We don’t want to overwhelm you, but while you’re catching up with our top 50 films of 2017, more cinematic greatness awaits in 2018. 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 either have confirmed 2018 release dates or are awaiting a debut date from its distributor. There’s also a handful that are seeking distribution that we hope will arrive in the next 12 months. U.S. distributors: take note!
Lover for a Day (Philippe Garrel; Jan 12)
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)
Mary and The Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi; Jan. 18)
The environments are beautiful and packed full of detail. Both a mundane garden shed and a magical laboratory are drawn with tools that look thoroughly used. Every setting feels lived-in, like it comes with a whole history. The animation is fluid even in the most quotidian movements, like young protagonist Mary pratfalling her way through her attempts to help out around her new home. Even an animate broomstick is imbued with personality. There are also a few sequences made for the cartoonists to flex their skills, such as a nighttime chase in which creatures seemingly made of quicksilver constantly change their shape, appearing not to fly but flow through the air. Ghibli’s famed skill at depicting incidentals comes through here as well, such as in the myriad way Mary’s cat companion reacts to the world around him. – Dan S. (full review)
A Ciambra (Jonas Carpignano; Jan. 26)
After making a splash with Mediterranea, Jonas Carpignano is back with the Martin Scorsese-produced A Ciambra. We reviewed Italy’s Oscar entry at Cannes, saying, “It would be a stretch to say that Carpignano diverts in any major way from the gritty aesthetic that has become synonymous with post-Dardennes (and, in particular, post-Rosetta) social realist cinema — all overcast clouds above and gravel below — nor those films’ favored narrative arc. It does, however, pulsate with true authenticity, surely down to the fact that the director has quite literally been here before, having made a short (A Ciambra) that focused on the same real family, the Amatas, three years prior.” – Jordan R.
Have a Nice Day (Liu Jian; Jan. 26)
Liu Jian’s Have a Nice Day won’t be mistaken for anything less than an utterly contemporary piece of Chinese filmmaking but, as the title might tell you, it’s also a film seeped in 1990s American pop culture. Channeling the Coens, Quentin Tarantino, and Cormac McCarthy, Jian’s film has the swagger, dedication to homage, and effortless cool of that decade’s cinema but with plenty of things to say about present-day China. The story revolves around a very McCarthy-esque setup: a bag of money has been stolen for decent reasons by an apparently otherwise decent guy and — as tend to be the case in McCarthy’s novels — a selection of somewhat less-decent people (each with their own motive) end up hunting him down. – Rory O. (full review)
24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami; Feb. 2)
Passing away at the age of 76, Abbas Kiarostami was one of our greatest directors. The Iranian filmmaker was able to extract the essence of the human soul throughout his career, leaving behind a number of essential films. For his last work, he directed the experimental project 24 Frames, which is a collection of four-and-half-minute films that takes inspiration from still images, including paintings and his own photographs. For the few of us that have been able to see it’s already been divisive; some were mixed, while others proclaim it to be the future of cinema. Would Kiarostami have wanted anything else?
