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The 50 Best 2017 Films We’ve Already Seen

Written by on January 4, 2017 

The Dreamed Path (Angela Schanelec)

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Angela Schanelec’s The Dreamed Path is so beguiling that we, the audience, have to take comfort in pointing out its one clear structural point: it’s split into two halves, each about a different couple in separate time periods. Our first is Kenneth (Thorbjörn Björnsson) and Theres (Miriam Jakob), who we see arriving on vacation in Greece in 1984; the film is quick to divert our attention to a protest about the nation’s place in the European Union, and here already feeling the weight of democracy and mythology. A young, attractive couple (easily the film’s liveliest sequence is when they busk “In the Jungle”), circumstances suddenly drive them apart when Kenneth’s parents in England fall sick and Theres gets a teaching job back in Germany. – Ethan V. (full review)

Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky)

Endless Poetry

Three years ago, Alejandro Jodorowsky returned to filmmaking for the first time since 1990 with his sumptuous autobiographic epic The Dance of Reality. Now the octogenarian’s second part of a planned five-part series — think the tales of Antoine Doinel on acid — heralds the madcap hippie director of El Topo and The Holy Mountain as a master of a deeply personal magic-realist genre, effortlessly moving as it is psychologically and artistically rich. – Rory O. (full review)

Hermia & Helena (Matías Piñeiro)

Hermia and Helena

For beginning with a dedication to Setsuko Hara, recently departed muse of Ozu and Naruse, Hermia & Helena — the new film by Viola and The Princess of France director Matías Piñeiro — perhaps aligns us to be especially attuned to the Argentinian auteur’s use of female collaborators. One to already emphasize the charisma and big-screen friendly faces of frequent stars Agustina Munoz and Maria Villar, he still seems to have an ability to make them points of representation, not fetish. – Ethan V. (full review)

Hounds of Love (Ben Young)

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Premiering in the Venice Days section ahead of its 2017 Australian release, director Ben Young’s feature debut is the kind of film you wish you could un-see – except not really. Sure, its extended depictions of physical and psychological abuse will upset/offend many. At the same time, there’s no denying the level of craft and performance involved that probes human depravity so compellingly, you’re left with much more than just rattled nerves and a taste of bile. – Zhou-Ning Su (full review)

The Human Surge (Eduardo Williams)

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To put it upfront, Eduardo WilliamsThe Human Surge is pretty much a film that, by nature, is unlovable. Often blatantly ugly or boring, it’s not so much deliberately confrontational in the way so many experimental films are (or pride themselves on being), but rather risk-taking for the sake of something almost impossible to articulate — even if based in something obvious. – Ethan V. (full review)

Jesús (Fernando Guzzoni)

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Adolescent hijinks turn tragic on multiple fronts in Fernando Guzzoni‘s Jesús despite my not being sure there was going to be a solid point to the film until mid-way through. Everything previous merely sat as a slice of life for the titular character, a normal everyday Chilean punk named Jesús (Nicolás Durán) with too much autonomy and not enough direction. He’s practically raising himself after the death of his mother, Dad (Alejandro Goic‘s Héctor) constantly out of town working. So the eighteen-year old roams the streets dancing with a Korean Pop band for kicks, breaking into parks at night to drink and do whippits, or cruising for girls at parties to earn a blowjob. He means well most times, but his malleability when drunk inevitably spells trouble. – Jared M. (full review)

Mimosas (Oliver Laxe)

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A “religious western” is how Moroccan-based Spanish director Oliver Laxe describes his second film, Mimosas, winner of the top prize at Cannes’ Critics’ Week. It’s a spiritual, ambiguously plotted journey through the Atlas Mountains, and those willing to give in to its mystical embrace and gorgeous visuals should find it a sensual, engrossing watch. – Ed F. (full review)

Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello)

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Here’s an elevator pitch: Nocturama is Robert Bresson’s The Devil, Probably in a homegrown-terrorist garb that substitutes transcendental style for the form of contemporary thrillers and music videos, all the while filtering a faux-intellectual’s anger through a consumer-culture criticism that, in its place and mood, most recalls George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. This almost sounds like an easy sell, notwithstanding the fact that this elevator ride would need to take us to a building’s higher floors. But for plumbing the depths of radicalized Parisian teens’ desires and actions less than a year after ISIL-led attacks shocked the globe, every ounce of appeal that his film might — and, I think, ultimately does — offer can’t prevent writer-director Bertrand Bonello from being a victim of poor timing. Timing is so relative, though; doubly so when his is a picture that grows (some might go the cancerous route and say metastasizes) in days and weeks after being seen, the kind that feels at once explicitly of its moment and vaguely outside of any temporal trappings. – Nick N. (full review)

Prevenge (Alice Lowe)

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Veering between dark comedy and somber drama is a flavor of the times in indie film, but Prevenge puts a new spin on this, tying those emotional shifts more directly to the mindset of its lead character than any other movie of its ilk has yet. That’s because the lead is heavily pregnant. Combine that with serial killing, and the stage is set for an agreeably bloody-minded oddball of a film. – Dan S. (full review)

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