Bitel’s top five:
1. Berberian Sound Studio
Confronted with misogynies that he is himself complicit in engineering, Toby Jones retreats into his Englishness in Peter Strickland’s masterful meta-giallo – a heady echo chamber of psychogenic fugues and sound reflections upon the audience for horror.
2. Nostalgia For The Light
Patricio Guzmán’s singular film essay mixes politics and astronomy, exposing the more horrific aspects of Chile’s recent buried history to a cosmic perspective, and suggesting that dust and darkness can only ever be illuminated by the light of an absent past.
3. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
As a wild goose chase through the Anatolian steppes leads to darkness both literal and metaphorical, Nuri Bilge Ceylan crafts a brooding widescreen police procedural unearthing the human capacity for story-telling and self-deception.
Tony Kaye’s school-set ensemble drama reveals a confrontingly contemporary world of class divisions and apocalyptic alienation, complete with a barrage of filmic flourishes to induce in the viewer the titular sense of distance.
Rian Johnson expertly deploys a time-travelling SF frame to explore altogether more grounded themes of masculinity in crisis and cycles of abuse.
Best male performance:
Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master – for although his Freddie Quell is a compelling collection of unruly impulses, animal appetites, and destructive urges, he nonetheless seems ruled as much by unfathomable vulnerability as by his rampaging id, making him a mesmerisingly enigmatic avatar of America’s postwar condition.
Best female performance:
Altogether less noticed but every bit as intense was AnnaLynne McCord’s performance in Richard Bates Jr’s Excision – her misfit Pauline is an amalgam of Daria, Dawn Wiener and May, blending errant adolescent desires with cynicism, longing, sociopathy and delusion. McCord is an unflinching phenomenon, carrying off awkwardness and anomie with unexpected assurance.
A toss up between Breaking Wind and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie – both of which, aptly, feature copious amounts of shit.