Art and Experience:Here are the Cannes 2017 movies that are sure to cause ripples in the international cinema community.
We’re at Cannes 2017, the epicenter of international cinema, interviewing directors and DPs of the films that will set the tone for the entire year to come. In the meantime, here are the movies that are generating the most interest on the ground so far, from new works by Cannes veterans like two-time Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke to fresh voices like Zambian-born Rungano Nyoni.
1. The Beguiled
Director: Sofia Coppola
No one knows female desire and existential longing like Sofia Coppola, whose The Virgin Suicides could be the seminal text on adolescent ennui. With The Beguiled, Coppola gets another chance showcase her mastery of the unconventional period piece (perfected in Marie Antoinette). Based on a novel, this lush Southern Gothic sees an injured Confederate soldier (Colin Ferrell) stumble into a women’s boarding school that’s isolated from the Civil War conflict, causing the school’s carefully cultivated sanctuary to implode. Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, and Kirsten Dunst star as Southern belles who trade their strict social mores for lust, manipulation, and betrayal.
Director: Todd Haynes
Two years after Carol, his stately tale of love at first sight, Todd Haynes at back at Cannes with a much different movie: Wonderstruck, the story of two deaf children exploring New York City in vastly different eras. In 1927, rendered in black and white, a young runaway girl escapes her strict father; in 1977, a young runaway boy hangs his hopes on finding his absentee father. Both end up at the Museum of Natural History (where, impressively, much of the film is shot) and their imaginations awaken to the vastness of the world. With its emphasis on visuals and pervasive silences, Wonderstruck is an ode to the silent films of the ’20s, both embracing its strengths and falling prey to its pitfalls.
Director: Bong Joon-Ho
Korean director Bong Joon-Ho speaks the unique language of the action-packed metaphor. Though his films (Snowpiercer, The Host) are overtly political, they manage to avoid being didactic; instead, they’re reliably thrilling and entertaining. The same is true for Okja, the story of a young Korean farm girl who must save her childhood pet from a greedy corporation that wants to turn it into a cheap American dinner. Full of emotional depth and reverence for nature, Okja lands somewhere between a Miyazaki and Pixar film. It’s a delight to watch, but meat-lovers, beware—you’ll want to go vegetarian.
4. Happy End
Director: Michael Haneke
If there’s one thing you can expect from Michael Haneke, a director who deals in the unexpected, it’s death. Over his long career, the austere Austrian has explored various elements of our demise with his unflinching cinematic eye. His highly-anticipated Cannes premiere, appropriately titled Happy End, reunites Amour actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert (sadly, Emmanuel Riva died last year) in a chamber drama set at the northern tip of France, where a bourgeois family comes face-to-face with the migrant crisis when they encounter a notorious refugee camp called Calais Jungle. Should Happy End live up to Haneke’s previous work, it could win him his third Palme d’Or. (Previously, he won for The White Ribbon and Amour).
5. You Were Never Really Here
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Lynne Ramsay burst onto the scene with her debut feature, the social realist film Ratcatcher, which premiered at Cannes in 1999. She was already a fully-formed director who had a firm grasp of cinema’s visual language, often using camera movement to express subtle shifts in her characters’ inner lives. With We Need to Talk About Kevin, Ramsay both proved she could craft an unsettling thriller and adapt a complex work of fiction. Ramsay adapted Jonathan Ames’ novella into her Cannes premiere You Were Never Really Here, another disturbing thriller about a war veteran (Joaquin Phoenix) whose attempt to save a young girl from a sex trafficking goes horribly wrong. A24 lost a bidding war to Amazon for the film, which will be scored by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood.
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
You can’t have a conversation about contemporary Russian cinema without praising the work of Andrey Zvyagintsev, whose films The Return and Leviathan (nominated for an Oscar in 2014) offer a stark window into a country plagued by political corruption and economic strife. His latest, Loveless, looks to be Zvyagintsev’s most bleak work yet—which is saying something, given the fact that The Return was about absentee parents and Leviathan played like a tragic Russian novel. Zvyagintsev has a gift for laying bare the souls of his characters onscreen; with the loveless lot in Loveless, we’re sure to glean some unfavorable insights about human nature and modern life.
7. The Square
Director: Ruben Ostlund
With Force Majeure, at Cannes in 2014, Ruben Ostlund took dark comedic aim at modern bourgeois family life, set against the background of a majestic but terrifying avalanche that overtakes a ski resort. Like butter, he cut a thick slab of salted satire into every scene; not a single character was exempt from Ostlund’s scrutiny. Ostlund continues this tradition with this year’s Cannes offering, The Square, similarly set in absurd circumstances that illuminate the follies of modern human nature: the avant-garde art world, where a famous American artist, Dominic West (The Affair, The Wire), is exhibiting a piece of performance art intended to provoke altruism. (Elisabeth Moss also stars.) A recent interview with Variety at a pre-screening of the film reveals Ostlund’s particular sleight of hand:
Interviewer: Who are you making fun of in this scene, the politically correct journalist or the man who has Tourette’s?
Ostlund: I’m making fun of everyone. I’m very thorough in that way. No one escapes from this satiric approach.
8. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Yorgos Lanthimos’ singular blend of satire and absurdity made Dogtooth and The Lobster resounding successes and rendered the Greek director one of the most sought-after art house directors today. Lanthimos has paired up once again with Lobster star Colin Farrell and, this time around, Nicole Kidman and Alicia Silverstone, for what has been described as a “boundary-pushing psychological thriller” that is sure to have a delectable disregard for convention.
9. The Florida Project
Director: Sean Baker
Sean Baker made his name at Sundance with Tangerine, which he famously shot on an iPhone. Now, he’s at Cannes with The Florida Project, shot on 35mm, which follows a group of carefree kids in Orlando whose parents (including Willem Dafoe) simultaneously face the harsher realities of life. As evidenced in Tangerine, Baker has the ability to embed himself in a particular culture and render it idiosyncratically onscreen. If anyone can tackle the particular weirdness of Florida, it’s Baker.
10. In the Fade (Aus Dem Nichts)
Director: Fatih Akin
Though Diane Kruger is German, she has never acted in her native language—until now. Set in a German-Turkish community in Hamburg, In the Fade stars Kruger as a woman who, after losing her husband and son to a terrorist bombing, decides to exact revenge on the perpetrators. Turkish-German director Fatih Akin has made various other films that explore the intersection of his cultural heritage, including Head-On, which won the Golden Bear at Berlinale in 2004, and Edge of Heaven, awarded Best Screenplay at Cannes in 2007. In the Fade looks to be a challenging reckoning with tragedy, culture clash, and the migrant crisis.
11. I Am Not a Witch
Director: Rungano Nyoni
Zambian-born filmmaker Rungano Nyoni sets her debut feature in her home country, where a 9-year-old girl is exiled to a Witch Refugee Camp and told that she must either abandon her powers (which include turning into a goat) or live outside society among other witches. Nyoni, who has had shorts play at Cannes in previous years, cast a group of non-professional actors from Zambia. Judging from the stills and early descriptions, I Am Not a Witch looks to be a visually arresting film. It was lensed by David Gallego, cinematographer of the exquisite Oscar nominee Embrace of the Serpent, which was shot in black and white in another exotic location: the remote regions of the Amazonian jungle.