A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio; Feb. 2)
A bolder more progressive awards season might have looked to Daniela Vega among Best Actress contenders, an event that would’ve hit front pages as the first time a transgender actress had been so considered. And Chilean Sebastián Lelio’s film can’t be faulted for not being upfront about sexuality. Unlike some of this year’s other great performances in LGBT movies – in Call Me By Your Name, God’s Own Country, for instance – Vega’s Maria doesn’t hide her sexuality, but sometimes she might want to. Despite a proud, passionate performance, Vega is able to deliver scenes of aching fragility, such as one devastating sequence when she’s casually assaulted at her boyfriend’s funeral by his own family. And somehow, every time, Maria gets back up again. Vega is, well, fantastic. – Ed F. (full review)
Before We Vanish (Kiyoshi Kurosawa; Feb. 2)
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)
Golden Exits (Alex Ross Perry; Feb. 9)
There are no screaming matches or overt arguments, nor is there any sort of frenetic camera work, yet Golden Exits is unmistakably the work of Alex Ross Perry. The insecurities that bubbled up and exploded through his characters in Listen Up Philip and the even-more-heightened Queen of Earth stay grounded with his relatively small-scale latest film, these anxieties rather becoming the subtext for nearly every conversation. It’s a work of small decisions and jabs, glances and non-action. Should I stay at this bar where temptation exists? Should I continue staring at a woman that will only bring upon personal suffering? – Jordan R. (full review)
Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev; Feb. 16)
Like Andrey Zvyagintsev’s last movie, Leviathan, his latest takes headlines for another excoriating look at contemporary Russia and the simmering resentment beneath its imperious, corrupt social structures. True and relevant as that is, it’s not what makes Loveless another masterpiece. The director’s pitiless gaze at the ruinous breakdown of a marriage and the disappearance of a child concerns more with the moral pit of modern humanity, run riot at want of things – sex, money, fashion, power – but not of love. Filmed with icy precision in cold, anonymous Moscow, with some of the year’s best cinematography – by Zvyagintsev regular Mikhail Krichman – the film is upfront, provocative and, in its bitterly satirical testimony of the decay of Russian cultural life, according to some critics blunt. But it’s in that vein that Zvyagintsev so powerfully confronts the domestic terror of the central missing-child drama. Really, Loveless is the great horror film of the year. – Ed F.
The Double Lover (François Ozon; Feb. 14)
L’amant double is the sort of film you wouldn’t mind seeing Roman Polanski take a stab at. Shot in chic but soulless Parisian interiors, it’s the type of thing that controversial figure tends to relish: all claustrophobia, body horror and pseudo Freudian sexual nightmares. Instead it’s in the hands of its writer-director François Ozon, who never quite manages to lift his material above the realm of psychosexual camp. Then again, perhaps his aim isn’t any higher. It’s the story of a beautiful young woman who loses herself in an erotic love triangle with a pair of opposing twins, both of whom are psychoanalysts. Depending on what you’re into, it’s about as fun as that sounds. – Rory O. (full review)
Western (Valeska Grisebach; Feb. 16)
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)
Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz; March 2)
A couple grieves the loss of their child, a group of adolescent soldiers ponder the sense of life spent waiting for war. Emerging therefrom is a contemplation on the Israeli fate both eloquent and uncommonly refined. Demonstrating tremendous narrative versatility that sees him switching gears between emotionally heightened chamber drama and lively, theatrically enhanced interludes, Maoz treats the sensitive subject matter with the gravity it deserves while using moments of levity or visual pizzazz to drive home his most intrinsic points. The breadth of the Jewish experience opened up by this tonal richness is kaleidoscopic, breathtaking. – Zhuo-Ning Su
The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci; March 9)
Armando Iannucci doesn’t make movies and TV about politics. He certainly features politicians and their endless petty squabbling and power struggles, but that’s adjacent to (though obviously entangled with) the real work of political organizing. Most notably, essentially all of the characters in the likes of The Thick of It, Veep, In the Loop, and now The Death of Stalin are politicians, but I honestly couldn’t tell you a single actual political belief any of them are stated to truly hold. That, of course, is a key part of Iannucci’s satire – that these conflicts are over power for its own sake and not for the betterment of anyone’s welfare, that this world is one of pure venality. Death of Stalin ramps this up to its purest form, depicting a sphere of government within which the will of the people is dismissed as irrelevant, and the stakes of political battles are not just jobs but life and death. – Dan S. (full review)
