The Best Films to Watch Without Ever Leaving Your Bed This Week

Every Wednesday morning, I find myself whispering the old Beckett adage “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” to myself as I settle down into work. No matter how thrilling the day’s prospects may be, it’s that midweek slump that always seems to rear its ugly head in the worst way. But never fear, the hours are sure to breeze on by and soon it will be the weekend—one that happens to be rife with fantastic films both premiering and screening around the city, thanks to NYFF and various other retrospectives.

But in the meantime, what better way to spend an evening than curled up under the sheets enjoying the best of cinema—new modern masterpieces to wonderful classics—from the comfort of your bed? And with myriad options to choose from on Netflix, Hulu, and iTunes, the nightly decision of what to show in your private bedroom screening can prove a challenge. So to make your time easier, I’ve rounded up some of the best films available to stream, so peruse our list, get cozy, and enjoy.

Much Ado About Nothing (iTunes)

Playing out as a love letter to Shakespeare’s comedic tale of a merry war betwixt two lovers, Much Ado is brimming with charisma and sensual thrill. You don’t need to be a scholar of the bard to find yourself captivated by the story, with its silky smooth and velvety jazz-filled atmosphere, you’re eased into the film in a way that’s far from intimidating. Whedon infuses a conversational style to the story that makes it more accessible than any other Shakespearean re-workings in recent memory, adding to a charm that’s heightened by its phenomenal cast of characters.

Filmed in his own home in Los Angeles, for the director best known for hit shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, or Hollywood blockbusters like The Avengers, Much Ado was a welcome surprise. The comedy feels like a breath of fresh air, a respite from major studio pictures that allows Whedon the freedom to let loose with a rapturous mix of refinement and playfulness. Much Ado may seem minimalistic in its production style, but that speaks nothing of the beauty with which it was shot and the wonderfully nuanced performances by its sprawling cast. 

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Simon Killer (Netflix)

Simon Killer goes deeper into Campos’s affinity for the disturbed male psyche with a film that’s rich in texture, tone, and color. It’s a dance between passionate aggression and emotional isolation that’s primal and fiercely enjoyable in its discomfort. Filled with stunning visual interludes like psychological cues that bring you closer into Simon’s sociopathic, music-fueled, and violently sexual world, the film is an optically and emotionally stimulating character study that packs a punch. No stranger to portraying morally unsound characters that walk the line between tantalizing and creepy, Corbet carries out Campos’s vision with a frightening possession.

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Shock Corridor (Hulu)

Haunted by doomsday visions, the mental hospital is a tabloid version of America — a place where war games and race riots are played out on the central corridor, a.k.a. the Street, as in Main Street. Or put another way, America is imagined as bedlam. At once compelling and incoherent, "Shock Corridor" was shot entirely in interior — the outside world only present as hallucination. It’s a movie that regularly, if unpredictably, breaks free from its narrative straitjacket and erupts into mayhem. Social pathology merges with individual delusion. The three witnesses to the murder are a guilt-ridden nuclear physicist regressed to age 5, a brainwashed Korean War traitor imagining himself a heroic Confederate general and the first black student to integrate a Southern university, who believes he founded the Ku Klux Klan and, in true split personality fashion, crafts signs directed at himself: "Black foreigners can’t breathe our white air and go to school with our white children."

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Something in the Air (Netflix)

Opening with the Blaise Pascal quote: "Between us and heaven and hell there is only life which is the frailest thing in the world," Olivier Assayas’ Something in the Air takes us into a world of youth committed to the present. Going back to the year 1971, which he first explored with the poetic Cold Water (1994)—a film about the emotions of being a teenager—Assayas draws direct parallels between the two, yet where the former dealt in the abstract, Something is a more direct autobiographical look at his own memory of coming of age in that time. Paying tribute to those who inspired his own sensibilities as an artist, the film merges the person with the political, exploring the identity of youth in the aftermath of the May ’68 and the choices that inform our maturation into adulthood. It’s a film about the intersection of creative passion and ideological inclination, where self-discovery for the teenagers in the film, comes through their devouring of films, books, music, and art of the time—from the poetry of Gregory Corso to the music of Syd Barrett.

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Room 237 (iTunes)

Ascher’s Room 237 is not a film that asks us to hold any of its ideas as truths, nor does it present them as such. For how could we ever know the turth that lived inside the confounding mind of Stanley Kubrick? The Shining is a film that explores the maze-like complexity of the tortured mind’s unconscious, and takes our idea of the nuclear family and throws it in our face. And with Room 237, we’re left to question where subjectivity and art collide—was any of this really Kubrick’s intention, and where do my personal affinities transfer themselves into his world? Ascher presents us with these ideas in an invigorating way that makes us question not only our own understanding of the work but career of a man whose films have continued to baffle, excite, and penetrate our subconscious inqueries and desires for over half a century.

