Yet another year has gone by and DMovies is now nearly five years old. Since we started in February 2016, we have published 1,800 exclusive articles and reviews. We have attended both big and small film festivals and industry events of Europe, always digging the dirty gems of cinema firsthand and exclusively for you.
Despite the numerous challenges posed by the pandemic, we attended four A-list festivals across Europe: Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian and Tallinn. We have published 400 articles and reviews and renewed our partnership with organisations such as the Black Nights Film Festival and VoD providers Festival Scope and ArteKino. Some of our clients – such as the Locarno International Film Festival, the Cambridge Film Festival and Native Spirit – were held entirely (or almost entirely) online, and we hope that they will return to their original format next year.
We decided to pull together a little list of the 10 dirtiest films of 2020. And what better way to do it than asking our most prolific writers and also our audience for their dirty pick of the year? This is a truly diverse and international list, containing very different films from every corner of the planet, some big, some small, some you can still catch in cinemas, some on VoD and some you will just have to keep an eye for, at least for now!
Don’t forget to click on the film title in order to accede to the our dirty review of the movie (not necessarily written by the same person who picked it as their dirty film of the year). The movies are listed alphabetically…
Selected by James Luxford
“The striking feature debut of director Shannon Murphy is an unforgettable glimpse into how dirty life can truly get. It is about the decisions we make to try and do the best by the ones we love. Essie Davis and Ben Mendelsohn shatter your heart as the parents of critically ill teenager Milla (Eliza Scalen). When Milla finds a dangerous new love in 23-year-old Moses (Toby Wallace), they face an unusual conflict: trust their instincts and keep her as far away from him as possible; or embrace the danger in the hope of bringing their child happiness?
We’ve been fed a certain narrative for films featuring illness. The carers are heroes, the patient serene and saintly. What Murphy recognises is that people are broader that what happens to them, and that includes their flaws. Everyone in the film is brave, but also selfish, secretive, and scared. It is a tribute to the messiness of life, acted out by a cast that brings their very best to the screen. Babyteeth may be a punishing watch (particularly this year), but it is also unforgettable.”
Selected by Eoghan Lyng
“Based on the eponymous book by English novelist Lisa St Aubin de Terán and directed by Dutch filmmaker Paula van der Oest, The Bay of Silence tells the story of a mother suspected of killing her own son, in a complex and multilayered narrative.
Olga Kurylenko exposes a woman caught in the stultifying effects of a postnatal malaise. Whole scenes, set pieces and silhouettes are dedicated to depicting Rosalind’s descent to certain madness, capturing her own literal description of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
Selected by David Stewart
“Spike Lee’s Vietnam War epic fires from all cylinders breaking the conventions of war films of the past. Five African-American veterans return to modern-day Vietnam to honor their fallen comrade (Chadwick Boseman in his penultimate performance before his tragic death in August) by taking buried gold back to the States to fund the Black community. Beyond the references to Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979) and The Treasure of Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948), Lee focuses on the internal struggle of five men trying to confront their pasts while confronting the future.”
4. Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes (Caroline Catz):
Selected by Lucas Pistilli
“A delightfully freeform docudrama on the life of British composer Delia Derbyshire, Catherine Catz’s debut feature is a film that deserves to be found by a large audience. Music lovers and tech geeks alike should get more of a kick out of it. The daring portrayal of the electronic pioneer makes this picture utterly compelling. A moving look into a mind ahead of its time”
Selected by Charles Williams
“In a bumper year for dementia films, The Father stands out from Supernova (Harry Macqueen), Falling (Viggo Mortensen) and Relic (Natalie Erika James) by virtue of its beguiling stagecraft and the manner with which it draws viewers deep into the confusion of the sufferer, as opposed to simply using mental illness as a background character trait. A single location film, director Florian Zeller nevertheless uses his theatre experience to add dimensions to the space. High-ceilinged hallways concertina into kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms that are both familiar and ersatz, spacetime wrinkling as folds of the brain.