Ismael’s Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin; March 23)
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)
The Endless (Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson; March 23)
To resolve is to settle, finding the determination to do something rather than simply wait for something to happen to you. A resolution isn’t therefore a firm ending. On the contrary, it serves to provide beginnings. That decision has the potential to set you onto a path towards freedom either from the danger of outside forces or the complacency rendering you immobile within. So to look upon the conclusion of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s debut feature (as a tandem) isn’t to relinquish hope. The being — their riff on H.P. Lovecraft’s “Unknown” — that watches the events in Resolution does want stories, that is true. It craves them enough to ensure its characters arrive in time for their test. To assume it seeks tragedy, however, is to ignore complexity. – Jared M. (full review)
Lean on Pete (Andrew Haigh; March 30)
Adapted from Willy Vlautin’s 2010 novel, Lean on Pete begins and ends with a young man running, somewhat existentially, like Antoine Doinel did in The 400 Blows. However, it’s a film of walking, and lots of it. His name is Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer, a stand-out in King Jack), a 15-year-old boy who, having never known his mother, lives cordially if frugally with a man named Ray (Travis Fimmel) in a small town in Oregon. They strike one first as brothers but Ray is in fact his father, an age proximity that might shed some light on the reasons for his mother’s leaving. – Rory O. (full review)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay; April 6)
On the surface, Jonathan Ames’ You 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)
Chappaquiddick (John Curran; April 6)
I’m not certain if the truth ever came out about that evening’s events beyond speculation, but I don’t think anyone would question the believably authentic script that Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan wrote for Chappaquiddick. They depict that night with the melancholy and hopelessness Ted (Jason Clarke) would have felt so soon after the death of his third brother. It was a time of self-reflection rather than political aspiration, one forcing him to question how far he wanted to go. Was the Senate enough? Was he fighting for his brothers’ legacies, his father’s (Bruce Dern’s Joe Kennedy Sr) ambition, or his own desire? Add some alcohol and the faces of Bobby’s former secretaries surrounding him with optimism that he could persevere and you can imagine the dark, haunted thoughts he’d have. – Jared M. (full review)
The Rider (Chloe Zhao; April 13)
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)
Zama (Lucrecia Martel; April 13)
After helming one of the best films of the previous decade with 2008’s The Headless Woman, Lucrecia Martel returned last fall with Zama. Produced by brothers Pedro and Agustin Almodóvar, Argentinean author Antonio di Benedetto’s 1956 novel has been adapted by Martel, which follows a story set in the late 18th century in Paraguay, tracking Don Diego de Zama (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), an officer of the Spanish Crown, who is tasked with going after a bandit. The film is a towering achievement of composition and craft and while I can see why our Venice review was mixed due to the narrative’s elusive nature, I’m dying to experience this one on the big screen again. – Jordan R.
Disobedience (Sebastían Lelio; April 27)
It starts with a London-based rabbi speaking from his heart about the complexities of life. He stammers through — obviously ailing — until collapse. Suddenly we’re in New York City watching a photographer in-session with tattooed seniors. The phone rings and we know. She (Rachel Weisz’s Ronit Krushka) is the daughter of that rabbi and he has passed away. The assumption is that both these worlds will subsequently collide in reunion. Tears will be shed and hugs had. But that’s not quite the case with Sebastían Lelio’s Disobedience. Ronit has been gone for some time and the leaving wasn’t under good terms. Her arrival is thus met with shock, bewilderment, and perhaps some anger. We sense the old wounds shared by all and ready to witness as they’re ripped open. – Jared M. (full review)
Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (April TBD)