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À nos amours (Hulu)

Painful, beautiful, and discomfiting, À nos amours remains as startling in its honesty, its unique mix of savagery and delicacy, as it was in 1983. Next to it, most adolescent “rite of passage” films, with their predictable dividing lines and alignments of sympathies, look tame, even reassuring. François Truffaut, who had his own take on the miseries of childhood, and thus was perhaps the closest to Pialat in interests, admired him immensely, but from our vantage point, this late-blooming director was not one of the “new people.” Not just a late starter but a cranky outsider to boot, Pialat was never part of the nouvelle vague, had none of the collegial feelings or movement enthusiasms of a team player. And although he shared a revolutionary aesthetic, and was as adamantly opposed as they were to the tyranny of the “well-made film,” he was more interested in autobiography than genre. In a series of films, made and seen with difficulty, he explored his life and concerns in terms so uncompromising and so deeply felt that, though he was not easy to take in his own time, he has emerged like a prophet of the conflicts that are convulsing today’s families and relationships.

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The Bling Ring (iTunes)

In the past year we’ve seen myriad films about rebellious teenage behavior, youth in revolt against their mundane lives—from dangerously wild films like Spring Breakers to the more heartfelt coming-of-age stories like The Kings of Summer. As the inundation of social media and the  obsession with celebrity culture increases, it’s easy for young people to get sucked into the idea of fame and success as the ultimate goal. But what happens when you get there? What happens when you’re knee-deep in Paris Hilton’s leather Louboutin boots? How do we reconcile the aspiration of affluence with the reality that undercuts it?  But with The Bling Ring, Coppola’s kinetic fashion heist film based on the 2010 Vanity Fair article "The Suspect Wore Louboutins," we follow a group of reckless teens lusting after the sheen of materialistic pleasures.

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Leviathan (iTunes)

More easily comparable to the anxiety provoking and emotionally stimulating sensations of looking at the work of Francis Bacon or Edvard Munch while listening to a dark, metallic piece of music filled with pleasure and fright, Leviathan is almost inarticulate in its possession. As a sensory ethnographic investigation that leads you through the world of commercial fishing, the sum of the film is far more than one might expect. Having first premiered in competition at the 2012 Locarno Film Festival, Castaing-Taylor and Paravel‘s film has been entrancing audiences’ since with its entirely unique wordless wonder and gives the perspective of the fishermen but also echoes their own haunting experience out at sea through the interminable sense of unease. But this anxious perspective is matched by the most striking cinematography that’s shocking in its beauty as it casts a light on every perspective of the boat and blends colors like an impressionist painting being thrown against the waves.

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The East (iTunes)

Now more than ever, in a time where our personal sense of security is constantly in question and our beliefs are always on the line, we need films that not only speak to where we’re headed as a society but how it feels to exist in the world today. As we’re forced to assimilate to ever-changing and frightening state of things, the culture that we’re consuming should not only be a means of escapism to dull our anxiety but a reflection and a call to action, an inspiration for ideas that will fuel us. And with The East, Batmanglij has created a film that’s as intriguing as it is topical, as emotionally stirring as it cinematically thrilling.

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Weekend (Hulu)

With its pop art color scheme and two-dimensional characters, Weekend is less like a novel than a pamphlet, and more like a fairy tale than either. The presiding trope is Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole. Weekend opens conventionally enough, like a Chabrol movie or a Balzac novel: a married couple, Corinne (Mireille Darc) and Roland (Jean Yanne), are planning each other’s demise with their respective lovers, and plotting together to help Corinne’s ailing father into the afterlife— maybe her mother as well, if she refuses to split the inheritance. But any illusion of melodramatic realism is quickly punctured in a scene where Corinne’s lover assumes the role of psychiatrist, sitting at a desk in a darkened office while Corinne sits on the desk in her bra and panties and describes a recent three-way with a different lover and his girlfriend, an orgy, involving eggs and a bowl of milk, loosely borrowed from Bataille’s Histoire de l’œil. The episode is a parody of Bibi Andersson’s emotionally overwrought “orgy monologue” in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, rendered flat and passionless by Corinne’s bored delivery, the camera’s slow zooming in and out in near darkness on the barely distinguishable figures, and swelling, “ominous” B-movie theme music that occasionally drowns out her voice. Godard establishes here an atmosphere of neurotic apprehension and narrative unreliability sustained throughout the rest of the film. “Is this a dream or did it really happen?” “I don’t know.”

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Tape (iTunes)

‘Tape” made me believe that its events could happen to real people more or less as they appear on the screen, and that is its most difficult accomplishment. To describe the movie makes it sound like an exercise in artifice: three characters, one motel room, all talk, based on a stage play. But the writing, acting and direction are so convincing that at some point I stopped thinking about the constraints and started thinking about the movie’s freedoms: freedom from idiocy, first of all, since the characters are all smart and articulate, and testing each other’s nerve and values. Freedom from big gassy meaningless events. Freedom from the tyranny of an overbearing soundtrack that wants to feel everything for us. Freedom from the expected.

