Style: meet substance. Form: meet function. But let's do this carefully - in Brady Corbet's The Childhood of a Leader, these are hardly amiable encounters. What Corbet constructs here will be largely unfamiliar to most cinephiles, albeit constructed from materials that may occasionally be all too familiar. I'm not quite sure what to make of this film, and its multitude of wild stylistic divergences, nor am I sure that I'm supposed to know; rather than assuming a rounded artistic identity that is clear in its vagueness, The Childhood of a Leader is vague in those details that one must presume Corbet is clear on himself. Intellectually, historically, there seems to be undefined depth here, and the simple suggestion of it serves well to fire up the synapses, adding enticing enrichment to Corbet's stylistic stew. In this, he brashly exposes his burgeoning confidence as a director, and his remarkable ability in executing a tricky proposition in this dense, dark project. He displays unyielding commitment to his sensibilities, turning out a highly distinctive work that is evidently informed by the works of master filmmakers, but that is also possessed of its own, furious, assaultive idiosyncrasies. In particular, the dissonance of several of the film's most striking effects (among many) - jarring camera acrobatics and perspectives, Scott Walker's brilliantly manic score - doesn't fight against the rest of the mise-en-scene but instead collaborates with it, producing a most singular, unpredictable expression of originality. It's a brutish, unsubtle expression, but also a fascinatingly abstruse one, expanding what appears to be a fairly limited purview on a vast subject into an outlook that only conceals its wealth of thought and intelligence, transforming it into bold artistic statements. Difficult and arguably indecisive, but a vivid and rewarding debut from an exceptional new talent.