Friday, 15 December 2017

Film Highlights of 2017

To be followed shortly (I hope) by my top 10 films of 2017. I've inserted numerous links which you can click on for further information if you wish to learn more. Here are my film and film related highlights of 2017:

Film discovery of the year:
- In 2017 I got to see many great films of yesteryear but my major "discovery" over the last 12 months would have to be Bill Forsyth's 1987 feature Housekeeping.
After languishing in semi obscurity for decades this truly wondrous film has been given the presentation it so richly deserves on the UK dual format release, courtesy of Powerhouse films/Indicator label.

- From a viewing standpoint the 52 films by women challenge was undoubtedly my most worthwhile undertaking of the year. I made some great discoveries and realised more than ever before that the disproportionately low amount of films directed by women is one of cinema history's biggest failings. The viewing challenge would sadly take on an added relevance as numerous allegations of discrimination and harassment towards women within the film industry was unquestionably the major talking point in the world of film this year.

- 2017 Leeds International Film Festival, 1st-16th November

- John Ford's criminally underrated 1961 western Two Rode Together got a fabulous dual format release by Eureka/Masters of Cinema in March. Casually dismissed by Ford himself, I feel this has long been unfairly overshadowed by his similarly themed (and wildly overrated) earlier western The Searchers (1956) but hopefully the film is slowly getting some of the appreciation it deserves.

-Best filmgoing experience: Peppermint Soda at Hyde Park Picturehouse (19/9/17).

- After many delays and setbacks, Shin Godzilla finally got a UK release.

- News that Guillermo del Toro is working on a documentary about Michael Mann.

- 'The Cotton Club Encore', a longer cut of Francis Ford Coppola's 1984 gangster musical was shown at the Telluride Film Festival in September. I'm interested in seeing this as it sounds like the additional footage is fairly significant and could greatly improve a very flawed work.

- In October I attended a screening of Suspiria at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford. This was the restored 4K version and it looked as glorious as ever.

- 'We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale', edited by Neil Snowden.
http://www.pspublishing.co.uk/blog/2017/01/13/we-are-the-martians-the-legacy-of-nigel-kneale/ A collection of articles, essays and reviews on the writer and his work.


- Isabelle Huppert's Best Actress Oscar nomination for Elle.
I'm not much interested in the Academy Awards, but on rare occasions a very surprising and deserving candidate sneaks through. Past instances include Spirited Away being awarded Best Animated Feature, The Fugitive getting a Best Picture nomination at the 1993 awards, Marion Cotillard's Best Actress nomination for Two Days, One Night, Terrence Malick's Best Director nomination for The Thin Red Line, David Lynch's Best Director nominations for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive and Martin Scorsese getting a nod for his highly controversial feature The Last Temptation of Christ.

- Jacques Becker was the subject of a BFI season in March. A director I've long admired based on the few available works I've been able to see. In the UK other works have been granted exposure, notably with home video releases of Edward and Caroline and Montparnasse 19.

- Edward Yang's Taipei Story has been restored and made available as part of 'Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project No. 2'.
Like Jacques Becker, I've only been able to view a small portion of Yang's work but what I've seen is exceptional. Here's hoping more restorations and rereleases are planned.

- A rare early short film by Jean-Luc Godard, 'Une Femme Coquette' surfaced earlier this year having been thought to be lost and was made available on YouTube and vimeo.

- News emerged that Netflix is said to be restoring and releasing Orson Welles's unfinished final film 'The Other Side of the Wind'. It should be available to watch in 2018. Fingers crossed.

- Speaking of Welles, the New York Times reported that numerous writings and materials by the great man are to be archived by the University of Michigan.

- 'Stephen King on the Big Screen': A BFI season of film adaptations of King's work coincided with cinema releases of The Dark Tower and It in September. I was pleased to read that King named William Friedkin's Sorcerer as his favourite film when asked by the BFI to name some personal favourites.

- A mubi notebook piece on James Whale's little-seen final film Hello Out There.

- Notable viewings:
Who Am I This Time? (1982, Jonathan Demme) - I watched this shortly after Demme's death earlier this year and it was a fitting tribute.
A Great Day in the Morning (1956, Jacques Tourneur) - I've wanted to see this for years and was fortunate to catch a rare showing of this on BBC 2. It was every bit as great as I'd expected.

