All caught up with our top 50 films of 2015? 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!

We’ve stuck to just 50 here, but we’ve also seen many other notable releases over the next twelve months that we were more mixed on (or worse). There’s The Benefactor, Mojave, Southbound, Remember, and Too Late this winter, as well as Hello, My Name is Doris, Green Room, Miles Ahead, I Saw the Light, The BronzeEvolution, and Louder Than Bombs this spring. We also imagine The Sea of Trees, Equals, Man Down, Hardcore, The Program, Colonia, Our Little Sister, Kill Your Friends, Queen of the Desert, Tale of TalesChevalier, Suite Française, and London Road will find their way to theaters sometime this year.

Check out our 50 recommendations below and let us know what you’re most looking forward to.

The Treasure (Corneliu Porumboiu; Jan. 8th)


Though regularly grouped with the directors that comprise the Romanian New Wave, Corneliu Porumboiu’s brand of social realism is all his own. Dispensing with the shaky cam so popular amongst his peers, his fictional features capture the world through contemplative long takes, their duration and frequent immobility allowing for careful observations of the subjects’ relationship to their environment, which is always reflective of wider-reaching concerns. The Treasure, his fifth feature and the winner of this year’s Un Certain Talent Prize, is the latest gem in the director’s exquisite filmography — another tightly focused, minimalist and enchantingly humane story of individual struggle within the broader social reality of contemporary Romania. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel; Jan 15th)


While fitting snugly in the overall cohesiveness of Philippe Garrel’s filmography, In the Shadow of Women nevertheless feels like a companion piece to its predecessor, the 2013 critical hit Jealousy. Garrel’s latest is also shot in black-and-white, kept within a similarly svelte running time (73 minutes), and its pared-down story of marital infidelity again takes the jealousy intrinsic to adult relationships as its primary theme. In the Shadow of Women revolves around Pierre (Stanislas Merhar) and Manon (Clotilde Courau), a married couple living in a run-down Parisian apartment and struggling along as documentary filmmakers. The strain in their relationship is apparent from the outset and both soon embark on individual affairs. The contrast in their respective motivations – Pierre’s is physical; Manon’s is emotional – and reactions upon learning of the other’s unfaithfulness – Manon is understanding; Pierre is seething – lays bare the asymmetries in their marriage, forcing a confrontation with truths hitherto swept under the carpet. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Peter Greenaway; Jan. 15th)


“Ostensibly, Eisenstein in Guanajuato is a chronicle of Sergei Eisenstein’s ill-fated endeavor to shoot a film in Mexico at the age of 33. However, not only is Eisenstein never shown shooting a single scene, but anyone without prior knowledge of the Soviet master is unlikely to come out of the film much wiser about his life or place in film history. Rather, in paying homage to one of his heroes, Greenaway delves into the director’s personality, offering an interpretation radically different from the customarily-held image of Eisenstein as a solemn and cerebral revolutionary genius. The biographical focus, unsurprisingly, is on Eisenstein’s sexuality, whereas his groundbreaking film techniques and theory are explored visually through a conflation of Eisenstein’s method and Greenaway’s own.” – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Clan (Pablo Trapero; Jan. 29th)

Who says there’s no place for meaty, gritty thrillers at A-list film festivals? Argentinian director Pablo Trapero’s El Clan (The Clan) is exactly the kind of cross between high drama and genre exercise that should have no problem pleasing steak-eating critics and audiences everywhere. Perhaps not lofty enough in its aim and too gung-ho with its approach to win award favors, this is nonetheless a solid piece of storytelling served with just the right amount of sauce. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

Rabin, the Last Day (Amos Gitai; Jan. 29th)


Why You Should See It: One of the films we quite liked at Venice last year, about which we said, “It isn’t quite an Israeli version of JFK, but Rabin, the Last Day rivals Oliver Stone’s film in seeking to pose questions that official studies have refused to explore. In JFK, the events were after the Warren Commission; here Gitai frames the actions within the official Shamgar Commission into security and intelligence failing behind assassination. The commission was denied the chance to investigate the political and social climate around the actions – something Gitai tries to rectify.” – Ed F. (full review)

Rams (Grímur Hákonarson; Feb. 3rd)


