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The Best Films of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival

Written by on May 29, 2017 

The Rider (Chloe Zhao)

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What does a cowboy do when he can’t ride? Chloe Zhao’s absorbing South Dakota-set sophomore feature has its titular rider come to terms with such a fate, in a film that’s a beguiling mix of docudrama and fiction whose story echoes much of history of its actors’ own lives. Zhao’s combination of the visual palette of Terrence Malick, the social backbone of Kelly Reichardt, and the spontaneity of John Cassavetes creates cinema verité in the American plains. – Ed F. (full review)

The Square (Ruben Östlund)

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When it comes to satire there are few easier targets than the world of contemporary art. “My 5-year-old could do that,” so goes the saying. This is not to indicate that the art world is no longer fair game, but the self-seriousness of that scene and the conceptual nature of what it tends to put out have been battered with the same stick for so long by now that it’s become almost impervious to such jabs. Almost. One of the rare exceptions might be Ruben Östlund’s The Square, an acerbic, sphincter-tightening dark comedy that works as a sort of drawn-out spiritual castration for its über chic Stockholm art curator protagonist. – Rory O. (full review)

Western (Valeska Grisebach)

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It is, undeniably, a bold decision to title one’s film Western: on the one hand, the word carries geopolitical weight and a cultural hegemony that the cinema is dominated by; this truth remains an important one at the Cannes Film Festival, where white men dominate the competition (Western opened in the sidebar program, Un Certain Regard). On the other hand, of course, Western implies a cinematic reference—a genre, in and of itself. A genre, to be clear, with tropes galore that are just as problematic as the industry that propagates them. In titling her film as such, however, Valeska Grisebach’s contemplative, brilliant film sparks a dialogue on all of these components, prompting us to think critically on their intersections. – Jake H. (full review)

The Workshop (Laurent Cantet)

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Laurent Cantet has been a bit absent in the international cinema scene ever since winning the Palme d’Or for 2008’s The Class. It’s not for a lack of trying, of course. He’s released two feature since then (Foxfire and Return to Ithaca), but they just didn’t catch on the way his best movies (Time Out, Human Resources) have in the past. He’s now back at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section with The Workshop, (L’Atelier), which has Cantet’s gift of mixing social relevance through wordy dialogue with nail-biting tension, and is as relevant as anything playing at the festival. The tension takes time to build, but when it finally explodes, it brings a whiplash one never sees coming. – Jordan R. (full review)

You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)

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On the surface, Jonathan AmesYou Were Never Really Here seems like an odd fit as source material for a film by Lynne Ramsay. Ames’ novella is a pulpy genre exercise about a hard-bitten vigilante, one of those lone-wolf types who abides by a strict code of ethics and practices his chosen métier with fanatic professionalism. It’s the kind of character that usually appeals to macho filmmakers such as Jean-Pierre Melville or Walter Hill, not to a poetic feminist of Ramsay’s kind. Unsurprisingly, she’s appropriated the material for her own purpose, paring down the already slender narrative and plunging deep into the tortured psychology of its protagonist. The results are breathtaking, and You Were Never Really Here stands alongside Claire Denis’ Bastards as one of the most ferocious indictments of systematic abuse of power and gender violence ever projected on a screen. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Rest

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power (B+)

A Ciambra (B)
April’s Daughter (B)
Claire’s Camera (B)
Happy End (B)
Jupiter’s Moon (B)
L’amant double (B)
Let the Sunshine In (B)
The Meyerowitz Stories (New & Selected) (B)
Promised Land (B)
Redoubtable (B)

The Florida Project (B-)
In the Fade (B-)
Wonderstruck (B-)

Based on a True Story (C+)
Brigsby Bear (C+)
Loveless (C+)
Wind River (C+)

24 Frames (C)
Patti Cake$ (C)

Bushwick (C-)
How to Talk to Girls at Parties (C-)
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (C-)

Rodin (D+)

See our complete Cannes coverage below.

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