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(Credit: A24)


Ari Aster names his "favourite male performance ever"


Helping to transform the perception of the horror genre in the 21st century, American filmmaker Ari Aster has encouraged audiences to take such movies more seriously, crafting two modern classics that are put together with a well-constructed narrative backbone. With just Hereditary and Midsommar to his name, it’s a remarkable ode to Aster’s masterful filmmaking that he’s managed to gather such a loyal legion of fans 

Careful, measured and artistic, his horrors access a deeper plain of consciousness, playing on fears we never even knew we had, boxing this terror together with ingenious use of cinematography and sound. 

For proof of this, look no further than the car decapitation scene in Hereditary, a truly horrifying moment that Aster perfectly delivers by use of careful pacing and a fearlessness behind the camera to linger on the most uncomfortable moments. This is made all the more authentic by the terrific acting of Alex Wolff who remained scarred by the movie long after its release.

Reflecting on his role in the influential 2018 horror film in an interview with Looper, Wolff recalled, “That movie did about as much damage to me as a movie can do…All of it. It really affected me,” explaining that he had lost sleep over the role and suffered genuine psychological effects. 

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Although he has currently made a name for himself in the horror genre, Aster’s love of cinema is not limited to genre or style, telling Criterion in 2018 that the British social realist director Mike Leigh, “might be my favourite living filmmaker”.

Explaining exactly why he cherishes the filmmaker behind Life is Sweet and Another Year so much, Aster comments, “I go to his films to pull myself a little bit out of genre and remember what it is that makes us care about any story in the first place—the people at the heart of it. But Leigh gets so much credit for his character work and his work with actors that people forget to mention what a brilliant craftsman he is”. 

As a great lover of Leigh, there is one film above all others that he cherishes dearly, the 1993 Palme d’Or nominee, Naked.

Fueled by the barking energy of Johnny (David Thewlis), Naked reflects a bleak depiction of 1990s London, following the homeless character from his hasty departure from Manchester to the thrills of the capital city. Visiting his Mancunian friend in Dalston, Johnny arrives unannounced and proceeds to throw his weight around and impose his conspiracy theories about the state of the world and the degradation of society in Leigh’s near-apocalyptic drama.  

Gushing over the film and the central performance from David Thewlis, Aster further states, “David Thewlis’s performance is my favourite male performance ever. There’s nothing like it. It’s a bleak film, but it’s so filled with life and passion and it’s so funny”. 

Winning the Cannes award for Best Actor for his extraordinary performance, many were in agreement with Aster that Thewlis stole the show from Mike Leigh’s epic.