Following his 2010 debut, Summerland, Rams marks the second feature film from Icelandic director Grimur Hakonarson. Premiering as part of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard line-up, the film chronicles the tale of two brothers, Gummi (Sigurdur Sigurjonsson) and Kiddi (Theodor Juliusson), in a rural Icelandic valley who both make a living as farmers raising sheep and rams. In fact, they are the sole two breeders of a special stock of rams that are renowned for their excellent and sought-after qualities. However, the two brothers are not on speaking terms, quite literally for the last forty years, due to a divisive incident in the past. A breakout of a degenerative neurological disease which affects sheep, scrapies, affects both brothers in the valley. The government decides that all the flocks in the affected valley must be culled in order to eradicate the outbreak. So begins the central story, as we see how the two brothers must learn to move on from the past in order to salvage whatever little remains of their future. – Raphael D. (full review)

The Club (Pablo Larraín; Feb. 5th)


With his exceptional trilogy on the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship – Tony Manero (2008), Post Mortem (2010) and No (2012) –Chilean director Pablo Larraín proved himself a trenchant commentator on his country’s problematic past. He turns his attention to the problematic present in The Club, a scathing j’accuse directed at the institution of the Catholic Church that represents his most uncompromising and vociferous film to date. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhangke; Feb. 12th)


Though vastly more moderate than its predecessor, the ultra-violent A Touch of Sin, Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart continues the director’s move away from the extremely measured, observational style that characterized much of his earlier work. Even as his narratives have become more charged, however, Jia’s thematic focus has remained constant and Mountains May Depart offers his latest reflection on the momentous societal changes that have swept over China as a result of its entry and ascension in the globalized world economy. If A Touch of Sin expressed Jia’s rage at the contemporary impact of capitalist progress on Chinese society, Mountains May Depart is his lament over the direction in which it is headed. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra; Feb. 17th)

Embrace of the Serpent

I have a weakness for heart-of-darkness films, and Embrace of the Serpent ranks amongst the best (and most gorgeous) I’ve seen. It’s also the only one I can think of that successfully adopts a native perspective in charting the white man’s journey down the river, thus offering a moving elegy to the myriad cultures that were destroyed in the process instead of just probing into humanity’s vilest instincts. – Giovanni M.C.

The Witch (Robert Eggers, Feb. 19th)


“We will conquer this wilderness. It will not consume us,” foreshadows our patriarch in the first act of The Witch, a delightfully insane bit of 17th century devilish fun. As if Ingmar Bergman and Ken Russell co-directed Kill ListRobert Eggers’ directorial debut follows a God-fearing Puritan family banished from their settlement in a colonial New England, only to have their deep sense of faith uprooted when our title character has her way with their fate. – Jordan R. (full review)

Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul; March 4th)

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If it is by now redundant to say that Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (who understands pronunciation troubles and insists people call him “Joe”) is truly in a class of his own, we might blame both the general excellence of his output — a large oeuvre consisting of features, shorts, and installations — and the difficulty that’s often associated with describing them in either literal or opinion-based terms. The further one gets into his work, however, the more his marriage of dense visual style with Thailand’s historical, spiritual, and mystical bedrocks will cohere. These images —often set in nature (with billowing winds and shaking trees adding to the atmosphere); almost always composed in long shot that emphasizes a self-conscious artificiality; and frequently running a few minutes each, sometimes several, to create a laid-back rhythm— are, for viewers Thai and non-Thai alike, a gateway to less-definitive thematic undercurrents. To put this in different terms for neophytes: observing his art is not at all unlike the intellectual stimulation of, say, confidently working through passages of a dense 19th-century novel. On a piece-by-piece basis, Cemetery of Splendour is a bit more straightforward than Joe’s other work. – Nick N. (full review)

Desierto (Jonás Cuarón; TBD)


A tense thriller of survival set against a desolate landscape of quiet austerity until the deafening sound of our heroes’ pursuer returns after a brief respite allowing these strangers the time to emotively talk about their lives—no, it’s not Gravity. Filmmaker Jonás Cuarón certainly has a type, though, since his sophomore effort in the director’s chair, Desierto, has a lot of formal similarities to his and father Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning ride. Thematically different since the whole exists in the wasteland battlegrounds of the Mexican border, is fought by the impoverished rather than elite, and includes a villain possessed by a conscious psychopathy in his treatment of other human beings, it’s still difficult to separate the two when the same screenwriter worked on both. – Jared M. (full review)

Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick; March 4th)


Finally, well over a year after its initial premiere, a new Terrence Malick film will be in theaters shortly. We said in our review, which was admittedly reserved, “Malick, again working with DP Emmanuel Lubezki and that weightless camera, is just as capable of pulling breathtaking images from the Los Angeles cityscape and the homes of its rich as he was with the idyllic nature of his previous features. These are edited together in a rapid and free-associating flow, the fluidity of which is wonderfully enhanced through a classical score featuring pieces by the likes of Grieg, Debussy and Chopin. This resulting stream of consciousness is persistently transporting, going a long way to compensate for the script’s vapidity.”

The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos; TBD)


The eminently idiosyncratic films of Yorgos Lanthimos revile the societal constructs that stifle and pervert human interaction. In laying bare these structures’ inherent hypocrisies, the films exaggerate their logic to absurd extremes, with conformity’s noxious ramifications always at the crux of Lanthimos’ critique. His exceptional breakthrough Dogtooth eviscerated the institution of the modern family, representing it as emblematic of society’s greater normative oppression. Dogtooth’s similarly incisive yet less warmly received follow-up Alps exposed the pretence fundamental to the forming of social identity. His newest film, The Lobster, takes on the rigid preconceptions surrounding relationships. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin; March 18th)


Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days bears some superficial similarities to national compatriots Eric Rohmer and Olivier Assayas, two directors who tend to make films about beautiful, young, artistic people going through tough times that results from some combination of inner conflict, government, and the sensibilities of other, equally fashionable people. Of course, these directors aren’t especially alike; Rohmer is concerned with the way a person’s desires and actions — or their ideas and realities — may conflict, particularly in concerns of (heterosexual) love; Assayas’ characters drift apart and float together through means largely outside their control, or at least through means incident rather than integral to their decisions. (His protagonists are generally undone by loneliness and isolation, whereas Rohmer’s encounter trouble when they interact with one another.) My Golden Days contains much of Rohmer’s hapless romance and Assayas’ internal depression, but it is temporally expansive and deploys new tricks at every turn in a way that the films of Assayas and especially Rohmer — whose work takes place in subtly but rigorously established worlds — never would. – Forrest C. (full review)

Mia Madre (Nanni Moretti; TBD)


Nanni Moretti has become a target of the film-critic intelligentsia (aside from some unfortunate comments at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival) due to being a rather plain stylist, and his humanism not being as rigorously schematic as certain festival favorites (see a certain acclaimed film from a Belgian duo last year). While a certain few of his films have shown an assured visual hand, My Mother forgoes We Have a Pope’s various wide-angle tableaux shots of Vatican headquarters or Dear Diary’s Kiarostami-inspired long takes of Moretti riding through Rome. Yet the formal modesty of My Mother is not without its charms, such as when Margherita’s daughter driving slowly on her scooter to Jarvis Cocker’s “Baby’s Coming Back to Me” (used multiple times in the film) capturing a small, everyday joy. – Ethan V. (full review)

No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman; April 1st)


The presence of a mother is quite clear in Chantal Akerman’s best-known work, whether it be the one communicated back and forth to in News From Home or the titular Jeanne Dielman, a woman relegated to homemaker and cook for her son. Assuming the influence this woman has had on one of cinema’s most rigorous formalists and staunch feminists, making a film on her final years may conjure up a certain mental image, yet many will be surprised by the ensuing two hours. – Ethan V. (full review)

A War (Tobias Lindholm)


In only his second outing as sole director after 2012’s acclaimed A Hijacking, Tobias Lindholm is commanding unusual levels of respect and anticipation with A War – undoubtedly earned with the establishing of a very personal brand of filmmaking, rooted in observation, deliberate pacing and a terse directing style. Viewers familiar with his previous film, a hostage drama detailing the hijacking of a Danish cargo ship by Somali pirates, will find the same approach at work in A War: protagonist Pilou Asbæk returns to shoulder much of the dramatic weight, aided by familiar faces like Søren Malling and Dar Salim and a roster of non-professional actors with relevant backgrounds. – Tommaso T. (full review)

