Written, directed and starring up-and-coming comedian Desiree Akhavan, Appropriate Behaviour will undoubtedly score comparisons to Lena Dunham’s pop culture extravaganza Girls. Akhavan plays the role of Shirin, a self-entitled twenty-something Iranian urbanite struggling to juggle her identity between the perfect Persian daughter and politically-progressive bisexual. Shot on location in New York City and featuring an alternating timeline for that postmodernist edge, the narrative screams tragically hip on its surface. However, there’s no denying the commendable power of Arkavan’s biting comedic streak and supported by understated performances, Appropriate Behaviour looks to be the most entertaining indie comedy this year.
David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to the acclaimed indie The Myth of the American Sleepover, all about a teenage girl haunted by a mysterious presence following a seemingly innocent sexual encounter. It’s been making seismic waves on the festival circuit, with critics heralding it as one of the most startling genre films for recent years. It Follows playfully juxtaposes the typified 1980s horror notion of sexual paranoia with the liberal decoding of the 90s neo-slasher flick, constructing a timeless vision of contemporary Americana. Filtered through a chilly aesthetic pallet, It Follows, once again, seems intent on proving that horror cinema is blossoming within the independent sector and provides a much needed deviation from the generically produced, Hollywood shlock.
Austrian directing duo Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz explore the disordered subconscious of the child in Goodnight Mommy. When their mother returns from cosmetic surgery, her face almost entirely bandaged, a pair of twin brother begin to suspect that the she may be someone else. Told in a sparse, and austere cinematic staging which recalls the works of Michael Haneke, this arthouse horror has gained critical praise for its acerbic use of brutal violence and a methodical, yet almost unbearable building of tension. Supported by acclaimed director Ulrich Seidl, Goodnight Mommy promises to be grotesque and visceral piece of horror cinema.
The Duke of Burgundy
Fresh from the critical success of his giallo influenced, Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland returns with an enigmatic fable of desire involving a woman who decides to test the limits of her lover. With the sharpened sounds of crinkling leather, and the oppressive use of location, it’s clear that the certain motifs of the giallo have remained, though Strickland has not created a horror film. Rather these elements transcend into a hypnotic psychosexual drama; a study of control gained and lost, hinted within the licentious use of sexual imagery. Combined with a sumptuous art-direction, The Duke of Burgundy suggests a darker, more daring alternative to upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey.