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The 50 Best 2017 Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on January 4, 2017 

50-best-2017-films-already-seen-the-film-stage

All caught up with our top 50 films of 2016? 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!

Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie; Jan. 20)

Staying Vertical

Those only familiar with Alain Guiraudie’s sublime Stranger By the Lake, which finally brought the gifted French director to a (relatively) wider audience following a laureled Un Certain Regard premiere in 2013, will likely find themselves confounded by its follow-up, Staying Vertical. With his first entry in Cannes’ main competition, Guiraudie returns to the psychoanalytic mode of the features preceding Stranger, where he gradually and stealthily eroded the boundary between reality and fantasy to probe the complexities of human desire — particularly of the sexual kind — exposing the stifling effects of social norms and conventions to thoroughly bewildering results. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Dark Night (Tim Sutton; Feb. 3)

Dark Night

In many ways, writer-director Tim Sutton‘s third feature, Dark Night, exists in the same world as his first two films, Pavilion and Memphis. As we follow a collection of young men and women drifting through a long day in the American suburbs, many of the themes from his earlier work shine through — boredom as punctuated by anger, lust, and artistic ambition, to name a few. Where the day will end we already know, thanks to the film’s blunt title, a not-so-subtle reference to the 2012 shooting at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. – Dan M. (full review)

Lovesong (So Yong Kim; Feb. 17)

Lovesong 2

Tender and haunting, So Yong Kim’s Lovesong is a carefully observed, nuanced character study beautifully written, directed and edited. Much of the action, like in her pervious features In Between Days, Treeless Mountain and For Ellen occurs at the edge of the frame. Exploring the bounds of motherhood, childhood and maturity, Lovesong is an impressive and observant feature in which Kim allows the relationships the breathing room they require for authenticity. – John F. (full review)

Contemporary Color (Bill Ross IV & Turner Ross; March 1)

Contemporary Color 2

For its combination of rocking performances from famous musicians (the line-up included St. Vincent, tUnE-yArDs, Nelly Furtado, and Byrne himself), the dazzling work of athletic, often high school-aged color guard teams (those flag- and baton- and rifle-waving types who perform synchronized dance routines), and the compelling success story that comes with their meeting in an arena — to say nothing of the presence / brand carried by the show’s mastermind, David Byrne — last year’s Contemporary Color tour is an exceedingly film-friendly show: a visual-aural presentation the likes of which most directors would be thrilled to have placed before them. That also makes it potentially dangerous territory: if the glut of bland concert movies are any indication, many of those same directors might be tempted to do little except observe, essentially having their subjects meet them 70% of the way. – Nick N. (full review)

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas; March 10)

personal-shopper

After Clouds of Sils Maria, Personal Shopper confirms Olivier Assayas as the director most adept at drawing the best out of Kristen Stewart. Here she follows in the footsteps of Maggie Cheung and Asia Argento, actors whose exceptional central performances prevented fundamentally flawed films by Assayas – Clean and Boarding Gate, respectively – from foundering altogether. Stewart’s achievement is arguably even more remarkable considering that for the bulk of Personal Shopper’s running time, her only co-actor is an iPhone. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

After the Storm (Hirokazu Kore-eda; March 17)

After the Storm 5

Can our children pick and choose the personality traits they inherit, or are they doomed to obtain our lesser qualities? These are the hard questions being meditated on in After the Storm, a sobering, transcendent tale of a divorced man’s efforts to nudge back into his son’s life. Beautifully shot by regular cinematographer Yutaka Yamasaki, it marks a welcome and quite brilliant return to serious fare for writer-editor-director Hirokazu Kore-eda following last year’s Our Little Sister, widely regarded as one of the slightest works of his career thus far. – Rory O. (full review)

Free Fire (Ben Wheatley; April 21)

Free Fire 1

TIFF’s Colin Geddes was correct when introducing Ben Wheatley’s bottle episode of a film Free Fire with the words: “This will wake you up.” The gunfire alone risks perforating your eardrums as John Denver blares from a 1978-era van’s eight-track, but I think it’s the surprising wealth of comedy that ultimately gets the blood pumping and synapses triggering. Wheatley and wife/writer Amy Jump’s latest isn’t for everyone — fair warning to Hardcore Henry detractors, Sharlto Copley refuses to quit his shtick — but those willing to break free from a desire for plot complexity will undoubtedly be entertained. This is low-brow Reservoir Dogs, extreme genre action meant to energize you with an insane cast of characters hell-bent on killing each other on principle. Although that briefcase of money is appealing too. – Jared M. (full review)

Dean (Demetri Martin; March 17)

Dean still

The most piercing comedy is often mined from the darker aspects of life, presenting our fears in a new, hopefully amusing light. While Demetri Martin‘s stand-up has tinges of this, represented in his lo-fi sketches and carefully constructed one-liners, his directing and writing debut Dean effectively melds, both on the page and stylistically, a dramatic backbone with his personal brand. – Jordan R. (full review)

David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm; March TBD)

david-lynch-the-art-life-1

Before David Lynch was a filmmaker, he was a struggling painter, whose lifeblood was to “drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, and paint.” That’s what he dubbed “the art life,” and what an image – as featured in the many contemporary photos seen in this new documentary – it is, the bequiffed 20-something Lynch sitting back in his Philadelphia studio, composing transgressive abstract artwork. Bookmarked by footage of Lynch working on his latest paintings in his Hollywood Hills penthouse, the wonderful new documentary David Lynch: The Art Life showcases the artistic developments of one of America’s most singular directors. – Ed F. (full review)

A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies; April 14)

A Quiet Passion 5

“You are alone you your revolution, Ms. Dickinson,” spouts a stoic headmistress in the opening sequence of A Quiet Passion, a biopic of 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson and the latest work from proud Liverpudlian auteur Terence Davies. In the scene, young Emily has apparently rejected both a life in the seminary and the option to be a practicing catholic, a decision the famously atheistic director clearly vibes with. That sense of empathy and understanding with his subject is rife throughout this quietly cleansing and exquisitely considered film, which shows the writer from her late teens (portrayed by Emma Bell) through to adulthood (Cynthia Nixon) and old age. – Rory O. (full review)

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