Sunset Song (Terence Davies; May 13th)


A tension is formed by a cut, quickly transporting our heroine from an expansive wheat field to a confined classroom. We’re not just talking the difference of 70mm for the former and the Ari Alexa for the latter, but that of, to quote Kate Bush, the “sensual world” versus the punishment of destiny. Based on a mainstay of Scottish classrooms, Sunset Song is a triptych of sorts chronicling farmgirl Chris’ (Agyness Deyn) womanhood; the first deals with her abusive father (Peter Mullan) and the pain he inflicts on her and the others in the family, the second follows her falling in love and marrying Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), while the third sees Ewan enlisting to fight in World War I and coming back a violent man that resembles her father. – Ethan V. (full review)

Dheepan (Jacques Audiard; April TBD)


Until losing its cool in the third act and ending on a relatively soft note, French veteran Jacques Audiard‘s Dheepan is a muscularly directed dramatic thriller about the difficulties of starting over and the inevitability of violence. Clear-eyed, tightly wound, and cinematically and psychologically immersive, it’s a furious ride of a movie that actually has something to say. – Zhuo-Ning S. (full review)

In Transit (Albert Maysles, Lynn True, David Usui, Nelson Walker III, and Benjamin Wu, April TBD)


Ripe with rich source material each worthy of their own feature films, In Transit provides a glance into various lives and narratives. Some intersect and interact with each other, if only for a brief moment, others are singular: they opt to tell their story to us directly as we share an aural overview of a whole life, relationships, connections, missed opportunities and narratives yet to be written, each in transit. The final film by master vérité filmmaker Albert Maysles, the filmmaker and team (including co-directors Lynn True, Nelson Walker, David Usui, and Ben Wu) spend a few days aboard the Empire Builder, Amtrak’s long-distance line carrying passengers from the Midwest to the Northwest en route to Portland. – John F. (full review)

Men Go to Battle (Zachary Treitz; April TBD)


Mumblecore and the period drama have (somehow) come together, and the result is far better than people who are generally allergic to the subgenre may expect. On a miniscule budget, writer-director Zachary Treitz and his crew have laid out a fully realized recreation of the South during the American Civil War — and it’s more than convincing recreations of an era’s aesthetic. Where many historical films are concerned with the movers and shakers of well-known events, Men Go to Battle is all about the micro view. It tells a story that happens to be set against a volatile backdrop, but is more about what it was like to live day-to-day in such a time. – Dan S. (full review)

De Palma (Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow; Spring TBD)


Earlier this year, Kent Jones’ Hitchcock /Truffaut — a documentary on the famous interview sessions between the two directors — boasted perhaps the most chaotic, dignity-threatening queue of any film screened at Cannes. There is a craving for this sort of thing among cinephiles it seems and it’s easy to see why. Directors just seem to open up much more when speaking to one of their own kind. Brian De Palma, the subject of this fine documentary, says that they’re “the only ones who understand what we go through.” Over the last five years, fellow directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow shot over 30 hours of interviews with the movie icon and have distilled them down into this rich feature-length documentary. De Palma is a fascinating, revealing and compelling overview of a remarkably eclectic career, but it’s also a seldom-heard first-hand account of what it’s like to work inside and outside the Hollywood system. – Rory O. (full review)

The Family Fang (Jason Bateman; Spring TBD)

The Family Fang provides fuel for a future auteur study of its director Jason Bateman: haunted by his past as a child actor, his work in front of and behind the camera frequently explores the effects of childhood on adults as they struggle to move through life. Explored in Arrested Development, his directorial debut Bad Words, this summer’s The Gift, and even Juno, this theme has never been sharper than in The Family Fang. In a refreshing take on material that in another hands might have seemed pedestrian or cheap, Bateman has crafted an effective portrait of a dysfunctional family that’s not entirely unlike the Bluth Family. Rabbit Hole playwright and screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire adapts David Wilson’s novel with a rich emotional precision and as funny as it is, the material takes the absurdity seriously. – John F. (full review)

Dark Horse (Louise Osmond; May 6th)


It’s no surprise Dark Horse won the audience award in its respective category at last year’s Sundance. The ultimate crowdpleaser (and I mean that in the best way possible) tracks the feel-good story of a small village in Wales who banded together at the behest of a local barmaid to breed a racehorse. With each of them pitching in to train it, they would split the profits, if any were to arrive. While one could easily track down the story, we’ll only say that Osmond’s up-and-down tale has one hooked on every word, thanks to the endearing personalities of the townsfolk and their captivating story. I certainly shed a few tears of joy during this one, and I’d imagine most audiences will as well. – Jordan R.

A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino; May 13th)

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Despite a loose script that justifies little, Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up feature to his glorious melodrama I Am Love is a sweaty, kinetic, dangerously unpredictable ride of a film. One is frustrated by the final stroke of genius that never came, but boy was it fun to spend two hours inside such a whirlwind of desires, mind games, delirious sights and sounds. Based on the 1969 French drama La piscine (The Swimming Pool), the story essentially begins as Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) – a couple vacationing on an Italian island – get an unexpected visit from her former lover and record producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes), along with his daughter Penny (Dakota Johnson). Harry, a raging bohemian who still harbors affections for Marianne, and Penny, a confident Lolita-type who has her sights set on the hunky Paul, will make sure feelings old and new get kindled, leading to frictions that may end up being more than harmless. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

Last Days in the Desert (Rodrigo García; May 13th)


Perhaps the most intriguing feature of last year’s Sundance Film Festival slate, Last Days in the Desert, follows Jesus (and Satan), both played by Ewan McGregor, as he’s in the final steps of his contemplative 40-day journey before returning to civilization in Jerusalem. Far removed from the recent bombastic Biblical tentpoles Noah and ExodusRodrigo García‘s beautiful, spare drama can frustrate as much as it allures with meditations on finding meaning in one’s life (and beyond). – Jordan R. (full review)

Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn; Summer TBD)


Writer/director Stephen Dunn’s feature debut Closet Monster cares little about convention to tell the story of Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup) growing up with a psychological revulsion to his sexual urges, all thanks to an extremely disturbing event witnessed as a child. This prologue glimpse at his youth (played by Jack Fulton) is a mash-up of tough coming-of-age-dramatics and a dark-edged imaginative whimsy that intrigues to draw you closer. It will be divisive with an idyllic world’s caring father (Aaron Abrams‘ Peter) “pushing” dreams into his son’s head via a balloon, a talking hamster named Buffy (voiced by Isabella Rossellini), and the horrific teenage assault of a homosexual with a piece of rebar in a cemetery. But this tumultuous roller coaster is worth you sticking around. – Jared M. (full review)

Awaiting Release Date

Francofonia (Aleksandr Sokurov)


Who are we without museums? Supposedly a tribute to France’s artistic excellence throughout the centuries, Francofonia quickly reveals itself as an exploration of the Louvre, the role of a museum, and the clash between the abstract notion of artwork and certain inescapable circumstances of the real world. And yet, a French version of Russian Ark this is not. – Tommaso T. (full review)

From Afar (Lorenzo Vigas)

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Proving yet again that festival juries don’t read the trades or pay attention to chatter, the Golden Lion of the 72nd Venice Film Festival was presented to the Venezuelan drama From Afar, a film that screened relatively late at the fest, when general opinion on the Lido seemed to have settled on this being a race between some other titles. In a discerning and gutsy move, the star-studded jury chaired by Alfonso Cuarón decided to recognize the achievement of writer/director Lorenzo Vigas’ debut feature over some perhaps higher-profile pictures from established masters. It’s gutsy because this film tells a moving if deeply unpleasant story with a significant ick factor that’s going to put many people off. It’s discerning because, as contained and particular as the film’s subject matter and as unassuming as its approach, From Afar delivers an incisive, poignant, surgically precise character study that deals a fatal blow in one crisp, clean stab. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

High-Rise (Ben Wheatley)


