I had the opportunity to travel to the south of France to experience the 70th Cannes Film Festival and represent Polarity, a short film that I produced and edited. During my time attending the festival I met many inspirational up-and-coming filmmakers from every corner of the world and even had the opportunity to hear advice from influential filmmaking masters such as Clint Eastwood and Alfonso Cuaron. While I vastly improved my knowledge of filmmaking and made lifelong connections with amazing filmmakers, my favorite part of the festival was getting to watch some of this year’s most anticipated films a few months before they come out so I could share them with the readers of Celluloid Cinema. During the festival I saw over a dozen films, but I want to take the time to share my top five, which are (in alphabetical order): Good Time, The Killing of the Sacred Deer, The Meyerowitz Stories, The Square, and You Were Never Really Here.
Good Time – Directed by Ben and Joshua Safdie
U.S. Release Date: August 11, 2017
One of the more talked about films at this year’s festival was the Safdie brothers directed film Good Time which gave Twilight star, Robert Pattinson, a role that truly allowed him to show off his acting chops. The film follows Pattinson as he tries to break his mentally challenged brother out of jail after a bank robbery goes wrong. While the film’s runtime is only 100 minutes, the high-anxiety, tension-filled plot makes the film seem like it is much longer, but this is far from a negative. The audience remains completely engaged in the film’s narrative, and does not have a chance to sit back and take a breath as Pattinson gives a performance that makes viewers forget about his past as a sparkly vampire. This in combination with the high-octane action sequences that will quickly launch the Safdie name into the world of action directors makes the film a must-watch this summer. Among the dozen films that I saw at the festival, Good Time is by far the one that I will recommend for people to see when it is released in the U.S.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
U.S. Release Date: November 3, 2017
After winning the Pam d’Or with his last film, The Lobster (2016), Yorgos Lanthimos returns to Cannes with his newest film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. For those familiar with Lanthimos, you will find that his writing style from previous films directly carries over to Sacred Deer, as all of the characters in the film are very blunt in saying exactly what they are feeling. By having characters so open with their intentions and actions, it keeps the suspense at the forefront of the film as the audience quickly becomes off-put by how characters interact with one another. The result of this is a deeply engaging psychological thriller that remains in the audience’s mind well after the credits roll. Yet even though the narrative of the film is so memorable, the visual style also plays a defining part in the film. In order to highlight the uncanny elements of the film, there are many slow zooms and shots from unconventional angles that gives off ideas that someone is spying on the film’s characters. This style works to compliment the film’s content and is reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s work on The Shining (1980). The excellent blending of narrative and style made me believe Sacred Deer was going to give Lanthimos another Palm d’Or, however that was unfortunately not the case.
The Meyerowitz Stories – Directed by Noah Baumbach
U.S. Release Date: Unkown 2017
One of the two Netflix films in competition at Cannes this year was Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories. Starring A-list celebrity names like Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, and Adam Sandler, the film blends comedy with drama to showcase the interworking of an eccentric family as they deal with many of the issues that have drove them apart in their adult life. In this offbeat indie comedy, Baumbach finds a way to make audiences both laugh at the characters on screen and cry at the challenges they face within their family. While many may be off put at the sight of Adam Sandler’s name in a film, his role in The Meyerowitz Stories may be his best since Punch Drunk Love (2002) and serves as another reminder at how good comedians can be when they do drama. The Meyerowitz Stories was one of my favorites at the festival this year largely because it was just so approachable and entertaining to watch. Many that are fans of Baumbach have stated that it is on the lower end of his filmography, but on its own, it is very moving and entertaining film that I am egerly awaiting to pop up on Netflix later this year.
The Square – Directed by Ruben Öutland
U.S. Release Date: Unknown
While The Square was one of my favorite films at the festival, its winning of the Palm d’Or still came as a surprise. The Swedish-made film directed by Ruben Öutland follows around a modern art museum director as he finds himself in many bizarre and hilarious situations that each stand as their own modern art exhibit. Going into the film I knew nothing about what the film was about and its vague title did not give me any insight into what I should prepare for. However, over the course of the film, I was treated to a dry comedy that very much reminded me of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm in the way that it dealt with social constructs and the awkwardness that surrounds them. Even though there did seem to be some Swedish cultural jokes that went over my head as an American viewer, nearly every joke in the film hit and one scene in particular (I will not give it away, but anyone who has seen he film will know what I am talking about) stands out to me as the most memorable of the entire festival. I can not say that I expected to film to walk away with the Palm d’Or, but it is refreshing to know that the festival can strays away from serious films from time to time to reward adventurous comedies.
You Were Never Really Here – Directed by Lynne Ramsay
U.S. Release Date: Unknown
Starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Lynne Ramsay, You Were Never Really Here provided audiences with some of the best on screen action of the entire festival. More of a character study than anything else, You Were Never Really Here dives into the psyche of Joaquin Phoenix’s character as he rescues a little girl from a corrupt politician in order to free himself from the abuse he faced as a child. Built around long, drawn-out moments, the action sequences come as a surprising punch that do not leave anything up to the viewer’s imagination and fully display the violence of working as a hired gun. Reminiscent of Drive (2011) in terms of narrative content, when You Were Never Really Here gets its release in the US it will again serve as proof of why Phoenix is one of this generation's finest actors.
While there are so many other films that I would love to talk about and give my thoughts on, these last five were the most deserving as they represent the most entertaining, artful, and best films of the festival. As I sit back at home in California these films provide me with flashes of moments back to my time in France as I can easily remember who I saw these films with and the activities that surrounded my time in the Grand Theater Lumiere at the 70th Cannes Film Festival.
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