- Favourite DVDs/Blu-Rays:
Raising Cain (Arrow), Mildred Pierce (Criterion), Othello (Criterion), Destiny (Eureka), Eight Hours Don't Make a Day (Arrow), The Man Between (Studio Canal), Spotlight on a Murderer (Arrow), The Informer (BFI), Fat City (Indicator), One-Eyed Jacks (Arrow), Sorcerer (Entertainment One), Madame de... (BFI), The Life of Oharu (Criterion), Psycho II (Arrow), The Wages of Fear (BFI), The Saga of Anatahan (Eureka/Masters of Cinema), Peppermint Soda (BFI)

Friday, 17 November 2017

31st Leeds International Film Festival, 1st-16th November 2017

As an active filmgoer the period between Halloween and Christmas is by far my busiest time of year. Seeking out contenders for the "year's best" I try to find possible highlights that have been mentioned in lists, journals, reviews, blogs and various websites. The deadline for my annual top 10 is roughly mid-December so it does feel a bit like a race at times. Sometimes I will extend this deadline for exceptional cases but the roundup inevitably loses a layer of interest by the time January comes around. Stuff I may have missed earlier in the year is usually available to rent or showing online by this stage. In addition there's usually a wealth of new releases from arthouse to blockbuster titles that are worth seeking out. Best of all though is the Leeds film festival which begins in early November. For roughly two weeks it gives me the chance to see advanced screenings of obscure and acclaimed new titles from all over the globe.

I first attended the festival in 2005 when I saw an early UK screening of Michael Haneke's Hidden and have got a single pass each year since 2013, which allows me to see as many titles as I can squeeze in to the time available. Occasionally this calls for tough decisions about what to see and what will have to be missed due to schedule clashes. Needless to say, having all this so close to home is a real godsend. Other parts of the UK are less fortunate.

Admittedly the festival preview in October - a 45 minute selection of trailers from highlighted films - didn't exactly fill me with excitement but that probably says more about the quality of trailers in contemporary cinema than anything else. Studying the programme over the coming days got my hopes up. Going through the contents and trying to come up with a workable timetable is all part of the fun. Now the festival is over I'm slightly reluctant to look again at the guide as it will no doubt reveal a plethora of enticing films that I managed to miss.

The Square
Several titles from this year's Cannes film festival were featured. Palme d'Or winner The Square was a prestigious opening film. New works by filmmakers such as Michael Haneke (Happy End), Hong Sang-soo (Claire's Camera), Todd Haynes (Wonderstruck) & Philippe Garrel (Lover for a Day) all appealed to my auteurist sensibilities. On a local level it was good to see Yorkshire represented by Dark River, which also had a Q&A with writer/director Clio Barnard and producer Tracy O'Riordan. The closing film was the much hyped Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which would go on to win the audience award.

 Lu Over the Wall
 Big Fish & Begonia
The animation Sunday (including Lu Over the Wall, Big Fish & Begonia Mutafukaz) was a little underwhelming compared to previous years and the Horror selections that I saw (Thelma, The Mimic, Tokyo Ghoul & Veronica) were further signs of the exhaustion, boredom and repetition that I see in much of today's genre fare. However the Fanathon: Manga Movie Marathon on Sunday 12th was an inspired addition. It consisted of 4 live action Manga adaptations, 3 of which (The Mole Song, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Blade of the Immortal) were directed by the prolific Takashi Miike.

The retrospective selection was extremely impressive this year and it's unfortunate that I had to miss so many interesting films of yesteryear. There was a dazzling selection of 1960s and 1970s European political thrillers, including The Mattei Affair, Investigation of a Citizen Above SuspicionZ, State of Siege, Seven Days in January, The Lost Honour of Katharine Blum, The Man on the Roof, The Flight, The Deputy and The Day of the Jackal. The works of Jan Nemec were featured, including Diamonds of the Night and Mother and Son. Alas I had to skip the silent films with live music accompaniments - Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger and F.W. Murnau's Tabu: A Story of the South Seas. It seems like every year I get a chance to see one of my all time favourites in the Town Hall and I have to pass up the chance. In 2016 it was Michael Mann's Heat, this year it was Perfect Blue. As I've already mentioned the focus for me is on new titles. However I allowed myself one major indulgence this year by seeing Michelangelo Antonioni's 1970 cult classic Zabriskie Point in the Town Hall. For all its flaws it really is a phenomenal experience when viewed on the big screen.
Zabriskie Point
There were a few casualties of timetable clashes and delineating between essential and secondary choices, as well as preferred venues. In terms of what I missed I don't have too many regrets. I would like to have found room for The Endless, primarily due to my inevitable interest in any film described as "Lovecraftian" or "Lovecraft-inspired". I saw Andrey Zvyagintsev's previous feature Leviathan at LiFF in 2014 and wasn't overly impressed so his new film Loveless was omitted from my choices due to fierce competition. Despite being in the lineup I decided to wait until after the festival ended to see The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Florida Project. Both of these will be showing at Hyde Park later in the month and so it seemed less crucial to see them at this point in time.