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Fox and His Friends (Hulu)

Make no mistake, this is the real Queer as Folk, but for all of Fassbinder’s gripes with an elite gay culture’s many sexual hang-ups, Fox and His Friends is first and foremost a riveting evocation of social Darwinism in action (Fox is called "stupid and primitive" and the tagline that follows the film’s title on the Wellspring DVD of the film aptly proclaims: "Survival of the Fittest"). A mere child at heart, Fox is unconsciously rude to his elders and pounds his hands at the dinner table. His sweetly innocent behavior nonetheless brings shame to Eugen, who has no problems borrowing 100,000 German marks from Fox to prevent his father’s printing business from going under. And after Eugen and his elite family (they prefer Mozart to loud modernist composers and are easily mortified when Fox drops chunks of bread into his soup) successfully bilk Fox out of his entire fortune (embarrassing him by forcing him to work at their factory and then suggesting that his slave labor is his interest due), Fox returns to the earth, so to speak, after dying of a broken heart.

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I Killed My Mother (Netflix)

I Killed My Mother is determinedly quotidian, albeit suffused with betrayal and disappointment. Chantale, whatever we may think of her gaudy taste (some of the film’s best comedic moments come from her literally wild faux fur ensembles), is not the worst mother in the world, and sometimes, when she’s fiercely defending her son to his haughty boarding-school principal, she’s truly admirable. In the midst of the film’s arguments and disavowals, it’s easy to lose track of its dramatic core, which is less about adolescence than moving past it. “I love you,” Hubert tells his mother late one night. “I’m telling you so you won’t forget.” Though the fighting inevitably resumes, the unexpected tenderness of these words lingers on. Dolan knows that as Hubert passes into adulthood, this moment will seal itself off. Its intensity will fade, leaving behind just a few words and images, tokens to remind us of, but also to shield us from, the searing pain of the too-recent past.

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Side Effects (Netflix)

Because Side Effects is brilliant: a noir psychological thriller – like a 21st-century Marnie, or Rosemary’s Baby – that is also an acid satire on big pharma, the mental healthprofession and its terrifyingly powerful, priestly caste of doctors. There is a compelling lead performance from Rooney Mara who lays down the law with her presence. She demonstrates a potent Hitchcockian combination: an ability to be scared and scary at the same time, and Soderbergh’s film manages to introduce its effects in some insidious, almost intravenous way. Fear and fascination swam through my skull simply watching it. And the later scenes involving sex, lies and videotape will be especially involving for those on the lookout for recurrent authorial motifs.

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Picnic at Hanging Rock (Hulu)

"The film is just too damn impenetrable for its own good,” writes the Web-based critic Kevin Maynard. I’m sure he speaks for a lot of viewers, but of course if you could penetrate it, there would be no film — simply a police case, or an account of an accident. My idea of Australia has been fashioned almost entirely from its films, and I picture it as a necklace of coastal cities, from which depend smaller inland towns, surrounding the vast and ancient Outback — where modern logic does not apply, and inexplicable things can happen…Nicolas Roeg’s "Walkabout" touches on some of the same feelings as "Picnic at Hanging Rock." In it, a white girl and her brother are left abandoned in the wilderness when their father kills himself. They would quickly die, but are saved by an aborigine boy who, in an ironic reversal, kills himself after they all wander back to civilization. The suggestion in both "Walkabout" and "Picnic” is that aboriginal life cannot be sustained in cities, nor European-based life in nature, and it is intriguing that girls on the brink of maturity are the focal point in both films.

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Babette’s Feast (Hulu)

The quality of the film is, in the end, a spiritual one (which is why mention of Dreyer is merited). Since its release, critics have pointed out that the story is open to religious interpretation, which is fair, and fine, as long as one understands what is meant by this. Certainly, story and film are studded with religious references—to the Last Supper, to sacramental grace, to the importance of charity, and so on—but given that the milieu being depicted is religious, this should contain nothing to surprise us. Plainly, as viewers, we need to acknowledge a certain irony and genial good humor being directed against the narrowness of the village sectarians, while also taking the trouble to observe that the critique provided (such as it is) is congruent with broadly Christian sentiment. As in Ordet, there is puritanical Christianity and a more enlightened Christianity “of the body.” The feast given by Babette to the pious townspeople opens their minds to the notion that the pleasures of the senses aren’t necessarily sinful, but the satire involved here is very gentle, and it would be false to interpret the great sequence we are talking about as some simple endorsement of epicureanism. Actually, you could argue that the film itself resists interpretation because, as with the story, everyone already understands its essence.

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Persona (Hulu)

Shakespeare used six words to pose the essential human choice: "To be, or not to be?" Elizabeth, a character in Ingmar Bergman’s "Persona," uses two to answer it: "No, don’t!" She is an actress who one night stopped speaking in the middle of the performance, and has been silent ever since. Now her nurse, Alma, has in a fit of rage started to throw a pot of boiling water at her. "No, don’t!" translates as: I do not want to feel pain, I do not want to be scarred, I do not want to die. She wants . . . to be. She admits . . . she exists. "Persona" (1966) is a film we return to over the years, for the beauty of its images and because we hope to understand its mysteries. It is apparently not a difficult film: Everything that happens is perfectly clear, and even the dream sequences are clear–as dreams. But it suggests buried truths, and we despair of finding them. "Persona" was one of the first movies I reviewed, in 1967. I did not think I understood it. A third of a century later I know most of what I am ever likely to know about films, and I think I understand that the best approach to "Persona" is a literal one.