If the phrase “tell-all” hadn’t been coined before 2012, Scotty Bowers’ memoir Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars would have done the job. Here’s a Marine Corps veteran of World War II born in Illinois who decided to land in Hollywood upon his return on a whim. He answered a “wanted” advertisement to work at a gas station, was hit on sexually by Walter Pidgeon while pumping gas, and realized he could use this well-trafficked locale to help pair off closeted male movie stars with young hustlers like himself for twenty bucks a pop. From there he met Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy, had a threesome with Lana Turner and Ava Gardner, and eventually spilled the beans about it all. – Jared M. (full review)
On Chesil Beach (Dominic Cooke; June 15)
It’s 1962. Florence Ponting (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle) have just been married. She’s from a wealthy family and he a provincial one; her desire to be active in world affairs beyond her status’ ambivalence and his hope to be accepted as an intellectual with the potential of outgrowing a brawler reputation placing them at odds with the environments that raised them to seek escape. And they are in love: a true, deep, and unstoppable love that allowed their differences to take a backseat as far as community and parentage was concerned. It’s propelled them towards a hotel honeymoon suite on the water, an isolating venue affording them the privacy such auspicious occasions crave and the stifling quiet able to intensify their utter lack of sexual experience and wealth of insecure awkwardness. – Jared M. (full review)
Not Yet Dated or Seeking U.S. Distribution
Bodied (Joseph Kahn)
This writer will admit that he joked to a friend recently about music video director Joseph Kahn’s slow feature film output over the last 13 years as almost making him the new Terrence Malick. While don’t take that as anything more than a goof, each of his three features do represent a very specific point in time that’s bound to be dated within a short period. His first feature Torque arrived in the middle of the Neal Moritz renaissance and was Kahn’s stealth attempt to smuggle a parody of The Fast and The Furious beer commercial aesthetic within an actual Fast and Furious knock-off. The second, Detention, came at the dawn of social media dominance, as obnoxious and scatterbrained a millennial anthem one could hope for. – Ethan V. (full review)
Cardinals (Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley)
On the surface, Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley’s Cardinals looks like the kind of small, family drama that doesn’t inspire much attention, but overlooking this tense little film would be a mistake. It starts when Valerie (Sheila McCarthy) gets out of prison after serving time for running over and killing her neighbor while drunk driving. But as soon as Valerie comes back home, her neighbor’s son comes looking for answers, accusing Valerie of intentionally killing his father. Moore and Shipley use a restrained, elliptical style that lets viewers connect the dots as to what really happened, and Moore’s screenplay mines plenty of tension and humor out of the decorum these characters maintain when forced to interact with each other. With a terrific ensemble to boot (including a great performance by lead Sheila McCarthy), Cardinals is one of the strongest debut features of the year. – C.J. P.
Claire’s Camera (Hong Sang-soo)
Hong Sang-soo’s first film starring Isabelle Huppert, In Another Country, counts as one of the more lightweight entries in the Korean auteur’s oeuvre. Compare it to Claire’s Camera, their second collaboration, and it suddenly looks like Inland Empire. That’s not to say Claire’s Camera is bad or unenjoyable. It has plenty of the charm characteristic of Hong’s cinema, and there are far worse ways to spend 69 minutes than in the company of his characters as they amble through sunny Cannes idly chatting about love and life, disappointment and fulfillment. At the same time, knowing the director is capable of achieving so much more with even less – one of his greatest films, Hill of Freedom, is similarly scaled and two minutes shorter – it’s difficult not to end up frustrated by what feels like a rushed and ultimately undercooked work. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)
Close-Knit (Naoko Ogigami)
If the direct emotion pull and inclusive vibe of Naoko Ogigami’s Close-Knit could be expressed in a single scene it would perhaps be the moment early (Ogigami’s only use of flashback) when a central character named Rinko (played by Tomo Ikuta) remembers the day when she came home from school to find that her mother had bought Rinko her first bra and knitted her some fake boobs. We learn that some students had been bullying and body-shaming Rinko in P.E. class and so understandably (and adorably) her mother wanted to help her get through it. Like much of the film, it’s a basic enough scene: classy without the need for flash; simply shot in crisp natural light; unmistakably sentimental but with an earnest and playfully subversive undercurrent of humor running through. The rub here is that Rinko was not born a woman and is struggling with her transition. Thus, the great warmth of her mother’s gesture is further enhanced by the fact that she has chosen to accept, embrace and, yes, love her child for who she really is. – Rory O. (full review)