In total I saw 21 titles at the 2017 Leeds International Film Festival. The same number as 2016, although lower than prior years. I figure if I can see at least 3 or 4 standout titles over the course of the fortnight then it has been worthwhile. This year I'd say there were 6 that were exceptional. In previous years later films have suffered due to a fatigue factor but the second week offered a host of treats, some of which I will discuss in my yearly roundup in December. I was also able to add four more titles to my 52 films by women in 2017 project - The BreadwinnerDark RiverOh Lucy! and You Were Never Really Here.
You Were Never Really Here
My one major qualm was that I didn't feel like I had a great "discovery" this year. The films I enjoyed most were all the ones that I was most excited about from the beginning, mostly by well established filmmakers and that I had known about well in advance from other festivals earlier in the year. In prior years there has always been at least a couple of films that I watched on impulse or to fill a gap that unexpectedly blew me away. For example Persistence of Vision (2012), Garden of Words (2013), Stations of the Cross (2014), The Case of Hana & Alice (2015), Harmonium (2016) and A Silent Voice (2016). Unfortunately 2017's selection wasn't so fortuitous. Even the excellent thriller Good Time had garnered a lot of buzz among members of the Letterboxd community and cannot be classed as a "find" in any real sense.

The festival seems to have grown considerably over the years. Seeing high turnouts for such obscure or specialist titles is really encouraging at a time when the need for more diverse and adventurous product in cinemas feels as urgent as ever. Its importance in my film calendar cannot be overstated. Prior to this year's film festival 2017 was looking to be an almost total washout as a filmgoer. This festival certainly gave me a renewed sense of hope.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Brian Eno & Kevin Shields - Only Once Away My Son

Very excited to hear this new collaboration. Kevin Shields is playing a live show in Iceland in late December and has announced there will be live shows and a new album by My Bloody Valentine in 2018.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper

Very sad to be posting again so soon on the death of a Horror icon. Tobe Hooper has died at the age of 74.

In the era following George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) several groundbreaking Horror films emerged from different regions across the USA and Canada including Last House on the Left (1972), Black Christmas (1974), It's Alive! (1974), Shivers (1975) and Halloween (1978). Key among these films was Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), the film with which he will be forever associated.

The standard narrative on Hooper's career is that after a strong beginning his career trailed off and stalled. This assessment has rarely been altered or challenged but it's a view that I've always rejected. Many have lazily written off Hooper's career, even suggesting that Chain Saw was a fluke. While it's true that few films have come close to matching Chain Saw's assault on the senses, its eccentricity and unorthodox brilliance were very much in evidence throughout his filmography. He rarely enjoyed the same level of freedom or control that he had on his seminal shocker.  While mainstream success often eluded him and he became a more marginal figure his career developed in interesting ways. It was often fraught with battles with producers, distributors, studios and censors.

A lifelong film buff, Hooper saw Texas Chain Saw as a calling card to a Hollywood career. It didn't quite transpire that way but in the decade that followed he delivered what now seems like an extraordinary run of films, starting with the deranged, EC comics-style chiller Eaten Alive (1976). The remarkable TV movie Salem's Lot (1979), about a quiet New England town overrun by vampires was one of his greatest achievements and remains one of the best Stephen King adaptations. The Funhouse (1981) was a sly take on the burgeoning slasher film of the early 1980s. Hooper seemed to achieve the mainstream breakthrough he craved with the 1982 blockbuster Poltergeist. However controversy surrounding the picture remains to this day over authorship of the picture, with some attributing the success of the film to producer and co-writer Steven Spielberg and there were even claims that Spielberg unofficially directed the film.