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Hunger (Hulu)

McQueen is renowned as an artist and winner of the Turner prize, and this is his first feature film. I came to it sceptically, having been alienated by his video-art work Deadpan (1997), which seemed to me an uninteresting and frankly supercilious appropriation of Buster Keaton. But Hunger shows that McQueen is a real film-maker and his background in art has meant a fierce concentration on image, an unflinching attention to what things looked like, moment by moment. There is an avoidance of affect and a repudiation of the traditional liberal-lenient gestures of dialogue, dramatic consensus and narrative resolution. This is a powerful, provocative piece of work, which leaves a zero-degree burn on the retina.

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From Douglas Sirk to Orson Welles, Here’s What You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in New York

Well, it’s Thursday and although the week has flown by faster than expected, it’s been a tough one. The weather’s been pleasant and hopefully helping to keep our collective spirit from plummeting into a dark abyss, and come tomorrow night you have two full days to focus on what’s truly important—movies. No, but movies do provide a nice escape from life and with a plethora of great films, both new and old, to choose from, I would suggest grabbing yourself some discount candy in bulk and heading to the cinema. I’ve rounded up for you the best in what’s playing this weekend in New York so peruse and the list and enjoy.

 

IFC Center

Errors of the Human Body
Portrait of Jason
 
 

Film Forum

Deceptive Practice: Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay
Un Flic
Andre Gregory: Before and After Dinner
 
 

 

Landmark Sunshine

In the House
The Angel’s Share
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Fifth Element
 
 

Nitehawk Cinema

F for Fake
Trance 
Showgirls
Fear and Loathing
Room 237
 
 

MoMA

Kalifornia
Forget Me Not
The Mortal Storm
Oh Boy
 
 

Film Society Lincoln Center

Upstream Color
No Place on Earth
To the Wonder
Dancing Across Borders
The Land of Wandering Souls
 
 

Museum of the Moving Image

Tomboy
An Evening with Chris Milk
Rose (Roza)
Corpo Celeste
 
 

BAM

Written on the Wind
MagnifIcent Obsession
All That Heaven Allows
Trashed

From Dennis Hopper to Terrence Malick, Here Are the Films You Should Be Seeing This Weekend in NYC

I don’t know about you, but I fully intend on spending my weekend curled up with a box of Junior Mints in a darkened theatre. It’s been a long week thus far and with the myriad premieres and screenings going on over the new few days, you really have no excuse to not get yourself into a cinema. From Antonio Campos and Shane Carruth’s stunning sophomore efforts to Terrence Malick’s latest poem of emotions, to the wonder of Dennis Hopper and the debut of Darren Aronofsky, there’s a certainly a diverse mix of films to see. So to get you ready, I’ve compiled the best of what’s playing around the city this weekend—take a look and go buy yourself some candy and/or popcorn. Enjoy.

 

 

IFC Center

Simon Killer
Beyond the Hills
Gimme the Loot
Leviathan
Room 237
The We and the I
Upstream Color
2001: A Space Odyssey
House (Hausu)
The Shining

 

 

Landmark Sunshine

Spice World (in 35mm!)
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Sapphires
Stoker
My Brother the Devil

 

Nitehawk Cinema

Easy Rider
Room 237
Spring Breakers
Inside
Pat Garrett and Billy
Bad News Bears

 

 

Film Society Lincoln Center

Room 237
From Up on Poppy Hill
No Place on Earth
Stones in the Sun
Death for Sale
Toussaint
My Fair Lady

 

 

 

Museum of the Moving Image

To the Wonder
The Face You Deserve
The Headless Woman
Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait

 

 

BAM

Somebody Up There Likes Me
Castle in the Sky
My Neighbor Totoro
Princess Mononoke
Renoir

 

 

Angelika Film center

Trance
No
Blancanieves
No Place on Earth

 

 

Village West Cinema

On the Road
6 Souls
Lotus Eaters
Starbuck
Ginger & Rosa

 

 

MoMA

Pi
Amateur
Me You and Everyone We Know
Laws of Gravity
Viktor und Viktoria
Winter’s Bone

See a New Clip From Antonio Campos’ Chilling ‘Simon Killer’

Yesterday, I posted my interview with actor Brady Corbet and director Antonio Campos, whose dark and visceral film Simon Killer hits theaters this Friday. The story of a dangerously lonely and horny college grad who heads to Paris after a breakup is brought to life through the psychologically unnerving directorial work of Campos and a stunning and violent performance from Corbet. It’s a penetrating and haunting film that’s told through various layers of deceit and aggression but chips away at you like a ticking in the back of your mind.