Cocote (Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias)
Fans of fierce, challenging indigenous cinema rejoice. It’s not every day that you see a film from and depicting the life in the Dominican Republic, let alone one as intriguing as Cocote. Writer/director De Los Santos Arias’ feature debut shines a light on an underrepresented part of the world and casts a truly outlandish spell that confounds and overwhelms. Fair warning: sheer cultural divide would most likely prevent a deeper appreciation of the film, but the authenticity and intensity of its voice alone proves excitingly – if also gruelingly – memorable. – Zhuo-Ning Su (full review)
Custody (Xavier Legrand)
It didn’t win the Oscar for best live action short in 2014, but Xavier Legrand’s Just Before Losing Everything was by far my favorite nominee. Discovering his debut feature Custody was constructed as an expansion of that story therefore made it a must-see. The short is soon revealed as a prequel, its look at the fallout of domestic abuse hopefully in the rearview considering Miriam Besson (Léa Drucker) readies to plead her case as to why her now ex-husband (Denis Ménochet’s Antoine) shouldn’t retain custody of their son Julien (Thomas Gioria)—his sister Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) recently turned eighteen and is free regardless. But while the evidence seems to prove Miriam’s case, a father’s love trumps a lack of concrete proof of his terror. The threat he poses, however, remains very real. – Jared M. (full review)
The Day After (Hong Sang-soo)
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)
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Made with a kind of formal rigor that one would’ve assumed was long past Schrader after the “post-cinema” experimentations of The Canyons and Dog Eat Dog, First Reformed is first and foremost most admirable for its sustained mood. Shot in The Academy aspect ratio and maintaining a stillness and greyness that manages to seem utterly alien to the slow cinema standards of contemporary art films, one gets the sense of the director really having a genuine stake in the making of this picture. It seems the religious content is not so much an affect as a genuine late-in-life plea. – Ethan V. (full review
Gemini (Aaron Katz; March 30)
Gemini is also a fantastic neo-noir set in the Thief-inspired Los Angeles of Drive, an upside-down city, as captured in the surrealistic opening credits by cinematographer Andrew Reed, where morals have all but vanished, leaving behind only a group of ghostly beings trapped in the limbo of their crushed dreams and dissatisfaction. (James Ransone’s paparazzo is especially wonderful.) We wonder, for example, why the intelligent, perceptive Jill wound up as the personal assistant / henchwoman of spoiled movie star Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz) who uses her to conduct dirty work under the pretense of being more than her employee, but also her “best friend.” – Jose S. (full review)
A Gentle Creature (Sergei Loznitsa)
Loosely adapted from Dostoyevsky’s shory story of the same name, Sergei Loznitsa’s film received a chilly response at Cannes when it premiered in competition despite being one of the best films vying for the Palme. The unnamed ‘gentle creature’ (Vasilina Makovtseva) has a care package meant for her imprisoned husband returned without reason, which inspires her to make the long trip to his jail in order to make sure it gets delivered. Her journey is more or less a descent into hell, with corrupt officials, rotten people, and a dearth of human decency showing itself in every meticulously composed frame. Loznitsa’s direction is masterful in the way it expresses such a refined fury at the current state of Russia, and he caps everything off with a final act so audacious it demands admiration. There’s a boldness to A Gentle Creature that’s missing from almost every other film in 2017, and its willingness to take risks as big as the ones it does should be celebrated, not scorned. – C.J. P.
Good Luck (Ben Russell)
A bifurcated look at two sets of workers on different sides of the world, Ben Russell’s Good Luck takes a simple form and uses it to explore the complexities of globalisation and the world economy. Russell dedicates the first half to a group of government miners working underground in Siberia, then abruptly changes his focus to a potentially illegal gold mining operation run by a collective in Suriname. Through filming the workers’ conversations with each other, Russell lets the commonalities between both halves occur naturally, as everyone finds themselves relying more on luck than their hard labor to live a better life. Shot on Super 16, Good Luck also showcases some of the more stunning sequences from 2017, including an elevator ride to the top of the Siberian mine and steadicam shots of the miners at work. – C.J. P.