A 3 picture deal in the mid-1980s with the Cannon Film Group seemed like a promising development but the deal would soon turn sour. The first effort was the extraordinary sci-fi/Horror Lifeforce (1985). Like many Hooper films it would later find its audience on home video and become a cult classic. It was followed by a remake of the 1953 B-movie Invaders from Mars (1986) and the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), a sequel that confounded many with its overt black humour, satire and notably more graphic violence than its predecessor. Working with larger budgets and crews these three pictures showcased some of Hooper's most audacious and imaginative work but sadly the fallout from these pictures would effectively mark the end of his career as a mainstream filmmaker.

To my mind the combination of hostility and indifference that greeted his later films does reveal an underlying conservatism amidst Horror fans. He had an "anything goes" approach to Horror and redefined the genre by subverting its rules or ignoring them completely. The films hinted at brave new horizons for the genre that sadly few chose to pursue. His use of framing, lighting and decor were all part of his strong visual punch that transcended the sometimes schlocky concepts behind his work. For me the film that best exemplifies this is 1990's Spontaneous Combustion which strikes me as one of his finest works, although it was inevitably panned on release. I was pleased to hear it being championed by Japanese Horror master Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who included it as one of his selections for lacinetek.

Television work provided a refuge at several times in Hooper's career. Notable credits include the TV movie I'm Dangerous Tonight, episodes of Tales from the CryptAmazing StoriesNight Visions, Freddy's Nightmares and a segment of the John Carpenter anthology film Body Bags (1993).

After the career low point of Crocodile (2000) the 21st century would see a resurgence for Hooper. He reteamed with Spielberg for the opening episode of the TV show Taken in 2002. The 2003 remake of Chain Saw by Marcus Nispel (a passable slasher film) arguably helped raised his profile after years of neglect (Salem's Lot would be remade in 2004 and Poltergeist in 2015). He was also championed by a younger generation of Horror directors, most prominently Rob Zombie and Eli Roth. Hooper bounced back in 2004 with a remake (in name only) of the 1970s exploitation flick Toolbox Murders, a slasher film with supernatural overtones that had the benefit of a terrific cast including Angela Bettis, Juliet Landau, Marco Rodriguez, Greg Travis & Rance Howard. The atmospheric zombie film Mortuary (2005) followed along with two episodes of 'Masters of Horror' Dance of the Dead and The Damned Thing. He showed himself to be open to new challenges in the later stages of his career, writing the novel Midnight Movie and his final film Djinn (2013) was made in the United Arab Emirates.

His career trajectory, going from a notorious breakthrough work to Hollywood exile, earned comparisons with Orson Welles and there are some striking parallels between the two. Like Welles there are neglected works that have been rediscovered (thanks to some terrific special edition DVDs/Blu-Rays from labels such as Arrow and Shout Factory) and previously unavailable offerings such as his early short film The Heisters (1963) and feature debut Eggshells (1969) have been restored and made available to new audiences.

Hooper's films have meant a great deal to me at different times of my life. As a young Horror fan I had a poster of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 on my bedroom wall. Having been a proud advocate of that film for many years it's been nice to see its reputation has steadily grown over time. I would frequently trawl through the video stalls at Leeds Market in the 1990s looking for VHS copies of Hooper's rarer work - an early 1980s precert copy of The Funhouse was a much cherished find, as well as two films he made with Robert Englund - Night Terrors and The Mangler. At the start of the 21st century when the DVD format revolutionised home entertainment one of the first discs I purchased was Lifeforce - the version featured was a longer cut than the one that had been previously available. In 2004 I made a special trip to London to see Toolbox Murders at the Prince Charles Cinema as part of Frightfest. As I've grown more accustomed to streaming films it was with great delight last year that I was at last able to see his final feature Djinn online more than three years after it was first screened.

Although he was often mentioned alongside fellow North American genre masters such as George A. Romero, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg and John Carpenter I feel he was in some ways closer to European directors such as Jacques Tourneur, Mario Bava, Roman Polanski and Dario Argento with his macabre humour, surreal flourishes and brilliant control of atmospherics. Hooper understood that Horror was as much about shadows, mist, broken mirrors and old dark houses as it was about monsters. He was a frequently maligned and misunderstood filmmaker whose reputation rested on a small quantity of his output but for me his entire oeuvre has been a source of endless fascination and rewards.