As soon as the voice of Tom Hiddleston‘s Dr. Robert Laing was heard speaking narration above his weathered and crazed visage manically moving from cluttered, dirty room to darkened feverish corner, my mind started racing. Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas popped into my consciousness and then his Brazil, after a quick title card shoves us back in time to watch as Laing enters his new concrete behemoth of a housing structure, oppressively standing above a vast and still parking lot. Add the clinical precision of Stanley Kubrick dolly shots and the chaotic, linear social ladder climb of Snowpiercer with a bitingly satirical wit replacing the high-octane action and you come close to describing the masterpiece that is Ben Wheatley‘s High-Rise. – Jared M. (full review)

Klovn Forever (Mikkel Nørgaard)


Those familiar with the off-kilter comedic duo behind the Danish TV series Klown (or Klovn as it is known in Denmark) — which spurned one of the most hilarious and inappropriate feature films of recent years — will know exactly what type of humor to expect from their sequel Klovn Forever. Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen star essentially as parodies of themselves in this Curb Your Enthusiasm-style comedy, combining mundane issues from their personal lives with some extremely outlandish situations. They push the boundaries of what is considered appropriate with their off kilter brand of humor, falling into categories that are intentionally offensive — such as misogyny and even racism. But therein lies the appeal: in these playful antics, here considered nonchalant, do we as an audience find humor in how outrageous and disrespectful they can be. – Raffi A. (full review)

The Measure of a Man (Stéphane Brizé)


The Measure of a Man is not a film that will be lauded for its direction nor for its cinematography, screenplay or editing. It’s a film that will be remembered for its absorbing lead performance. Vincent Lindon takes one deep into the mind of Thierry, a man who has recently lost his factory job and is now trying desperately to find work. Unfortunately, obstructions of the modern world, from the current state of the economy to the introduction of technology in the workplace, prevent him from doing so and thus he struggles to support his family financially. – Eli H. (full review)

Neon Bull (Gabriel Mascaro)


From Blue Is the Warmest Color to Stranger by the Lake, from Pride to The Danish Girl, movies dealing with LGBT issues or characters have become ever more present at film festivals and cineplexes these past years. Against such background it’s especially intriguing to consider something like Neon Bull – a Brazilian rodeo drama in which everybody turns out to be straight – and its place in queer cinema. – Zhuo-Ning S. (full review)

Phantom Boy (Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli)


French directors Alain Gagnol (who also wrote) and Jean-Loup Felicioli have another winner on their hands with Phantom Boy. The much-anticipated follow-up to their Oscar-nominated animation A Cat in Paris was five years in the making and well worth the wait. With its vibrant colors muted for a NYC noir aesthetic and every 2D field shaded by roughly textured shadows in constant motion, the frames literally flicker off the screen to leave a lasting impression. The story—centering on a young cancer patient able to leave his body for brief periods of time, floating around the city and becoming the only hope of stopping a criminal mastermind—delivers a level of heartfelt dramatics to rival Inside Out. – Jared M. (full review)

Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo)


I was generally puzzled by the rhapsodic critical praise lavished upon virtually every one of Hong Sang-soo’s staggeringly frequent — and unabashedly homogenous — new features, but with Right Now, Wrong Then I finally “got” it. The film is a veritable masterpiece of understated filmmaking, one so deceptively simple that its depth catches you by surprise and leaves you in awe of a director capable of approaching the human condition with such empathy and sensitive insight. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Seeking U.S. Distribution

88:88 (Isiah Medina)


What has set cinema back — both from the perspective of those who make, and those who write about it — are the binaries chosen to be created and propagated, be it taste, modes of production, or genre, essentially what forms “correct” cinema, in terms either classical or experimental. So there’s more and more hope that a film can come along that hopefully defies the tradition of quality, that makes us rethink a medium only feeling more and more trivial with every passing day, even if it’s more accessible than ever. Amongst the many things that make 88:88 — the first feature from Isiah Medina, the 24-year-old Canadian filmmaker behind the shorts Semi-Auto Colors and Time is the Sun — so radical is its attempt to obliterate the binaries. – Ethan V. (full review)

Afternoon (Tsai Ming-liang)


It’s always been easier to review Tsai Ming-liang’s films than to make sense of them. Characterized by an often impenetrable language of silence and immobility, the Malaysian-born, Taiwan-based filmmaker’s work triggers all kinds of intuitive response that writers crave, yet those same writers might be hard-pressed to explain what they’ve just seen on screen. In this sense, Afternoon poses the exact opposite dilemma, in that it’s by far the most verbal and straightforward project from Tsai – but how do you assess, evaluate, grade something so close to life you’re not even sure what to call it in cinematic terms? – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