And with a new clip from the film we see an innocent seeming Simon during his first time at the club where he meets his love interest, Victoria (played by the wonderful Mati Diop). But even in the stillest of moments such as this there’s an sense of discomfort, making you ill at ease and totally enthralled. Check it out below.

Christopher Abbott Is Breaking Up With ‘Girls’

Welp, so much for that Marnie and Charlie reconciliation we saw in the season two finale: Christopher Abbott has abruptly left Girls. The actor was apparently at odds with creator and star Lena Dunham. “He didn’t like the direction things are going in, which seems a bit odd since the show put him on the map,” a source told Page Six. (Abbott’s publicist confirmed his departure with the tabloid.) Perhaps Abbott found his character’s actions and storyline to be as ridiculous as I did! Of course, Abbott had a pretty good role in an episode of Enlightened (RIP!) this year, as well as a role in the star-making Martha Marcy May Marlene (which didn’t hurt the careers of Elizabeth Olsen and Simon Killer‘s Brady Corbet), so I think Abbott will do just fine without Girls.

[via Page Six]

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From Lynch to Polanski: Looking Back on Some of the Best Psychological Dramas

When it comes to my favorite films, psychological dramas have always attracted and enticed me the most. I tend to fall in love with films that focus on the interior and psyche of their subjects and filled with the unstable and troubled emotional states of their characters. Usually merged with thriller, horror, mystery, or crime, this genre of dramas tells subjective stories through an objective lens, allowing the viewer to have a necessary distance from the obscurity of the character’s world while penetrating their mental landscape.

Dealing with issues of distorted realities, questions of identity, and the link between sex and death, these films tend to be visually rich, using a cinematic sleight of hand to bring the audience into a character’s frame of mind in a way that’s visceral, sensual, and disturbing. And this week, we’ll see the release of Danny Boyle’s hypnotic Trance, Shane Carruth’s confounding Upstream Color, and Antonio Campos’ haunting Simon Killer. To celebrate these psychological drama, here’s a handful of their iconic predecessors. From David Lynch’s ravishing masterpiece Mulholland Drive to Darren Aronofsky’s dizzying Black Swan, here are some of our favorites. Enjoy.

Mulholland Drive, David Lynch

Fight Club, David Fincher

Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick

Requiem for a Dream, Darren Aronofsky

Persona, Ingmar Bergman

Lost Highway, David Lynch

Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah

Three Colors: Red, Krzysztof Kieslowski

Crash, David Cronenberg

Blue Velvet, David Lynch

The Conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci

Satan’s Brew, Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Berman

Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese

Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky

Spellbound, Alfred Hitchcock

Memento, Christopher Nolan

Repulsion, Roman Polanski

Going Deep Into the Mind of ‘Simon Killer’ With Antonio Campos and Brady Corbet

It’s been over four years since Antonio Campos’s debut feature, the daring drama Afterschool, hit cinemas, unnerved audiences, and established Campos as one of the strong new voices leading contemporary independent cinema. As one third of Borderline Films—alongside Sean Durkin and Josh Mond—Campos produced Durkin’s Martha Macy May Marelene, just as Durkin had his hand in producing Campos’s latest feature, the brooding and visceral Simon Killer. The film tells the story of a lonely, heartbroken, dangerous, and horny college grad who heads to Paris, where he becomes involved with a prostitute (played wonderfully by Mati Diop), Simon Killer is an entrancing waltz with destructive impulse led by star Brady Corbet. As interesting as he is talented, the 24-year-old gives a haunting performance, playing Simon with utmost complexity—vacillating between evil boldness and desperate vulnerability.

Simon Killer goes deeper into Campos’s affinity for the disturbed male psyche with a film that’s rich in texture, tone, and color. It’s a dance between passionate aggression and emotional isolation that’s primal and fiercely enjoyable in its discomfort. Filled with stunning visual interludes like psychological cues that bring you closer into Simon’s sociopathic, music-fueled, and violently sexual world, the film is an optically and emotionally stimulating character study that packs a punch. No stranger to portraying morally unsound characters that walk the line between tantalizing and creepy, Corbet carries out Campos’s vision with a frightening possession.

Earlier this week, it was my pleasure to sit down with Campos and Corbet at the Crosby Street Hotel to learn how they crafted the world of the film, the sexual narrative arc, and a few tangents on flow charts in between. When Corbet wiped a fallen eyelash off Campos’s nose, it was evident that these two are far more than your usual actor and director duo. As we continued our conversation, the pair displayed an intimate and exuberant dynamic—finishing one another’s sentences and trains of thought and expressing the trademark of two like-minded and close partners whose friendship provides a symbiotic working relationship.