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper (1943-2017)

Monday, 17 July 2017

R.I.P. George A. Romero

Heard the sad news this morning. The legendary director George A. Romero has died at the age of 77. One of the great icons of Horror and American Independent cinema, I've been a huge fan of his work since my teenage years. He made many great films starting with his extraordinary debut, the classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968) and its various sequels.

Subsequent features include the suburban witchcraft tale Season of the Witch (1972), paranoia/contagion chiller The Crazies (1973), the remarkable modern vampire tale Martin (1978 - my own personal favourite), cult oddity Knightriders (1981) - which he regarded as his most personal film, the EC comic-style anthology Creepshow (1982) on which he collaborated with fellow Horror legend Stephen King, suspense tale Monkey Shines (1988) and the revenge thriller Bruiser (2000).

His career had many setbacks. He had a fraught relationship with Hollywood studios over unrealised projects - including a Poe adaptation with Isabella Rossellini and rejected scripts for new versions of The Mummy and Resident Evil that would be eventually made by other hands. There was a long period of inactivity during the 1990s where he spent most of the decade in development Hell and would only make one feature (1993's The Dark Half) which created a frustrating gap in his filmography. Despite his fondness for the genre and his cult following he was never able to escape his being typecast as a 'Horror director', to his occasional frustration. His last 3 films (Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009)) were all returns to the zombie series that made his reputation. They allowed him the free-reign and creative control that he fought hard to maintain throughout his career.

I got a chance to see Romero in London at the UK premiere of Land of the Dead in 2005 and it was a huge thrill. I still feel that film has never got its due recognition and was ahead of its time with its focus on growing inequality and social divides in the 21st century. He brought humour, satire, thought provoking social commentary and a sharp and distinctive eye for human frailties to his films. Discovering his output in the early years of my cinephilia was a huge deal for me and more than any other filmmaker made me aware of the vast possibilities of Horror cinema. I really felt like I'd found a kindred spirit through his work.

A fearless maverick, an undisputed icon and a true inspiration. Thank you George Romero for the incredible body of work and the indelible impression it has left on me and countless other filmgoers.

R.I.P. George A. Romero (1940-2017)


Sunday, 18 June 2017

The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century

The New York Times published this list recently although I'm still uncertain what the justification was, besides being roughly 1/6 of the way through the current century. Needless to say it drew quite a response. A recent critics poll by the BBC also came under a lot of scrutiny. At least with that list I considered the top 2 films (Mulholland Drive and In the Mood for Love) to be sound choices.

With all the innovations that cinema has undergone in recent times and the rules changing about what constitutes a "film" I'm often disappointed by the conservatism of large parts of the critical establishment and movie going public. While I like quite a few of the titles that the New York Times chose (Spirited Away, White Material, The Gleaners & I, A Touch of Sin) much of the selection seems to have been made based on a rather rigid view of what constitutes great cinema.

As a response I put together a list of my 25 selections. For the sake of variety I only allowed one title per director as some of my favourite filmmakers (Michael Mann, Johnnie To, Terrence Malick, Kiyoshi Kurosawa) have produced several outstanding works in recent times that when combined could easily take up more than half the list.

1. Pulse (2001, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
2. Miami Vice (2006, Michael Mann)
3. The New World (2005, Terrence Malick)
4. The Wind Rises (2013, Hayao Miyazaki)
5. Sparrow (2008, Johnnie To)
6. Tomorrow We Move (2004, Chantal Akerman)
7. Battle Royale (2000, Kinji Fukasaku)
8. Lights in the Dusk (2006, Aki Kaurismaki)
9. Paprika (2006, Satoshi Kon)
10. Lourdes (2009, Jessica Hausner)
11. Yi Yi (2000, Edward Yang)
12. Thirst (2009, Park Chan-wook)
13. Ghosts of Mars (2001, John Carpenter)
14. Arrietty (2010, Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
15. The Duchess of Langeais (2007, Jacques Rivette)
16. 20 30 40 (2004, Sylvia Chang)
17. Dredd (2012, Pete Travis)
18. Two Days, One Night (2014, Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne)
19. 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011, Abel Ferrara)
20. Memories of Murder (2003, Bong Joon-ho)
21. Things to Come (2016, Mia Hansen-Love)
22. Confessions (2010, Tetsuya Nakashima)
23. TRON: Legacy (2010, Joseph Kosinski) - have to have at least one controversial choice in here.
24. Barbara (2012, Christian Petzold)
25. The Nice Guys (2016, Shane Black)