Indisputably well-measured central performances from Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman completely sell the father-daughter dynamic. The Father does well to show the hardships and harder choices that face families hit by dementia. At turns delightful, menacing and vulnerable, Hopkins in particular demonstrates his range and command of the screen – long may he continue.”
Selected by Redmond Bacon
“A glorious phantasm of a film, Abel Ferrera’s Siberia eschews the conventional structures of cinema in favour of a bold and heady dreamscape. Anchored by a great Willem Dafoe performance that may have defeated nearly any other actor, it displays the director-actor duo as one of the most fascinating partnerships in film. Derided by many upon its Berlinale preview, mostly for its complete lack of traditional narrative, I found it a liberating and cathartic experience, giving a fascinating 90-minute snapshot of what makes up a man. Also contains the best dance scene since Beau Travail (Claire Denis, 1999)”
DMovies‘ editor Victor Fraga was far less impressed with Abel Ferrara’s latest fiction movie. The American director has since made a strange documentary about the making of Siberia (and filmmaking in general).
Selected by Paul Risker
“Given the grim subject matter of a wife who accuses her husband of rape, it may sound strange to say that it’s one of those films you want to shout from the proverbial rooftop about. It fills one with admiration for writer-director Leonardo Antonio, and words cannot do justice to lead actress Iolanda Laranjeiro’s mesmerising performance”
From the opening to the closing image, it’s a compelling work that commands your attention. In as much as Lúcia’s ordeal is treated with sensitivity, Antonio positions us in a decidedly uncomfortable position. We feel angry at how she’s treated when she’s cross-examined in court, only to realise that we’re hanging onto her every word, and so, we’ve become implicit in her ordeal. Lúcia draws our interest, communicating through her eyes as much as her words – her eyes are the windows to a traumatised soul”
Selected by the DMovies audience (most read piece of the year)
“He’s done it again. Yes, he’s playing with time and audience expectations. Yes, the action is kinetic and absorbing. Yes, Michael Caine is in it and women barely are. Despite conforming to his well-trodden formula in parts, a bonkers science fiction conceit and engaging performances lead to a convincing result.
Foremost, the action set pieces are something to behold. These are your big ticket items to get the punters through the door and they are visually stunning from the get-go, tending increasingly ostentatious as the runtime wears on. Indeed, some of the more sprawling sequences can be a little hard to follow but there is nothing to criticise about the individual components in these magnetic dioramas. The sci-fi element is key to the fun and without giving any of the mechanics away, Nolan really shows off how the laws of physics themselves are an undeniable element of his director’s toolkit.” – written by Charles Williams
Selected by DMovies’ editor Victor Fraga
“This spectacularly dirty movie is divided into four short stories. It reflects about the complacence, the complicity and the morality of killing. This is Iranian cinema at its very best, in every sense. It has the virtuous sensibility of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the ingenious car conversations and technical wizardly of Abbas Kiarostami, the political explosiveness of Jafar Panahi, the multilayered personal relationships and surprising twists of Asghar Farhadi.”
There is No Evil is also pictured at the top of this article.
10. Unhinged (Derrick Borte):
Selected by Jack Hawkins
“Unhinged is vicious in its unashamed B-movie qualities and Russell Crowe makes best use of his notoriously short fuse. Unhinged’s release during the pandemic (and its playful rivalry with Tenet) will give it a unique place in history, too. Not the best movie of the year, but certainly the dirtiest.”
…and a last minute entry selected by our much valued writer Jeremy Clarke:
“There’s perhaps a sense that Brandon Cronenberg is taking his father’s work and extending it: the Cronenberg family filmography, if you will. Their sensibilities are similar, yet subtly different. If anything, the younger Cronenberg’s concerns are more science fictional, although the film contains many moments of deeply upsetting, visceral horror too. As SF, it’s highly provocative. As a thriller, it’s intelligent, edge of the seat stuff. As horror, quite simply, it delivers. The whole thing makes one want to see the wider body of work that will surely follow in the years to come. Like his father before him, Brandon Cronenberg is slowly proving himself, film by film, one of the most significant directors of his generation.”
This text was originally published on Jeremy Clarke’s blog.