I saw the film twice, which was an odd experience. The first time I was alone in a weird room in the dark and I felt very unsettled but very engrossed. The second time, I was at the theater at Lincoln Center with a million people, and by that point I was getting a real pleasure out of all those moments that were making other people sort of squeamish, so then I felt like I was having an inappropriately happy response.
Brady Corbet: See it enough times and it’s almost a comedy.
Antonio Campos: You’ll laugh the third time.
BC: That should be the tag line.
AC: You’ll laugh the third time!

Well in that first screening, what I enjoyed the most was this very stimulated sense that wasn’t from the content but this general feeling of psychological unease. Was that something you always knew you wanted to permeate the film?
AC:
 Psychological unease… Well, that’s basically everything I like. I put a camera down and I shoot something and it’s like, oh, this makes me feel uncomfortable, there you go.

There’s something very enjoyable about that.
AC: Oh, I know. But that’s what we’re looking for and feeling for with the character, and part of that is watching someone like Brady. When he’s giving you this performance, you’re just capturing that. 

It’s the most mundane moments that feel the most disturbing—when he’s simply walking around or looking at a painting or having a cigarette, that feeling is still there.
AC: The mundane moments are the ones that make you uncomfortable; I don’t know why, but they do. If you really want to make people feel uneasy you just sort of slowly pan left to right.
BC: I think in regards to banality, the most disturbing thing in the world to me—and I think about this all the time—is either when a person has committed a heinous crime or something incredibly traumatic has happened to them, the most interesting period is the first 12 hours after because there’s a first everything. There’s their first meal, their first shower. There’s something about living with what has happened, because the world keeps spinning and you’re forced to go and try and function within it again. I think that whether you’re anticipating that violence or whether its post-violence, those in-between moments are what he and I are really interested in.
AC: There is something about the banality of evil that we kept talking about. That’s why that scene where he’s taking a piss after what’s happened is just so great. It’s him taking a piss, but it’s shrouded in all this stuff and how painful it seems to be—but it’s just a piss. There are moments like that or calling his mother.
 
Speaking of calling his mother, I thought a lot about whether he was actually this evil person or simply this child who couldn’t control his primal urges and impulses—whether it was violence, sex, lying, etc. The fact that he always called his mother built up this juxtaposition between being totally evil or seeming in denial or guilty. 
BC: 
Here’s the thing, I don’t think he feels guilty. I think he feels really bad about what could happen to him. The thing about Simon is that he yearns to feel guilty. He yearns to function in the way he sees other people functioning—but he doesn’t and he cannot.
AC: It’s about self-preservation. He does something good so that he can feel that he did something good, not because it makes him feel good to do that. 
BC: He’s the guy before the company goes down transferring all his funds to a Swiss bank account in the Cayman Islands.
 
You two have worked together before and are obviously very close and like-minded. How did you decide that you wanted to make something together, and how far into the process did you begin collaborating?
AC: We knew we wanted to do something together. We had done three other things together where I was serving as a producer, but we always wanted to collaborate. And then this idea was brewing, and I just went to Brady and said, "Here’s this idea, what do you think of it?" Then we started collaborating and really did the first outline together and collaborated throughout the process—the pre-production, the improvising, constantly talking about what we were going to shoot. We always talked about how things were going to be shot. Brady is a filmmaker himself, so he understands that language and can jump between that.
 
And Mati [Diop] is a filmmaker as well. Do you enjoy working with actors who have such a keen knowledge of narrative and character?
AC: 
Well, that was the first time I really ever worked with an actor like that, and I did really like it because they could let go of it. There was a lot of trust, so it wasn’t like trying to sell them on something as much as it was just—
BC: Trying to figure out the best way to achieve everything. Madi was cast about a few days before we started principal photography, and the fact that we ended up with her was this unbelievable blessing because we could have ended up with someone who was a filmmaker or wanted to be a filmmaker or had made some stuff that was shitty. It could have been a nightmare. But instead, we were all of a very like-mind and sensibility, and that’s not surprising. Her previous film was with Claire Denis—35 Shots of Rum—and we were all clearly cut from the same cloth a little bit. We all have our own private obsessions and the things we want to make movies about, but stylistically and in terms of taste we’re pretty simpatico, the three of us. So it was not a very difficult experience; it was a very natural one. But I don’t think we can ever try to recreate it unless we do it together again. I don’t think it’s something you seek out.
AC: The process of making this film was really exhausting because it was a constant jigsaw puzzle that we were trying to figure out. It was really exciting because we felt an immediacy to the writing process because we were seeing the setup and payoff in front of us. There were moments where we knew we had certain devices—like the fox pin he wears or the emails he writes—and we had all of these things we could play with all the time.
BC: And boomerang back into the narrative. We were all aware of those key elements; we were aware of five or six key themes and then probably ten key narrative points. There was a constant discussion: "Is this the right place? Is this too early? Let’s think about roughly where this would be in the movie. Is this 45 minutes into the movie? Is this an hour and twenty minutes into the movie?"
AC: And then we could play around with it, too. Something might be there in the beginning of a scene and ultimately that scene gets cut, and so at the end of the day part of my job was to review everything and see what was actually going to make it into the movie. If something wasn’t going to make it into the movie but there was a key piece of information, I’d figure out where to put that piece in and look at the schedule of blank scenes and be like, "Ok, that thing could go there." It was sort of a flow chart or whatever you call it. There was the outline of everything and then a schedule.
BC: I just want it to go on record that Antonio Campos works with flow charts. [Laughs]
AC: Pie charts, flow charts, demographics… I don’t even know what a flow chart is. It just flowed. What does a flow chart even look like? Is it like a circle?
 