Monday, 29 May 2017

52 Films by Women - 2017

I heard about this campaign in 2016 and it seemed like a great idea. One of my film viewer resolutions this year is to see at least 52 films by 52 female directors. For whatever reasons, films directed by women still seem to be in the minority of general releases and perhaps more than any other other major position in the film industry it seems directing is the one role above all others that remains disproportionately low for women. Hopefully we're at a point where the contribution of female directors to cinema as an artform and entertainment is being more acknowledged and appreciated. Each year I find that many of the most exciting talents in film today are female directors and I hope the number of women behind the camera will grow in years to come. This viewing mission should allow me to discover more names and titles that I'd previously been unaware of as well as seeing lesser known works from established directors. I'll update this list throughout the year and personal highlights will be marked with an asterisk (*).

https://womeninfilm.org/52-films/

January
3/1/17: La chambre (1972, Chantal Akerman)
8/1/17: Madchen in Uniform (1931, Leontine Sagan & Carl Froelich)*
20/1/17: The Last Mistress (2007, Catherine Breillat)*

February
9/2/17: Love Crimes (1992, Lizzie Borden)
12/2/17: Men (1997, Zoe Clarke-Williams)
25/2/17: Old Joy (2006, Kelly Reichardt)
26/2/17: Slitch (2003, Dianne Bellino), Mutations (1972, Lillian Schwartz)

March
21/3/17: The Apple (1998, Samira Makhmalbaf)
22/3/17: Glimpse of the Garden (1957, Marie Menken)
30/3/17: Faust and Mephistopheles (1903, Alice Guy)
31/3/17: At Land (1944, Maya Deren)

April
12/4/17: 20 30 40 (2004, Sylvia Chang)*
17/4/17: Father of My Children (2009, Mia Hansen-Love)
25/4/17: Lourdes (2009, Jessica Hausner)*

May
5/5/17: Bringing Up Bobby (2011, Famke Janssen)
10/5/17: The Life of Death (2012, Marsha Onderstijn)
The Falling (2014, Carol Morley)
29/5/17: The Black Dog (1987, Alison De Vere)
30/5/17: Lore (2012, Cate Shortland)

June
5/6/17: Gas Food Lodging (1992, Allison Anders)
8/6/17: Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962, Agnes Varda)
14/6/17: Orlando (1992, Sally Potter)
18/6/17: Bridges-Go-Round (1958, Shirley Clarke)
Immer Zu (1997, Janie Geiser)
19/6/17: The Green Ray (2001, Tacita Dean)
21/6/17: Dark Touch (2013, Marina de Van)
24/6/17: Under the Skin (1997, Carine Adler)
25/6/17: A Simple Life (2011, Ann Hui)*
28/6/17: Saving Face (2004, Alice Wu)

July
14/7/17: Jesus' Son (1999, Alison Maclean)
25/7/17: The Beguiled (2017, Sofia Coppola)

August
2/8/17: Top of the Lake: China Girl (2017, Jane Campion & Ariel Kleiman)
Sleeping Beauty (2011, Julia Leigh)*
3/8/17: In a Heartbeat (2017, Beth David & Esteban Bravo)
9/8/17: Slums of Beverly Hills (1998, Tamara Jenkins)
15/8/17: Me and Me Dad (2012, Katrine Boorman)
16/8/17: The Edge of Seventeen (2016, Kelly Fremon Craig)
19/8/17: The Night Porter (1974, Liliana Cavani)*
26/8/17: Detroit (2017, Kathryn Bigelow)
28/8/17: My Life Without Me (2003, Isabel Coixet)

September
19/9/17: Peppermint Soda (1977, Diane Kurys)*
22/9/17: Suzanne (2013, Katell Quillevere)
25/9/17: A Girl at My Door (2014, July Jung)
28/9/17: Take Care of My Cat (2001, Jeong Jae-eun)*