Hannah (Andrea Pallaoro)
Hannah is Charlotte Rampling’s face. There are barely any other actors to speak of in this film, and the camera often purposefully excises their faces from its attention, favoring its lead’s reactions to their words and motions. Therefore it is an extended journey through pain, as the eponymous character flails about to grasp meaning after the ground crumbles beneath her. – Dan S. (full review)
Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont)
It’s easy to imagine the “old-school” Bruno Dumont Joan of Arc film; faith, martyrdom, and the landscape of the French countryside intermingling to a wrenching finale, with Bresson and Dreyer certainly paid their transcendental cinema due. Though perhaps realizing their films weren’t the be-all, end-all in terms of representing the French icon, even if Preminger, Rivette and uh, Besson, had also offered their own takes that showed a portrait beyond the trial and subsequent burning at the stake, he finally set about making it, but as a new artist. – Ethan V. (full review)
Let the Corpses Tan (Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani)
With their third feature, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani tackle the poliziotteschi genre instead of the giallo (here’s hoping for the peplum next). The picture is focused on the fallout of a gold bar robbery in the Mediterranean; a gang of thieves, artists and motorcycle cops colliding to a naturally bloody end. Adapted from a novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jean-Pierre Bastid, yet still not providing too much in the way of narrative, this writer could at least discern plot points involving a Rabid Dogs-like kidnapping, a Treasure of Sierra Madre-inspired descent into greedy violence and, of course, some psychosexual hijinks that likely invokes every genre picture of the past fifty years. If there’s a driving force one can find, perhaps it’s just the greed in a man’s eyes at the sight of gold. – Ethan V. (full review)
Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis)
Claire Denis may not be the first Francophone auteur expected to turn in a romantic comedy, and her latest will disappoint those expecting Nancy Meyers a Paris. However, Let the Sunshine In (Un Beau Soleil Interieur) is a sophisticated, idiosyncratic, thoroughly modern interpretation of a French romantic farce, perceptive if not laugh-out-loud funny, featuring a top-form Juliette Binoche as a middle-aged divorcée wading through a series of exasperatingly self-centered men in search not just for love, but a partner with whom she can be herself. – Ed F. (full review)
Life and Nothing More (Antonio Méndez Esparza)
Antonio Méndez Esparza’s sophomore feature is a social realist triumph, and one of the year’s true hidden gems (it came and went quickly during the fall festival circuit, where only a handful of critics caught it). Taking place in northern Florida, it follows single mother Regina (Regina Williams, one of the year’s best performances) as she tries to hold down a job at a diner, deal with her rebellious teenage son, and raise her four-year-old daughter while trying to stay afloat. Esparza directs with a simple approach, keeping the camera locked down and providing brief impressions of his characters’ lives to evoke the daily struggle of their existence (the editing, using elliptical cuts to emphasize the way characters inhabit spaces over temporal concerns, is phenomenal). Despite having no distribution at the moment, Life and Nothing More achieved an Independent Spirit nomination for Williams, a deserving nod for best actress and hopefully a chance for a distributor to help get this film seen so it can receive the praise it deserves. – C.J. P.
Manhunt (John Woo)
John Woo’s return to the genre that made his career isn’t so much of a comeback as it is watching one of our best action directors become unleashed. This is a film of superlatives, where storylines and subplots pile on top of each other in the middle of action setpieces that astound in their absurdity. There are cover-ups, conspiracies, badass assassins, jetski chases, revenge plots, super soldiers and much, much more, with Woo orchestrating all of his madness into a giddy delirium while giving viewers a big ol’ self-reflexive wink. One of the most purely entertaining films of 2017, Manhunt is the exact kind of maximalist fun we need right now. – C.J. P.
Milla (Valérie Massadian)
What is living a life? If life is a refraction of specific moments and repetition than the beauty of being given a body is in the loop of breath and how it changes as days pass. Valeria Massadian’s Milla is a stunning portrait of the quotidian nature of life and how it gives birth to larger or more staggering moments. In her film we get a sense of who Milla is and how her everyday decisions impact her life, at first a hazy recollection on the timelessness of romance bursts apart when cause and effect bring motherhood, death and music. Cinema as humanity. – Willow M.