An (Naomi Kawase)


Festival programming is more often than not fraught with ulterior considerations. Which is why so much is being read into symbolic placements such as the opening film. In the case of Cannes, that applies not only to the competition, but also the sidebar sections, led by Un Certain Regard. Since it’s generally perceived as a “downgrade” when new works by popular auteurs previously invited to the competition are shown instead in UCR, the added prestige of opening the section is often seen as a compensatory gesture. This happened with Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola among others. This year, it also looked like An by Cannes mainstay Naomi Kawase is getting a pat on the back for being inferior to Still the Water, which just competed for the Palme d’Or last year. As it turns out, An is in many ways superior to the island-set existential drama and definitely a more enjoyable watch. It might just not be high-brow enough for a loftier slot in the lineup. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)

Black (Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah)


The buzz on Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah‘s film Black is that it’s a contemporary take on a Shakespearean classic. Saying as much is an apt description and Romero and Juliet is most certainly an inspiration, but what’s neglected to be mentioned are the two novels by Dirk Bracke on which it’s actually based upon. The author’s Black and Back depict the violence occurring in Brussels as a result of a gang culture raised from youth unemployment rates that are through the roof. Between the Dutch, Flemish, French, and Arabs mixing together like oil and water in a city out of control, it’s no surprise that tensions would mount to ignite them against one another. The lifestyle pays with money, sex, and street cred—no one talks to the police and retribution is eye for an eye. – Jared M. (full review)

Blood of My Blood (Marco Bellocchio)


The town of Bobbio, in central Italy, often recurs in Marco Bellocchio’s history, in the same way that the 17th-century episode of the ‘nun of Monza’ (whose affair with a Count led to the birth of a daughter and the death of several people in a morbid cover-up) will always have its place in Italian literature and the country’s shared consciousness. In Blood of My Blood, the two are put together in what amounts to an enigmatic, messy little tale awkwardly split down the middle. All you can see are broken shards on the floor, but boy, are they fascinating to look at. – Tommaso T. (full review)

The Brand New Testament (Jaco Van Dormael)


If you were to take the charm and playful visual language of Jean-Pierre Jenuet’s Amelie and pair it with a blistering satire of religious dogma, the end result would look something like The Brand New Testament, a new film from Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael. His previous feature, Mr. Nobody, starring Jared Leto as the last living human on Earth, also showcased a penchant for high concepts that veer towards the absurd rather than the literal. With his latest entry, Dormael is gunning for the big guy himself, God, portraying Him less as an all-powerful deity and more like an irritable grumpy man hellbent on making life miserable for us petty humans. In bringing life to these religious icons, he weaves a rich tapestry of conflicted characters whose unique problems become fodder for a truly holy upheaval of all that we know to be real. – Raffi A. (full review)

Cosmos (Andrzej Żuławski)

andrzej zulawski cosmos

If there’s any way to synthesize the many pieces that form the bull-in-a-china-shop filmmaking that is Andrzej Żuławski‘s Cosmos, an adaptation of Witold Gombrowicz‘s novel, consider its status as his first feature in fifteen years. Might some sense of long-awaited release account for its why and how — the intensity of its performances, the force of its camera moves, the sharpness in its cuts, the bombast of its emotions? I’m inclined to think so, but it’s possible I’m only proposing this in search of a “what” — what’s going on, what he was thinking, and what we’re meant to take from any and all of it. Answers, if they do come at all, will only gradually present themselves, and they won’t arrive via exposition or, with some exception, clearly stated themes. A filmmaker who values the power of shock, but not necessarily thrills for thrills’ sake, Żuławski elucidates material with tools that announce themselves in their presentation — surprising camera dollies, fast pans, sudden cuts, overly prominent music cues — and raise complex questions about their relation to one another. – Nick N. (full review)

The Childhood of a Leader (Brady Corbet)

"The Childhood of a Leader"

The feature debut from young actor turned screenwriter-director Brady Corbet, The Childhood of a Leader is an ambitious choice for a first project — a period piece tying together the post-WWI political climate and the upbringing of a child in a chateau outside Paris. The film, premiering in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, is a huge psychological and tonal balancing act that could crumble at each turn, and yet never does. – Tommaso T. (full review)

