The fifth installment of our column in which a few of our critics discuss the films they’re most looking forward to being released in theaters or for the first time on Blu-ray during the coming month.
Alex Sitaras: This month we’re doing things a little differently. There aren’t as many films we’re looking forward to being released in theaters during May; however, the 70th Cannes Film Festival is just around the corner (my favorite two weeks of the year!) so we’ll be briefly discussing various titles we’re anticipating that will premiere during the festival as well.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves though, May does have the release of Afterimage, the final film Andzrej Wadja directed before his death. Much like Wadja’s prior films, Afterimage is politically informed, revolving around the avant-garde artist Wladyslaw Strzeminski who fought against Stalinistic beliefs in expressing his progressive ideas about art. Strzeminski is little known in America, and undoubtedly Wadja’s film will shine light on Strzeminski’s life. Based on the trailer, the film looks to use harsh shades of red to depict Strzeminski’s entrapment under Stalinism and is shot beautifully by Wadja veteran Pawel Edelman.
Matt Schlee: These posthumous film releases always fascinate me, and it’s such an event to get a final film from a historic director after his death. Afterimage certainly looks fascinating and the political and historical themes seem appropriately reflective for a filmmaker like Wadja to end his career on.
I’m particularly excited in May for the Criterion Collection release of Chantal Akerman‘s Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. I had the chance to see this restoration on the big screen recently, and the experience of watching this film is like no other. It runs for about three and a half hours and is an exercise in painful mundanity.
It is tiresome and frustrating, but in a very intentional way. Akerman’s seminal work of feminist filmmaking, Jeanne Dielman opens the viewers eyes to the most painful and repetitive elements of being a home maker, while also conjuring excitement and tension where there should be none. It is difficult to even put into words what it’s like to sit and watch this film in a theater full of people, but needless to say it is an entirely unique experience.
Alex: “What it’s like to sit and watch this film in a theater full of people”. I can only imagine. I haven’t seen the film myself, but from what I know about it, I’d be very curious to see the reactions of others who perhaps don’t know as much about the film or its style. I might have to do a trial run with my dad sometime for amusement. He’s my go-to for exploring the reaction to arthouse films on a non-arthouse experienced audience.
Matt: Honestly, I’m not sure how a non-arthouse movie fan would respond to it. I can’t emphasize enough how slow and mundane the film is. Even the patrons of my regular arthouse theater were getting restless throughout the screening. But the payoff at the end is well worth it.
Transitioning from the month’s releases, the most exciting thing happening next month in the movie world is the Cannes Film Festival. This is the time of year when I get to be tremendously excited about hearing directors’ names while still knowing little about the films themselves. I always look forward to this as a time when some of the names we’ll be hearing over the next several months begin to separate themselves from the pack.
Alex: I think one name we can expect to hear a lot more of in the coming months is Yorgos Lanthimos. His upcoming film The Killing of a Sacred Deer premieres at Cannes rather timely following his English language debut The Lobster. His new film also features Colin Farrell, this time alongside Nicole Kidman, the plot revolving around “a surgeon [who forms] a familial bond with a sinister teenage boy, with disastrous results.”
I have to admit, I’m a little perplexed with Lanthimos’s upcoming films choices. The plot summary here sounds the most ‘typical’ out of any film he’s created and the film is due for release in the US November 3rd- just in the window to be an Oscar hopeful. Still though, the prospect of a Lanthimos horror film- as the plot summary suggests- is exciting. Without lingering off-topic, details on Lanthimos’s following film, The Favourite, also have me a little confused about the director’s intentions. Nonetheless, The Killing of a Sacred Deer is one of my most anticipated films from Cannes this year. Lanthimos put Greece on the map in the film world and I’m hopeful he’ll continue making films as part of the Greek New Wave tradition he helped establish.
Matt: Perhaps he’s at a point in his career where he wants to bridge the gap to a mainstream audience. Still, I’m always excited at the prospect of a serious and artistic director undertaking a horror project. It’s a genre that needs to be injected with something new and exciting. I’m thrilled about this cast too and I always expect the most out of Nicole Kidman when she’s paired with a great director.
A film that I’m really looking forward to is Sofia Coppola‘s new film The Beguiled. It takes place at a girls school during the Civil War and seems to be sort of a feminist period piece. This is the second film In Competition at Cannes that counts Nicole Kidman among its stars. It also includes Kirsten Dunst who, in my opinion, has really shown her chops in some of her more serious roles such as Lars Von Trier‘s Melancholia. Finally, the cast is finished off by someone who by all accounts was amongst the biggest breakout stars last year, Elle Fanning. I think she has a shot to really solidify herself as one of the top young actresses in the industry.
Alex: Not to mention more Colin Farrell. Also, The Beguiled is a remake of the 1971 film with the same name starring Clint Eastwood. Coppola’s take on the story seems to have excellent visuals and production design from the little bits we’ve seen in trailers. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the film as well.
A film not starring Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman I’m looking forward to is Okja (dir. Bong Joon-ho). As I said to you in a PM, my knowledge of Asian film isn’t really where I would like it to be. With Okja at Cannes and shortly to be followed by a streaming release through Netflix (June 28th), I’ll at least be able to get a jump start on Bong Joon-ho. The film centers around “a young girl… [who] risks everything to prevent a powerful, multi-national company from kidnapping her best friend- a massive animal named Okja”. It stars Ahn Seo-hyun, Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and Giancarlo Esposito, in other words, starring a great cast. There’s relatively little shown of Okja, but the animal appears to be a pig-shaped animal with elephant-like skin based on the teaser trailer and the weird teaser just posted earlier today that hints at the animal being similar to a pig.