Um, I think it flows down.
AC: And then there’s those ones that cross over.
 
Venn diagram.
AC: Yes, we could have done that—we did that some times.
BC: We absolutely did.
AC: Venn diagram-based films.
BC: It looked like Einstein’s basement in your office.
AC: Just pictures of Brady and charts.
 
Speaking of visuals, what struck me right away about the film were these "light shows" as you call them. These colors and the way they radiated felt like psychological cues through the story that moved it forward and were touchstones to go back on. And if you’re talking pretty literally, they’re like the colors you see when you press down on your eyes. Why did you choose to put that in there?
BC: 
I say this as an audience member and the way I interpret it now more than anything, because things take on more meaning after the fact. As a viewer, the thing is that the way Antonio shoots is as if he has an objective camera but he’s always telling very subjective stories. He’s always finding unique ways to put you in the mindset of the character without having to do something as cheap and literal as a subjective POV. The camera always maintains some distance to maintain the banality and an objectivity. If he started using subjective camera, if he tred to make the experience too thrilling in a way, it would be exploitative. We had to find new and unique ways to put you in the brain space of Simon.
 
One might expect, going into the film, that it’s a thriller, but it’s much more psychological than action-based, and really about just getting into Simon’s head.
BC: And those colors are derived from that. The flashing lights, particularly the white flashing lights, are derived from the same color palette as the laptop, and the reds are derived from the club, I mean, it’s all—
AC: Born out of the world of the film. In script form, it was just referred to as "a visual interlude." We had an idea of what that would be, but we didn’t know until it appeared to us in a very organic way. We were downstairs in the brothel and the lens was off and these Christmas lights moved past it, and we said, "Oh, that’s it!" And then we explored it and it was a really organic way of doing it because it’s painting with light, literally—you’re taking a Christmas light and moving it front of a lens or exposed sensor.
 
Brady, I remember at the screening someone came up to you and asked if you thought the film was pornographic.
AC: Someone asked that?
BC: Yeah.
 
I was thinking that for all the sex that’s explicitly shown in the movie, there wasn’t any eroticism to it and it’s very cold.
BC: Oh I remember! It was at Lincoln Center, but it wasn’t at the Q&A. Hillary and I were talking, and this woman—she seemed bizarrely excited by the question—said, "Would you call this film pornographic?" And I was like, "I don’t know. Do you see it as pornographic?"
AC: Some reporter went to great detail about how turned-on he was. He said he hadn’t been that turned on by a sex scene.
 
Probably because it was so frankly realistic.
AC: That’s the thing: there’s nothing directly erotic about it, but if what you enjoy about sex scenes is how direct they are, then it’s titillating or whatever.
BC: I don’t have a problem with the potentially pornographic aspect of the film. I don’t have a problem if someone finds it very unattractive or unappealing. It just is what it is. If people find sex pornographic, then sure, it’s pornographic.
 
The sexual dynamic between Simon and Victoria was something I really enjoyed. In the beginning she’s so passive, but then there’s that scene when she takes control over him and he allows it. From that moment on she’s so much more intimate and open with him, and I really liked watching that shift. 
AC: We were trying to map out the relationship through the way that the sex played out.
BC: And her character’s too smart not to have that moment. Even what she goes along with it in the beginning, she seems at that point to be under a bit of a spell with the guy—it’s not because she’s stupid. The thing is, I think most people reflect on the history of their bad relationships—myself included. I think back to some things I was doing three or four years ago, and it’s like, what the hell was I thinking? But some people are consciously manipulative, and this is a character that’s quite poisonous and capable of taking this very smart woman along for a ride. And she also seems to be someone who is deeply unhappy in a lot of ways.
AC: She wants to take care of someone.
BC: Exactly!
 
Yeah, like the second her shell started withering away around Simon, she bought him a shirt.
AC: There’s something absent in her life and you realize what it is. And it was interesting meeting these women because there was always this question like, are we creating like a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold narrative? We met the women that work in these bars and, for the most part, they were very nurturing and seemed very lonely. I remember at one some point thinking that one of these women would want to take care of this boy and it wouldn’t necessarily be a sexual thing. There would be this companionship, like, "Someone needs me in this world and it isn’t just for sex."
 
