Category Archives: Paranoia

When paranoia sets in, there’s nothing like a few compatriotic movies that agree with your darkest moments: they are out to get you, the system is engineered to squeeze you like an orange, and things are only going from bad to worse. It’s no accident that several of these films are based on true stories, and several more could be happening, right now.

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

Peter Strickland‘s seething and self-conscious Berberian Sound Studio offers a dynamic that’s impossible to resist: being trapped in a Kafkaesque netherworld of vintage Euro-genre film post-production. It’s Italy in 1976, in that post-dubbing-crazed industry’s seediest foley studio, where Toby Jones, as a shy British sound engineer, is imported to fabricate the soundtrack for what seems to be an absurdly gory Dario Argento-ish giallo. We never see the film in question, but only hear it, as a thousand cabbages and melons are decimated with knives and sledgehammers, and as the brittle Gilderoy finds himself lost in whimsical Italian bureaucracy and appalled by the bloody mayhem on the screen. His strained subjectivity takes over, and the two films he’s “in” cross-fertilize each other – until there’s almost no film left.

JFK (1991)

Maybe this Oliver Stone blitz should be listed under “Election Day” (although that may depend on your political predilections), but it’s also one of our modern era’s most convincing paranoiac screeds. Much of JFK —which revolves primarily around actors like Kevin Costner acting out one of several semi-possible conspiracy scenarios regarding the events that occurred in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963—is questionable, but just as much is not. At least credit Stone for having the cajones to have Costner’s Jim Garrison, unraveling a plot that reaches straight to Lyndon Johnson, spit the word “facism” during his in-court summation. With Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Joe Pesci, and Sissy Spacek.

The Conversation (1974)

Between the Godfathers, Francis Ford Coppola crafted The Conversation, a nerve-racking essay on privacy and surveillance; Gene Hackman is a bugging expert who’s so good at his job that he’s emptied his life rather than be bugged himself. Murder might result from one assignment, sending him on a guilty, destabilized tear—which in turn makes him the subject of the surveillance he’s always dreaded. Indelible. With Harrison Ford.