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The Best Films of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

Written by on May 29, 2017 

cannes-film-festival-2017

After nearly two weeks of viewing some of the best that cinema will have to offer this year, the 70th Cannes Film Festival has concluded. With Ruben Östlund‘s Force Majeure follow-up The Square taking the top jury prize of Palme d’Or (full list of winners here), we’ve set out to wrap up our experience with our favorite films from the festival, which extends to the Un Certain Regard and Directors’ Fortnight side bars. Check out our favorites below, followed by the rest of the reviews. One can also return in the coming months as we learn of distribution news.

120 Beats Per Minute (Robin Campillo)

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Sometimes a movie doesn’t need much character development to make an impact. The ensemble cast that comprise Robin Campillo’s AIDS activists in 120 Beats Per Minute all work together to be the same voice. Through this group, the director captures a force that resonates more in message than in any of the conventional, dramatic sparks you might find in a Hollywood version of this story. This is one of the most politically-minded movies to come around in quite some time as Campillo stages heated strategy sessions between the activists of ACT UP like a Godard cinematic political essay post-La Chinoise. Through effective direction, the activism on display here is inspiring enough to rile one up to set aside preoccupations and try to make a difference in the world. – Jordan R. (full review)

Before We Vanish (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)

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There are few directors who would choose to take a semi-sincere approach to a lengthy pseudo-philosophical science-fiction film — especially not one that lightly pries into our fundamental psychological foibles — but there are few directors quite like Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The prolific Japanese filmmaker behind such varied genre gems as Pulse and Tokyo Sonata has constructed a sort of skittish and overlong, albeit pleasantly existential oddity in Before We Vanish, an alien-invasion B-movie packed with A-grade ideas and craft. Nail down your windows. Lock your doors. It’s the invasion of the concept snatchers. – Rory O. (full review)

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)

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Cannon fire rumbles menacingly in the distance, but it’s human desire that might prove to be the greater threat after all in The Beguiled. Set to the backdrop of the American Civil War, Sofia Coppola‘s film is a sumptuous and often campy erotic horror, one that marks a confident debut genre outing for a director better-known for contemporary and often quite personal filmmaking (Lost in Translation, Somewhere, etc.). Although primarily based on the 1966 book by Thomas Cullinan, it appears, at first glance, to be a remake of Don Siegel’s 1971 film adaptation rather than any sort of new reading of the original text. Coppola, of course, is far too clever for that. – Rory O. (full review)

The Day After (Hong Sang-soo)

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Hindsight is a marvelous thing. To quote the lead character of a recent Hong Sang-soo film (and by recent we mean Claire’s Camera, the second of three the prolific director has premiered so far this year): “The only way to change things is to look back on them, slowly.” It’s a mantra Hong clearly lives by as a filmmaker, as do many of the people who inhabit his movies. Hong’s world is all about repetition, and while the cold domestic and workplace settings of his latest film, The Day After, are somewhat of a departure from the unfamiliar streets his character usually walk down, the majority of his signature ingredients are present and accounted for: sad, unfaithful men abusing positions of relative power; dialogue that meanders between the everyday and the sublime; his current muse, Kim Min-hee; and, of course, generous lashings of Soju. – Rory O. (full review)

A Gentle Creature (Sergei Loznitsa)

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“Man is a wolf to his fellow man,” quotes a character early in Sergei Loznitsa’s A Gentle Creature. The ordeal suffered by its protagonist will indeed be solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish – it won’t be short, however. Powerful though bloated, A Gentle Creature is a companion to Loznitsa’s phenomenal first narrative feature, My Joy, once again following a person’s nightmarish odyssey through an allegorical rendition of post-Communist Russia. Though not as successful as its predecessor, Loznitsa’s latest nonetheless confirms the director’s place of honor amongst cinema’s most vociferous critics of Putin’s kingdom. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Good Time (Josh and Ben Safdie)

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It’s probably safe to say that, up until now, no lucid person had compared a Safdie brothers film to the work of Michael Mann. Indeed, it may still be a stretch, though Good Time  the New York siblings’ latest eye-popping, pill-popping, attention-deficit character study — could feasibly be described as just that. It’s in parts a heist movie (iconic masks included) and a chase movie, but not an homage in any sense — more an evolution, like a 21st-century fast-food hybrid that mixes trash television and drug culture with Day-Glo-splattered night-time cinematography and throbbing synthesizers, thanks to a standout score from Oneohtrix Point Never. – Rory O. (full review)

Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin)

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Pasolini included an “essential bibliography” in the opening credits of Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, proffering five philosophical titles by the likes of Roland Barthes and Maurice Blanchot to help viewers navigate his rich and daunting Sadean masterpiece. The closing credits of Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghosts also feature a reading list that could be called essential. Of the four authors listed therein, one in particular might hold the key to interpreting Desplechin’s exhilarating, overflowing mindfuck of a movie: Jacques Lacan. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Lover for a Day (Philippe Garrel)

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Philippe Garrel, the 69-year-old veteran of the French New Wave, has produced a casual, bittersweet, and intoxicating study of relationships in flux starring his daughter Esther. In this swift, touching ode to lovers with heart-breaking, irreconcilable differences, the drama appears conventional on first glance, featuring that older-man-younger-women relationship frustratingly perennial in French art cinema, but this is a work of rare clarity by a director whose experience shows. – Ed F. (full review)

Okja (Bong Joon-ho)

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A dystopian story about a genetically engineered beast with overt anti-capitalist connotations, Bong Joon-ho’s Okja represents a synthesis and an upgrade – in scale as well as quality – of the director’s previous outings The Host and Snowpiercer, confirming him as one of the finest contemporary craftsmen of intelligent, ambitious blockbusters. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

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