Music plays an enormous role in the film. Not only does it bring you into Simon’s mental world, but even the sound design resonates something about the characters and the story.
AC: We knew we wanted this very brash, loud soundtrack to the movie and it was part it from the beginning—it was always going to have these musical interludes following Simon. Then the score came about when we felt like the soundtrack needed a counterpoint—something more primal and stripped down, whereas the soundtrack was so spruced and poppy. Design-wise, we do this quite a bit: getting tones that capture something about the character. We tried to give those visual interludes a sound that was more of a frequency or a pulse. But it was all, again, a way to get closer or inside Simon’s mind without every directly saying it.
 
Do you see this as a continuation of Afterschool? Not in character, but in tone, and telling these disturbed-male stories?
AC: Yeah, I think there’s some trilogy of disturbed men—I don’t know exactly what, though. I was thinking about this film as sort of the inverse of Afterschool; if you lie them over each other—the way they look, the way they’re paced, everything—they would sort of fit over each other.
BC: It’s like the negative image.
 
As an actor, Brady, you play a lot of dark, complex roles. Do you enjoy taking on darker characters? I imagine it’s a lot of fun as an actor to be able really get into someone like that.
BC: I’ve never thought of it in terms of characters, but I am attracted to darker cinema. It just tends to have more to sink your teeth into. I mean, I think that I find it to be a very cathartic and perversely therapeutic experience when a film drags me through the mud a little bit. 
AC: And in making it, too, there’s that catharsis. You shed this junk by going to these places as a filmmaker and actor.
BC: Absolutely. It’s all those things. You feel a little reborn when you’re done. With this film, and the very, very dark places this film took me to… I felt rejuvenated when I was done.
 
My friend recently went on a date with someone, and I remember her saying that the guy was awkward and nervous but also very forward, and I found that combination exceedingly creepy. I thought of Simon.
BC: …was it me?
AC: A date with Brady Corbet!

From Clint Mansell to Terrence Malick, Here’s Your New York Cultural Itinerary for the Week

It may only be Tuesday, but the days already seems to be crawling by slowing. But never fear, this week there happens to be a wealth of exciting events happening around the city to help the days ago by faster and feed your artistic affinities. With Simon Killer and Upstream Color premiering at IFC this Friday and To the Wonder finally being released next week, throughout New York premiere screenings and filmmaker Q&As are being held, which is a total delight. In addition, you can get the chance to see brilliant composer Clint Mansell in his first ever live NYC performance, amongst other fun events to attend. So I’ve rounded up the best of what’s going on this week for you to peruse and enjoy. Take a look.

 

Fractured Spaces at 92YTribeca, Wednesday (April 3)

Primer with Shane Carruth in Person at Musuem of the Moving Image, Thursday (April 4)

Get It Out There: Comedy by BAM & IFC at BAM, Thursday (April 4)

Clint Mansell at Church of St. Paul the Apostle, Tuesday & Wednesday (April 3 and 4)

Upstream Color with Shane Carruth Q&A at IFC, Thursday (April 4)

Simon Killer with Antonio Campos + Brady Corbet Q&A at BAM, Thursday (April 4)

To the Wonder Special Preview Screening at Musuem of the Moving Image, Friday (April 5)

Darren Aronofsky’s Pi at MoMA, Thursday (April 4)

CKTV Exhibit at BAM, Ongoing

 

 

Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker: Baseketball + Rushless People at Lincoln Center, Tuesday (April 2)

Twin Peaks Bingo at Videology, Wednesday (April 3)

Brady Corbet Announces His French Drama Directorial Debut + Watch His First Short Film

If there’s any young actor I trust would make a phenomenal writer and director, it’s Brady Corbet. Not only has be proven to be exceedingly talented and intelligent but at 24-years-old he’s already been able to study under the brilliant minds of Michael Haneke with Funny Games, Lars von Trier with Melancholia, Gregg Araki with Mysterious Skin, and Sean Durkin with Martha Marcy May Marlene. And with his latest film, Antonio Campos’ visceral and haunting psychological thriller Simon Killer—which premieres this Friday at IFC—he and Campos built the story together, collaborating to craft something deeply powerful—a perfect vehicle for their like-minded dark sensibility. 

And off the heat of Simon Killer‘s premiere and last week’s announcement that Corbet would be starring alongside in Benecio del Toro in Paradise Lost, The Hollywood Reporter tells us that the dynamic actor is now set to write and direct a French-set period drama. But this is definitely more thrilling than shocking; no stranger to getting behind the camera, he directed the short "Protect You + Me" which won an honorable mention at Sundance in 2009 and also shares a co-writing credit on his upcoming film Sleepwalker.

What’s always intrigued me about Corbet was despite his charm, good looks, and talent he’s never been sucked into the typical Hollywood fare, always making wise decisions to take on interesting roles with international and acclaimed directors. And although little is known thus far about the film—save the fact that he will not be starring in it—it’s certainly intruiging. There’s something about the films he works on that all feel cut from the same cloth and when imagining a feature he would pen and direct, it’s difficult to not imagine this falling in the same vein. So needless to say, I’m excited.

Check back later this week for our interview Campos and Corbet on Simon Killer and watch his 10-minute chilling short below.

Protect You + Me from Paul Rubinfeld on Vimeo.