October
23/10/17: The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum (1975, Volker Schlondorff & Margarethe von Trotta)

November
5/11/17: The Breadwinner (2017, Nora Twomey)
6/11/17: Dark River (2017, Clio Barnard)
10/11/17: Oh Lucy! (2017, Atsuko Hirayanagi)
16/11/17: You Were Never Really Here (2017, Lynne Ramsay)
27/11/17: I Can't Sleep (1994, Claire Denis)*
29/11/17: Wonder Woman (2017, Patty Jenkins)

December
2/12/17: The Bye Bye Man (2017, Stacy Title)

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cannes 2017 watchlist

As the Cannes film festival draws to a close I thought I'd do a list for future reference of titles that have been screened at the festival that I hope to see over the coming months. If past trends are anything to go by it may take a while for some of these to reach UK screens.

Must-see:
Before We Vanish (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Okja (Bong Joon-ho)
In the UK we're still waiting for a release of Bong's 2013 feature Snowpiercer. There were rumours that this would only be available via streaming on Netflix.
Let the Sunshine In (Claire Denis)
Based on a True Story (Roman Polanski)


Special Mention:
Twin Peaks (David Lynch)
I've already seen the first 4 episodes of the new series and it has certainly confounded expectations. It's great to have Lynch back working on a major new project after seemingly abandoning feature films following Inland Empire in 2006. There's a lot I'm looking forward to in 2017, as you can tell from this list, but this could very well be the film/TV event of the year.


Promising Titles:
Blade of the Immortal (Takashi Miike)
This is apparently Miike's 100th film. I knew he was prolific but I wasn't fully aware until now of how much catching up I have to do with his filmography.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos)
Lanthimos's transition to English language features (2015's The Lobster) managed to retain the dry, surreal, deadpan humour and satire of his Greek films so I'm eager to see what he does next.
The Day After (Hong Sang-soo)
Claire's Camera (Hong Sang-soo)
Visages, Villages (Agnes Varda & JR)
Wonderstruck (Todd Haynes)
In the Fade (Fatih Akin)
24 Frames (Abbas Kiarostami)
Alive in France (Abel Ferrara)
Lover for a Day (Philippe Garrel)
Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont)


Hopeful:
Happy End (Michael Haneke)
Haneke has been a Cannes favourite for some time now having previously won major awards for The Piano Teacher and Hidden and the Palme D'Or for The White Ribbon and Amour. After an extraordinary run of films in the early 2000s I've cooled a little on Haneke. His US remake of Funny Games was ill judged and the reserved and clinical Amour wasn't the revelation that I'd been led to expect. Like Kubrick his formal brilliance became too mannered. With his knack for challenging subjects (in this case the refugee crisis in Europe) Happy End will hopefully see the director regaining the edge and urgency of his best work.
Top of the Lake (Jane Campion)
I wasn't overly keen on the first series of this New Zealand set mystery drama. I'd much rather see a new feature film from Campion but I'll happily watch any new effort from her.


Curiosities:
Ismael's Ghosts (Arnaud Desplechin)
The opening film of the festival was lambasted by critics but this film has a dream cast (Mathieu Amalric, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg) and the hostile response actually piqued my interest.
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay)
I may have been overly harsh on Lynne Ramsay. Her first two features (Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar) announced an outstanding new talent in British cinema. Since then it's been a frustrating waiting game and after a 9 year gap her third feature (2011's We Need to Talk About Kevin) was a crushing disappointment. It seems she's now settled on making features in the US.
Barbara (Mathieu Amalric)
The Merciless (Byun Sung-hyun)
The Villainess (Jung Byung-gil)
Good Time (Benny Safdie & Josh Safdie)
Radiance (Naomi Kawase)
A Gentle Creature (Sergei Loznitsa)
The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola)
I'm not sure what this new version of Don Siegel's 1971 classic can do to improve on its predecessor but the talent involved could potentially produce something interesting.
L'amant double (Francois Ozon)
Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Napalm (Claude Lanzmann)
How to Talk to Girls as Parties (John Cameron Mitchell)
Filmworker (Tony Zierra)
The Rider (Chloe Zhao)
Golden Years (Andre Techine)
Walking Past the Future (Li Ruijun)