Mrs. Fang (Wang Bing)
Mrs. Fang is a study of a face and a sober essay on death. It’s also about fishing. As profoundly moving as it is troubling, this new masterwork from documentary filmmaker Wang Bing might ask a great deal of anyone sitting down to watch it, both ethically and otherwise, but also, in cinematic terms, it delivers a great deal. The face in question is that of Fang Xiuying, an elderly farmer who died of advanced Alzheimer’s in 2016. Wang’s film is an uncompromising document of the last ten days of her life. Indeed, for obvious reasons, death filmed in this way remains something of a cinematic taboo, but any viewer willing to give in to the rigorous format and somber nature of what’s on screen might just find something cathartic. – Rory O’Connor (read his full review)
Mrs. Hyde (Serge Bozon)
Mrs. Géquil is a delicate woman, at least in the eyes of her patronizing husband (played by José Garcia) as well as, perhaps, in the eyes of her boss and the vast majority of the students in her class. However, if the Robert Louis Stevenson reference in the title hasn’t led you to this conclusion already, then perhaps the casting of Isabelle Huppert in the lead role just might: she will not be referred to as delicate for very long. Mrs. Hyde, a socially bellicose, darkly humorous farce with aesthetic and spiritual echoes of both giallo horror and recent Kaurismäki, is the latest work of film critic-turned-actor-turned-director Serge Bozon. He’s a filmmaker who has, in the past, used similarly absurdist tropes — although never through such a playfully pseudo-supernatural façade — to talk about issues of class and gender politics in contemporary France, evidenced in Tip Top (also with Huppert) and La France. – Rory O. (full review)
Occidental (Neïl Beloufa)
A city in turmoil, a small hotel, two mysterious guests, and one incredible ‘70s-inspired set are just some of the elements in play throughout Neïl Beloufa’s fun, genre-hopping Occidental. When two men claiming to be Italians check in to the bridal suite during a protest in the streets of Paris, the hotel’s strict manager suspects something may be wrong, although it soon turns out that she may know more than she lets on. Besides admiring the film for its detailed, retro production design of the hotel itself (which Beloufa used as an art installation after shooting), Occidental flits between genres, ideologies, politics, and ideas with a weightlessness that makes it fun to figure out how its twisty narrative will unfurl. Occidental may be elusive by design, but with its lean runtime and appealing aesthetics it’s hard not to just sit back and enjoy the experience. – C.J. P.
Piazza Vittorio (Abel Ferrara)
Who knew that, of all people, Abel Ferrara would provide one of the more fascinating films to deal with Europe’s migrant crisis? Piazza Vittorio is Ferrara documenting his own neighborhood (he moved to Italy several years ago), but through his own perspective as an immigrant. He interviews dozens of people, from old Italians bemoaning the influx of refugees to new immigrants talking about their desire to build a new life for themselves. By collecting these interviews, along with some of the confrontational flair Ferrara is known for, Piazza Vittorio turns into a mosaic of people who, despite their ignorance or difference of opinions, want to live quiet, comfortable lives. Ferrara understands the connective tissue joining these disparate voices, which is what makes his documentary work as both a slice of life and a fascinating commentary on one of today’s most divisive issues. – C.J. P.
PROTOTYPE (Blake Williams)
The deadliest hurricane ever to make landfall within the U.S. occurred in-and-around the coastal city of Galveston, Texas in 1900. The storm took roughly 10,000 lives and stripped from the city its title, “The Queen of the Gulf,” which was earned from being the region’s most populous, cosmopolitan, and progressive. During the storm, a mysterious televisual device was built and tested –perhaps mysterious in part because, at the turn of the century, motion-picture photography was only a few years old, and all new devices capable of capturing duration and space must have been originally perceived with an air of skepticism of sorcery. As Blake Williams’ PROTOTYPE opens on historical photographs of a sunny day in early September, 1900, it is perched right on the cusp of pivotal events: of the region’s landscape as the deadly storm soon takes hold, and of the development of cinema as its evolution takes off through the course of the 20th century. – Andrew W. (full review)
Where is Kyra? (Andrew Dosunmu)
So much of so many film festivals — Sundance especially — feel enormously focused on metropolitan life, New York City in particular. In Where Is Kyra?, director Andrew Dosunmu finds fertile ground in this well-worn location. Starring an against-type and utterly fascinating Michelle Pfeiffer as the titular Kyra, the film narrows in on the tragedy of getting old in America. – Dan M. (full review)
The Workshop (Laurent Cantet; March 23)
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)
We could go beyond 50 as well, so here are some left-overs that we either couldn’t make room for or we were more mixed on: Blame (1/5), The Party (2/16), On Body and Soul (2/21), Thoroughbred (3/9), Final Portrait (3/23), Dim the Flourescents, Apostasy, How to Breathe Underwater, Godard Mon Amour, Avenues, April’s Daughter, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, Based on a True Story, En el Séptimo Día, Borg/McEnroe, and The Wandering Soap Opera.
Which of the above films are you most looking forward to in 2018?
Continue: Our 100 Most-Anticipated Films of 2018