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The 50 Best 2016 Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on January 7, 2016 

Best-Films-Already-Seen-2016

All caught up with our top 50 films of 2015? It’s now time to look to the new year, and, ahead of our 100 most-anticipated films, we’re highlighting 50 titles we’ve enjoyed on the festival circuit this last year (and beyond) that will likely see a release in 2016. While the first batch have confirmed dates all the way through the summer, we’ve also included a handful that are awaiting a date and some we’re hopeful will get a release by year’s end pending acquisition. U.S. distributors: take note!

We’ve stuck to just 50 here, but we’ve also seen many other notable releases over the next twelve months that we were more mixed on (or worse). There’s The Benefactor, Mojave, Southbound, Remember, and Too Late this winter, as well as Hello, My Name is Doris, Green Room, Miles Ahead, I Saw the Light, The BronzeEvolution, and Louder Than Bombs this spring. We also imagine The Sea of Trees, Equals, Man Down, Hardcore, The Program, Colonia, Our Little Sister, Kill Your Friends, Queen of the Desert, Tale of TalesChevalier, Suite Française, and London Road will find their way to theaters sometime this year.

Check out our 50 recommendations below and let us know what you’re most looking forward to.

The Treasure (Corneliu Porumboiu; Jan. 8th)

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Though regularly grouped with the directors that comprise the Romanian New Wave, Corneliu Porumboiu’s brand of social realism is all his own. Dispensing with the shaky cam so popular amongst his peers, his fictional features capture the world through contemplative long takes, their duration and frequent immobility allowing for careful observations of the subjects’ relationship to their environment, which is always reflective of wider-reaching concerns. The Treasure, his fifth feature and the winner of this year’s Un Certain Talent Prize, is the latest gem in the director’s exquisite filmography — another tightly focused, minimalist and enchantingly humane story of individual struggle within the broader social reality of contemporary Romania. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel; Jan 15th)

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While fitting snugly in the overall cohesiveness of Philippe Garrel’s filmography, In the Shadow of Women nevertheless feels like a companion piece to its predecessor, the 2013 critical hit Jealousy. Garrel’s latest is also shot in black-and-white, kept within a similarly svelte running time (73 minutes), and its pared-down story of marital infidelity again takes the jealousy intrinsic to adult relationships as its primary theme. In the Shadow of Women revolves around Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau), a married couple living in a run-down Parisian apartment and struggling along as documentary filmmakers. The strain in their relationship is apparent from the outset and both soon embark on individual affairs. The contrast in their respective motivations – Pierre’s is physical; Manon’s is emotional – and reactions upon learning of the other’s unfaithfulness – Manon is understanding; Pierre is seething – lays bare the asymmetries in their marriage, forcing a confrontation with truths hitherto swept under the carpet. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Peter Greenaway; Jan. 15th)

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“Ostensibly, Eisenstein in Guanajuato is a chronicle of Sergei Eisenstein’s ill-fated endeavor to shoot a film in Mexico at the age of 33. However, not only is Eisenstein never shown shooting a single scene, but anyone without prior knowledge of the Soviet master is unlikely to come out of the film much wiser about his life or place in film history. Rather, in paying homage to one of his heroes, Greenaway delves into the director’s personality, offering an interpretation radically different from the customarily-held image of Eisenstein as a solemn and cerebral revolutionary genius. The biographical focus, unsurprisingly, is on Eisenstein’s sexuality, whereas his groundbreaking film techniques and theory are explored visually through a conflation of Eisenstein’s method and Greenaway’s own.” – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Clan (Pablo Trapero; Jan. 29th)

Who says there’s no place for meaty, gritty thrillers at A-list film festivals? Argentinian director Pablo Trapero’s El Clan (The Clan) is exactly the kind of cross between high drama and genre exercise that should have no problem pleasing steak-eating critics and audiences everywhere. Perhaps not lofty enough in its aim and too gung-ho with its approach to win award favors, this is nonetheless a solid piece of storytelling served with just the right amount of sauce. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

Rabin, the Last Day (Amos Gitai; Jan. 29th)

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Why You Should See It: One of the films we quite liked at Venice last year, about which we said, “It isn’t quite an Israeli version of JFK, but Rabin, the Last Day rivals Oliver Stone’s film in seeking to pose questions that official studies have refused to explore. In JFK, the events were after the Warren Commission; here Gitai frames the actions within the official Shamgar Commission into security and intelligence failing behind assassination. The commission was denied the chance to investigate the political and social climate around the actions – something Gitai tries to rectify.” – Ed F. (full review)

Rams (Grímur Hákonarson; Feb. 3rd)

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Following his 2010 debut, Summerland, Rams marks the second feature film from Icelandic director Grimur Hakonarson. Premiering as part of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard line-up, the film chronicles the tale of two brothers, Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson), in a rural Icelandic valley who both make a living as farmers raising sheep and rams. In fact, they are the sole two breeders of a special stock of rams that are renowned for their excellent and sought-after qualities. However, the two brothers are not on speaking terms, quite literally for the last forty years, due to a divisive incident in the past. A breakout of a degenerative neurological disease which affects sheep, scrapies, affects both brothers in the valley. The government decides that all the flocks in the affected valley must be culled in order to eradicate the outbreak. So begins the central story, as we see how the two brothers must learn to move on from the past in order to salvage whatever little remains of their future. – Raphael D. (full review)

The Club (Pablo Larraín; Feb. 5th)

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With his exceptional trilogy on the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship – Tony Manero (2008), Post Mortem (2010) and No (2012) –Chilean director Pablo Larraín proved himself a trenchant commentator on his country’s problematic past. He turns his attention to the problematic present in The Club, a scathing j’accuse directed at the institution of the Catholic Church that represents his most uncompromising and vociferous film to date. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke; Feb. 12th)

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Though vastly more moderate than its predecessor, the ultra-violent A Touch of Sin, Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart continues the director’s move away from the extremely measured, observational style that characterized much of his earlier work. Even as his narratives have become more charged, however, Jia’s thematic focus has remained constant and Mountains May Depart offers his latest reflection on the momentous societal changes that have swept over China as a result of its entry and ascension in the globalized world economy. If A Touch of Sin expressed Jia’s rage at the contemporary impact of capitalist progress on Chinese society, Mountains May Depart is his lament over the direction in which it is headed. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra; Feb. 17th)

Embrace of the Serpent

I have a weakness for heart-of-darkness films, and Embrace of the Serpent ranks amongst the best (and most gorgeous) I’ve seen. It’s also the only one I can think of that successfully adopts a native perspective in charting the white man’s journey down the river, thus offering a moving elegy to the myriad cultures that were destroyed in the process instead of just probing into humanity’s vilest instincts. – Giovanni M.C.

The Witch (Robert Eggers, Feb. 19th)

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“We will conquer this wilderness. It will not consume us,” foreshadows our patriarch in the first act of The Witch, a delightfully insane bit of 17th century devilish fun. As if Ingmar Bergman and Ken Russell co-directed Kill ListRobert Eggers’ directorial debut follows a God-fearing Puritan family banished from their settlement in a colonial New England, only to have their deep sense of faith uprooted when our title character has her way with their fate. – Jordan R. (full review)

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