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)

Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher)


The films of Alice Rohrwacher have always been rich with the sensory magic of growing up, but that atmosphere has, up to this point, been enhanced with the knowledge that puberty was approaching, just out of sight, with all the subtlety of a B52 bomber. With her newest, Lazarro Felice, she has largely forgone that period of adolescence, while somehow not forgoing that sense of everyday magic. What emerges is not simply a next step in her oeuvre and creative growth but a fully formed expression of her virtuosic talents. – Rory O. (full review)

The House That Jack Built (Lars von Trier)


The Wikipedia entry for Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) describes the condition as “a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, an excessive need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.” If there were any doubts about Lars von Trier suffering from a chronic case of NPD (there weren’t), they will be conclusively dispelled by The House That Jack Built, an exceedingly violent and purposely unpalatable film that plays like an extended therapy session. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

In My Room (Ulrich Köhler)


At what point do vaguely-related surface movements form into something resembling a wave? The idea of a so-called “Berlin School” has been doing the rounds for quite a while. However, the creative output of that group of filmmakers in the last few years has been nothing short of astonishing. Christian Petzold led the way with Barbara (2012) and Phoenix (2014) but nothing could have prepared us for Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann rocking Cannes or Valeska Grisebach’s Western doing the same last year. Petzold’s Transit divided audiences (we thought it was great) in Berlin in February and now we encounter this strange, intimate, little science-fiction film. – Rory O. (full review)

Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell)


David Robert Mitchell is a nostalgic. His debut feature, The Myth of the American Sleepover, paid tribute to such teenage dramas as American Graffiti and the work of John Hughes. Its follow-up, the terrific It Follows, ranks amongst the smartest and most effective specimens in John Carpenter’s vast and variegated suburban horror legacy. Mitchell has now tried his hand at an L.A. noir with Under the Silver Lake, which owes as big a debt to The Long GoodbyeMulholland Drive, and Inherent Vice (to mention but three of the most conspicuous referents) as it does Thomas Pynchon’s labyrinthine, paranoia-laden narratives. – Giovanni M.C. (full review)

The Wild Pear Tree (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)


Last week we saw a film from Pawel Pawlikowski that crossed continents and spanned decades and lasted a mere 84 minutes. With the exception of a devastating climax that skips a few years, the majority of The Wild Pear Tree takes place over just a few days. It is more than twice as long, and, I would wager, has ten times as many lines of dialogue. We are being rather flippant here (it’s been a long week), especially given the fact that the director, of course, is Nuri Bilge Ceylan, hardly a filmmaker known for his concision. He is, however, responsible for Once Upon a Time in Anatolia — a work that seems, as the years glance by, to be gaining the aura of a modern classic. He also made Winter Sleep, which was even longer. It also won the Palme d’Or. – Rory O. (full review)

The Rest

Wildlife (A-)
The Gentle Indifference of the World (B+)
Knife + Heart (B+)
3 Faces (B)
BlacKkKlansman (B)
Donbass (B)
The Image Book (B)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night (B)
Shoplifters (B)
Ten Years Thailand (B)
Thunder Road (B)
Asako I & II (B-)
Sorry Angel (B-)
Dogman (C+)
Everybody Knows (D)

Follow our complete Cannes 2018 coverage here.

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