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The Best Films of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival

Written by on May 21, 2018 


After nearly two weeks of viewing some of the best that cinema will have to offer this year, the 71st Cannes Film Festival has concluded. With Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters 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 sidebars. Check out our Giovanni Marchini Camia and Rory O’Connor’s favorites below, followed by the rest of their reviews. One can also return in the coming months as we learn of distribution news and more related to this year’s slate.

Ash is Purest White (Jia Zhangke)


It should go without saying that, regardless of genre, period, or just about any other contributing factor, any new release from Jia Zhangke is something with which to grapple. Last year, the New York Times ranked the writer-director’s 2013 film A Touch of Sin as the 4th best film of the 21st Century thus far. Not bad, but I reckon few would even consider it his best — it might not even make some devotees’ top 5s. When news trickled out that his latest would be based in the world of crime, you got the feeling that Jia was once again leaning towards the deathly serious, straight-faced allegories that Sin provided. What’s more, it was said that Ash is Purest White — as it has been titled for English-speaking audiences — would be his most expensive production to date and might even feature a sequence of martial arts. Just tell me where to sign. – Rory O. (full review)

Birds of Passage (Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra)


It probably says more about Ciro Guerra’s last film than this inimitable new offering (which he co-directed with his long-serving producer Christina Gallego) to suggest that fans of Embrace of the Serpent might find Birds of Passage just a little on the linear side. However, to compare the two is surely akin to comparing the varying potency of two strains of class-A hallucinogens. Set in Columbia in the 1960s, this violent, operatic, and sparsely trippy film follows the early days of marijuana trafficking in the region. Don’t worry if that all sounds a touch familiar. – Rory O. (full review)

Border (Ali Abbasi)


“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.” At a glance, you might conclude that that line from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has provided the foundations for pretty much every decent monster movie since James Whale adapted the text back in 1931; perhaps even before. This delightfully grungy and ethereal contemporary horror from Iranian-born, Denmark-based Ali Abbasi concerns a romance between two creatures who happen to be feeling out those opposite warring sides. One is attempting to satisfy a craving for love while the other indulges the violence (incidentally, could Abbasi’s debut Shelley be named for the 19th century writer?). Border, like Frankenstein, is a work about the “Other” and how that Other might operate if it was raised against its nature, only knowing human society. – Rory O. (full review)

Burning (Lee Chang-dong)


Whoever it was that said a film should be expanded from a short story, not condensed from a long one, certainly had Lee Chang-dong’s ear. For his latest film the South Korean director behind such celebrated work as Poetry and Oasis has taken a short from Haruki Murakami and built on it, stretching and fleshing it out into a two-and-a-half-hour-long film. Not bad. – Rory O. (full review)

Climax (Gaspar Noé)


Gaspar Noé has probably never been likened to Lazarus before – or any other saint, for that matter – but he’s fully earned himself the comparison with Climax, which constitutes a miraculous comeback after the nadir that was Love. It has all the in-your-face trademarks of the Noé brand, but here they’re packaged in a compact, expertly crafted horror flick that transcends its puerility to achieve something altogether sublime. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Cold War (Paweł Pawlikowski)


What a deft, lean storyteller this Paweł Pawlikowski has become. The five-year gap between his latest film, teasingly titled Cold War and given a berth in competition at Cannes, and Ida (which premiered in Toronto in 2013 and spent almost two years on the festival circuit) must have felt like an age. Indeed, if there’s one thing we’re never asked to endure in the Polish-born filmmaker’s work, it’s that very nuisance: time. The days and years never drag in his world; instead they seem to skip like a needle across the grooves of a battered record. Cold War depicts a sweeping romance (apparently loosely based on his parents’ relationship, a battered record indeed) that takes us through four countries and almost a decade-and-a-half. It’s 84 minutes long. – Rory O. (full review)

Girl (Lukas Dhont)


In the same way that keeping your top five movies on-hand can save a not-insignificant amount of time and brainpower over the course of one’s life, it’s just as useful to have an answer ready for questions such as: what makes you like movies so much, or even why are movies important? In such moments I tend to take the Ebert line that film, at its best, is an empathy machine, a way of experiencing someone else’s reality for a short while, to see how it might feel to walk in another person’s shoes. Like a widowed housewife in 1950s New England, say; or an elderly couple visiting their kids in Tokyo; or, in the case of this excellent naturalistic debut from Lukas Dhont, a 16-year-old transgender girl awaiting the operation that will complete — in her eyes — her physical transition. – Rory O. (full review)

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