The Daughter (Simon Stone)


Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way — and some are off-the-scale unhappy. At the end of Australian theatre director Simon Stone’s absorbing, menacing debut The Daughter, we have two such disintegrating families, their closets positively crammed with skeletons. Henry Neilson (Geoffrey Rush) runs a logging factory in a run-down New South Wales town, until he has to shut it down when contracts dry up. Amongst the offloaded workforce is Oliver Finch (Ewen Leslie), an optimistic, energetic but vulnerable family man whose ray of sunshine is his brainbox teenage daughter Hedvig (Odessa Young). – Ed F. (full review)

The Event (Sergei Loznitsa)


If the films competing for the Gold Lion so far this year have taken an abstract, decorative or glamorized view of the real world, the ones being shown in the out of competition slots seem determined to show us reality. Perhaps the most serious of these movies is Sobytie (The Event). It’s the work of Sergei Loznitsa, a Ukrainian director with sober things to say about Russia as it is today. Working exclusively with archive footage from Leningrad’s Palace Square, Loznitsa takes a reflective look at the attempted 1991 August Putsch — and the public’s response to it — and offers a eulogy of sorts for a different time. – Rory O. (full review)

The Here After (Magnus von Horn)


The directorial debut from Magnus von Horn and the first performance from Swedish pop star Ulrik Munther, The Here After is an impressive psychological teen character study. Munther plays John, a teen who returns to the rural school he once attended after a two-year prison stint for the murder of his girlfriend. The Here After could have followed the formula for similarly themed films such as Boy A, or it could have become an ordinary but ambitious high school drama. Instead, von Horn takes a fresh, surprising direction. He conceals that exact nature of John’s crime from the audience so viewers have an opportunity to experience John’s complex and paradoxical nature. – Jason O. (full review)

Journey to the Shore (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)


A 40-year-old Japanese woman, Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu), begins to cook by herself, the audience assuming she’s a single career woman stuck in the middle of her daily grind, until a slight camera movement reveals Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano), her three-years-dead husband, who she greets with, disconcertingly, little surprise. This means we’re in the world of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, one with a casual supernatural presence. – Ethan V. (full review)

Men & Chicken (Anders Thomas Jensen)


While I’m not familiar with Anders Thomas Jensen‘s solo work, I am with the films he has collaborated on opposite Susanne Bier. So to see images of his latest Men & Chicken with a weirdly disfigured and hair lipped Mads Mikkelsen readying for a badminton strike was to be unprepared for the dark comedy of pratfalls a la Klovn it provides. A perverse genetic-minded fairy tale about family—warts and more warts—its leading duo consists of one brother who must regularly masturbate (Mikkelsen’s Elias) and another possessing a visceral dry heave tick (David Dencik‘s Gabriel). They show us that ugly ducklings can sometimes simply prove ugly. And unnecessarily aggressive in dysfunctional loyalty. And as inexplicably smart or unsocialized as the sky is blue. – Jared M. (full review)

The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (Ben Rivers)

The Sky Trembles

Here’s a film that lives up to the promise of its title. Filmed in the Moroccan desert and rendered in hand-processed, hallucinatory 16mm, Ben Rivers’ latest experimentation with docu-fiction plunges the viewer down an increasingly nightmarish rabbit hole. If you get the chance to see it projected on celluloid, don’t miss out. It’s absolutely ravishing and about as close you’ll get to tripping without psychotropic assistance. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

Ville-Marie (Guy Édoin)


It may only be his second feature-length fictional narrative, but writer/director Guy Édoin‘s Ville-Marie is something special. The title is named after the Montreal hospital where the majority of the film takes place and from an unforgettable opening that violently shakes us awake to prepare for the sprawling yet meticulously constructed plot extending out of its devastation, Édoin and cowriter Jean-Simon DesRochers grab us with a disorienting amount of seemingly disparate avenues. Two automobile accidents will give each character a reason to despair and then to rediscover hope—tragedy breeding melodrama and long cloaked truth. – Jared M. (full review)

What are you most looking forward to? Any festival favorites that you loved last year?

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