We asked Plymouth Arts Centre’s blog writers and staff to tell us about their favourite films of 2015. Here’s what they came up with:
The Duke of Burgundy
Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy concerns two lovers locked within a sadomasochistic affair in a gorgeous, unnamed, continental community, populated only by women. Fifty Shades of Grey (which opened the same week) shared similar themes, but came across as a glossy ejaculation over itself. Strickland’s film, conversely, is incredibly refined, nuanced, funny, sad and troubling, with two wonderful performances at its centre. Despite the scandalous subject matter, the film is really about the quiet desperation that arises from their mismatched desires. Like the butterflies that share its name, this is a rare thing of beauty and disguise.
The Duke Of Burgundy
A sensual, slow-paced film which encapsulates a cyclical microcosmos in which the two principal characters, both female, a mistress and a maid, ritualistically play and replay their roles day by day albeit with subtle changes. The cinematography focuses on the minute details of hair; skin; water; light; eyes and butterflies, illustrating an intimate and mesmeric world of the senses. This is European Art Film at its very best.
Watching Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, I had no idea that the story would unfold in such an awful (but brilliant) way. Colin Farrell is surprisingly excellent and one of my favourite actresses, Peep Show’s Olivia Colman is hilarious as the manager of a strange hotel where single people are sent to find a mate within 40 days (or be turned into the animal of their choice). Although I’m not a fan of gorey bloody bits, the violence in The Lobster added another layer of horror and detail to what is a fascinating concept and visually, the palette, costumes and animal appearances are glorious.
I always say I don’t really like horror films so I’m surprising myself by nominating It Follows. So many films this year haven’t lived up to the hype and glowing reviews from respected writers with whose views I normally concur. Even the much-lauded Carol left me underwhelmed. But It Follows –which I forced myself to watch on the strength of overwhelming consensus that it was brilliant – was exactly as good as everyone said. A sinister fairy tale of a curse passed on through sexual contact it is unbearably tense and replete with excellent performances from its young cast. David Robert Mitchell’s taut direction is complemented by a synthesised and suspenseful score to die for.An unnerving and nightmare-inducing 107 minutes where horror is only ever a few footsteps away.
“One of the most intriguing films of the past few years, Ex Machina touches on some very interesting themes related to what it means to be ‘human’. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson play off each other well as the two male leads, though the true star here is Alicia Vikander, who plays the charming AI, Ava. They make up the core cast in a film that feels appropriately small scale and almost claustrophobic in places. It also boasts a subtle, haunting soundtrack… Overall it’s the year’s most intelligent sci-fi/ thriller; such a combination isn’t too common in an industry that could do with more of this and less loud explosions.”
1. The Tribe – a truly silent (and brutally daring) movie in a space where no-one can hear you scream.
2. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – sets itself a series of wild, way-out, leftfield targets – and nails every one. Hurrah for B&W!
3. Diary of a Teenage Girl – brilliant depiction of 70s. Amazing lead performance and cracking support – Oscars all round, Academy.
Tangerines tells a compelling story of two Estonian immigrant farmers who remain in their village to harvest the tangerine crop during the 1992 Georgian-Abkhazian war. A conflict on the property brings two severely wounded rivals together under the same roof, testing the boundaries of patriotism, discrimination, compassion and generosity. Tangerines is strangely uplifting and wonderfully understated, revealing the complexities of war and humanity.