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Jordan Raup’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Written by on January 2, 2018 

5. Nocturama (Bertand Bonello)

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It’s been well over a year since I’ve seen Bertrand Bonello’s latest film, and I can still remember every frame. His terrorist drama, depicting the revolting thrill of the act and the shallowness of youth with a methodical precision, is a masterclass in direction. Every camera movement, cut, and musical choice is perfectly calibrated to inch towards the throat-tightening tension of the nightmare our protagonists place themselves in. As our sympathies are toyed with, Bonello’s bifurcated narrative is a brilliant deconstruction of revolution.

4. Dawson City: Frozen Time (Bill Morrison)

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The greatest documentary of 2017 will surely stand the test time, partly due to how much it invests in exploring the unwieldy power of time itself. Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time begins its story on an event in the 1970s in which over 500 thought-to-be-lost nitrate film prints from many decades prior were discovered. Using these rare films and other archival materials, he tells a formally-fascinating tale of a lost era and delivers a call-to-action for current film preservation. In this regard, it’s also the most important film of 2017: a rallying cry to look back through cinematic history to not only protect it, but to discover its boundless treasures.

3. Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson)

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If Phantom Thread is truly Daniel Day-Lewis’ final role, as the actor has stated, one might imagine a physical and mental strain rupturing across the screen the likes of which we haven’t seen since Daniel Plainview. That Reynolds Woodcock exudes anything but those qualities is one of the many surprises Paul Thomas Anderson has in store with his sumptuous period drama. Although there’s an egomaniacal vein that runs through that character, an elite fashion designer, there’s also a sly tenderness and comedic warmth that gives startling life to this shape-shifting relationship drama. Deeply engrossing and playful as it seamlessly weaves between romantic, unsettling, funny, and back again, Phantom Thread is defined by the women in Reynolds’ life (played by the astounding Vicky Krieps and Lesley Manville), and it’s a joy to see their three-way psychological game unfold.

2. Song to Song (Terrence Malick)

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A clear divide in his approach to filmmaking before and after The Tree of Life, also causing a rupture in the admiration of his films, if you’d read my previous year-end top tens, then the inclusion of Terrence Malick’s latest should be no surprise. What personally astonished me, however, was just how ravishingly fractured, open-hearted, and piercingly moving the experience was. As innocence gets eroded and redemption is sought, this is the most sonically impressive and emotionally honest a late period Malick film has been. I also encourage one to read Josh Hamm’s theological reading of the film–the best analysis I’ve seen–in which he explores how “philosophy is distilled into emotion.”

1. A Ghost Story (David Lowery)

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The psychological weight of our certain death and the fact that life will go on long after we are departed is difficult to convey visually, but A Ghost Story is one of the most poignant films to ever grapple with this issue. It’s a singular feat of enthralling storytelling that I would say is going to leave a lasting impression centuries after everyone involved has passed away, but as Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) ponders in David Lowery’s micro-masterpiece, humanity will eventually perish. It’s not a comforting thought, to say the least, but A Ghost Story leaves enough room for the viewer to find peace in the reflection.

Continue: The Film Stage’s Top 50 Films of 2017

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Follow our complete year-end coverage.

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