Matt: Yeah this looks really interesting. I’m not especially familiar with Bong Joon-ho’s work, but this film has a star studded cast and looks to be super intriguing. I’m curious to see how the upswing of Netflix-released films will shape the rest of the industry and what kind of audience Netflix can generate without the benefit of theatrical releases like Amazon Studios.
Another film getting a Netflix release is Noah Baumbach‘s The Meyerowitz Stories. I don’t know what to think going into this one as there’s so little information available on it, and any cinephile is weary when they read the name “Adam Sandler“. That said, I have a lot of faith in Noah Baumbach, and I expect that this film will have the same quirky comedic voice of films like Greenberg and The Squid and the Whale.
Alex: True, there is very little information out about this film. However, Baumbach is consistent in his style and the stories he tells, so I have no doubt if you enjoyed his previous films, you’ll enjoy this one as well. I actually saw Punch-Drunk Love fairly recently, so I’m a little less jaded by Adam Sandler than most. This can just be one of the good films he’s signed on to. I’m sure he’ll do well at humorous scenes across Ben Stiller.
To round out our discussion of our most anticipated of the In Competition selection, I’m looking forward to seeing Happy End (dir. Michael Haneke). In his last two visits to Cannes, Haneke won the Palme d’Or and I think the provocateur has a fighting chance to win again with Happy End and claim the record of most films directed that won the Palme d’Or. The film is about a family amidst the European refuge crisis and features Isabelle Huppert, who had a spectacular 2016. The word “happy” in a Haneke title should set off sirens to anyone familiar with his films, and I’m eager to have my heart-strings pulled and stretched by Haneke hopefully before the year is over.
Matt: Without a doubt this should be a major competitor. The subject matter ought to hit close to home on a pretty global scale, and Huppert is about as good as you can get to star in your movie. I expect that this will be another spectacular effort.
There are some Out of Competition films worthy of mention next. One that I am greatly looking forward to is Visages, Villages, Agnes Varda‘s new documentary. There’s hardly anything that I can say about the film, as essentially no information is available, but I feel relatively confident in anything that Varda creates.
Takashi Miike‘s upcoming film, Blade of the Immortal is one that looks really interesting to me as well. Miike has a real talent for these sorts of old school plots mixed with exciting and modern action, and I really look forward to seeing what he does with this.
Alex: The opening film at Cannes this year is also in the Out of Competition selection, Ismael’s Ghosts (dir. Arnaud Desplechin). Desplechin’s new film stars Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg (still not used to seeing her outside of Von Trier films), and Louis Garrel. It’s about a filmmaker who is about to shoot his next film but a former lover of his reappears in his life. The film looks to be a very strong opening film to Cannes.
As part of the 70th Anniversary celebration, Cannes is premiering new seasons of two TV shows, Top of the Lake (dir: Jane Campion, Ariel Kleiman) and Twin Peaks (dir. David Lynch), for the first and looks to be last time as their television festival begins next year. Additionally, virtual reality premieres this year at Cannes. Flesh and Sand (dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu) is the sole VR film, a short film, to premiere at the festival. I’m really not sure what to expect from the project, but no doubt it will be receiving attention as being the project that Iñárritu chose to follow up two immensely successful film. I do imagine there being some sense of frustration or ambivalence from critics since the project is only a few minutes long, but VR is in the pioneering era and exceptionally difficult to create. I think I’m most curious about how the project will be distributed and presented in contrast to the silver screen, VOD, and home media distribution.
Matt: I mentioned earlier in the contest of Wadja how exciting it can be to see a final, posthumous film from a great director. Well we are also going to get the final film from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami: 24 Frames. There’s not much information out there about the specifics of this movie, but as far as I’m concerned Kiarostami is one of the all-time greatest directors. I was sad to see his passing and it’ll be bittersweet to see his last movie here.
In the Special Screenings selection we will be getting a couple of films worth mentioning. The sequel to Al Gore‘s famous climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth will be showing, appropriately titled An Inconvenient Sequel (dir. Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk). Given the current vibrant debate around the future of climate change and renewable energy, I’ll be looking forward to seeing the impact that this movie has. We are also getting the latest documentary from Claude Lanzmann, Napalm. Lanzmann is one of the great working documentarians, responsible for the creation of the famous Holocaust documentary Shoah.
Alex: I’m a little skeptical of An Inconvenient Sequel since the directors were not involved in the creation of An Inconvenient Truth, but at least the director of An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim, is attached as a producer to the sequel. So hopefully it’s not a money grab.
I actually didn’t realize the director of Shoah was releasing a new documentary this year. It must have been overshadowed by a lot of other high-profile films premiering at the festival. An interesting fact about Napalm is that it will be Lanzmann’s first documentary to not relate to the Holocaust or Israel, instead relating to North Korea.
Rounding out our discussion of Cannes, the Directors’ Fortnight selection boasts of The Florida Project (dir. Sean Baker) and The Rider (dir. Chloé Zhao). Sean Baker, for lack of a better term, blew up in the film world with the release of his previous film Tangerine, a film shot entirely on the iPhone. The Florida Project will be his first film to premiere at Cannes and is about a six year old and her groups of friends as the adults in their lives struggle through hard times. The Rider is about a cowboy who undergoes a near death experience and explores his identity and masculinity in the time following. Zhao’s debut film Songs My Brothers Taught Me was included in The Paragon and was one of my favorite films that I saw last year.