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Ryan Swen’s Top 10 Films of 2017

Written by on January 1, 2018 

5. Good Time (Josh & Benny Safdie)

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Less a breakneck thrill ride than an incredibly intense slow burn, the Safdie brothers’ film establishes itself as something truly dangerous in its willingness to plumb the depths of society and human behavior. But Good Time is also a gorgeous, immensely emotional experience, with the brief moments of connection and brotherhood only throwing the rest into greater light. Having one of the most impressively harmonious combinations of direction, cinematography, and score this year certainly doesn’t hurt.

4. Princess Cyd (Stephen Cone)

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Full-hearted loveliness was in short supply this year, and perhaps its greatest provider came in the form of Princess Cyd, a film about a teenager visiting her aunt, which is equally about the ways they both change each other over the course of a few weeks. At once quotidian and lingering, immensely kind-hearted and sobering, it uses its balance of queerness and implied spirituality to invigorating effect. Its universal acceptance of all is rendered exquisitely and without a trace of obviousness: Stephen Cone’s film simply exists, and does so with an ineffable vitality.

3. Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR)

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An irrepressible, freewheeling collaboration, Faces Places uses a simple concept – following legendary filmmaker Agnès Varda and the pseudonymous street artist JR as they travel the French countryside and put up large-scale photographs of its inhabitants – in order to explore an extraordinary range of humanity and emotion. Light-hearted and substantial, its prosaic method of presentation only enlivens the pairing of the octogenarian and the young raconteur, culminating in a beautiful moment of pure emotion that reflects its central aims: revelation via documentation.

2. The Work (Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous)

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Moment-to-moment, scene-to-scene, there was no film this year as emotional or visceral as The Work, a documentary about group therapy in Folsom Prison. Taking place over the four days in the year when civilians are allowed to undergo this experience with inmates, it is a collection of startling, often violent moments, where men undergo unbearable waves of catharses and emotional exorcisms. Co-directors Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous skillfully navigate this interplay between facilitator, prisoner, and outsider while constantly emphasizing the achingly, transformative power of intimacy.

1. On the Beach at Night Alone (Hong Sang-soo)

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The immensely prolific and consistent master Hong Sang-soo had a breakthrough year, premiering three features to wide acclaim. The only one of these released in the same year, On the Beach at Night Alone, is also as personal as his films have ever gotten. Featuring professional and personal partner Kim Min-hee as an actress in seclusion as a result of her affair with a well-known director, it is a simmering yet often gentle examination of the ways in which love can both unite and irreparably break. For someone that regards Hong as one of the great filmmakers of our time, it is gratifying, surprising, and immensely assured in so many undefinable, moving ways.

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

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