a quiet man who likes to do his work as cleanly as possible. The criminal with the heart of gold is a familiar character type but Ben Wade is a more nuanced character than that. Early on in the film he has a series of wonderful scenes with Felicia Farr that really opens him up as a person. When he and Heflin collide it’s the ultimate test of both of their principles. Even knowing the story beforehand due to the remake didn’t take anything away from it because all of the specifics of this version are what make it so powerful.

Eden and After Directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet (1970)- Grillet’s first colour film is relentlessly abstract to the point of almost failing to connect, yet its mystery is compelling and made even more so by the striking visuals. For the first half of the film I thought I kind of had a handle on it. We’re presented with a strange mirror-filled cafe that these disaffected college kids mess around in. By mess around I mean they act out bizarre scenarios in poppy colours while saying slightly enigmatic things. This section of the film seemed like a playful reflection of the French New Wave directors, particularly Godard. They made films almost out of restlessness, a desire for the new, which is what the college kids are essentially doing. That is until a mysterious stranger joins their group who says they should aim for reality more, and he opens them up to the outside world. The first half seemed to me to be about film-making and storytelling but then the film makes a shift and becomes even more inscrutable. As the film goes on it seems to become more concerned with ideas of reality and sexuality. Grillet’s visual style evolves over the course of the film too. Colour is always a part of it but he moves from very Godard-like compositions to more flowing and handheld camerawork and then into a mix of the two. I’m not really sure it’s a film that asks to be understood, it is more of an experience that invites you to take it in.

I’m pretty sure the only film to combine references to the temperance movement and 1984 with tween drama/comedy and Jon Voight with a fake nose is Bratz. I watched The Leopard, Hara-Kiri, Ronin, and Burn After Reading this week but all I can think about is Bratz. From now on every sentence ends with Bratz.

Innocence Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic (2004)- Yet another film that really deserves to be on blu-ray. Even in its current state it is still a striking film though considering how luscious the visuals are (specifically those of nature) it would’ve been nice to see with the colours popping and whatnot. The IMDb summary says “A look inside an offbeat boarding school for young girls”, which is hilariously vague and makes this sounds like a much more pleasant and quirky experience than it is. Yes the boarding school is offbeat in the sense that all the children wear different coloured ribbons to denote their status within the school, but the oddities go far deeper and darker than that. The exact nature of this school is always clouded in mystery though what it could represent is always quite open. Learning obedience, subservience, and general pleasantness seems to be the aim of the place though there are also more insidious things at work. Everything feels off as in a film like Dogtooth, we are seeing some side of reality but everything is warped. All I know of Hadzihalilovic’s other work is that she helped write the mesmerising Enter the Void, and while this is nothing like that it does have its own distinctive visual style. Hadzihalilovic’s style is almost the opposite of Noe’s in Enter the Void. As he went for constant fluidity she has opted for stillness. At times the film moves almost like an old point-and-click game but in reverse. Beginning at a detail like a keyhole or a stream, the next shot will be a little further out, then the next one, and so on. These little jumps pull out rendering the detail almost insignificant, swallowed by everything that came after it. Whether viewed as a deconstruction as to how society tries to condition women’s behavior and thoughts, an exploration of institutionalised control over women’s bodies, or simply as the strange ethereal tale that it is, it is a unique watch. Nothing overtly terrible is actually seen but the film oozes atmosphere and implies a lot that make it a disquieting experience.