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The Most Anticipated Movies Of Cannes 2017

The movies we're most excited to see at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Words by John Bennett

Expectations do not always match reality at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year, I was slightly disappointed by how Pedro Almodovar and Asghar Farhadi, two of my favorite living filmmakers, released work that wasn’t on the same level as, say, All About My Mother (1999) or A Separation (2011). On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised by the elegance of Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, the pulpiness of Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, and the dark mastery of Paul Verhoeven’s Elle - all films from directors whose previous work I had found substantially lacking. This just goes to show that you can’t predict a film’s future. But nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to try. This year at Cannes, here are some of the movies we’re most interested in checking out.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos has, without a doubt, a striking vision of the world. His breakout film, Dogtooth (2009) and his indie smash hit The Lobster (2015) both depict worlds where stony faces betray little emotion, where the deadpan humor barely masks - or even arises from - dark tragedy. Despite the unity of his sinister vision between works, he is capable of surprising us again and again with unique worlds of perversity. The clinical white of Dogtooth was just as visually striking as the murky, steely light of The Lobster. His newest, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, is said to be even darker and more troubling than The Lobster - and I can’t wait to be totally scandalised by whatever austere atrocity Lanthimos has garnished with droll humour. Actress Nicole Kidman could be especially suited to Lanthimos’ unsmiling ethos.

Happy End
I must confess, Michael Haneke isn’t always my favourite filmmaker. His films often seem gratuitously masochistic. But Happy End has many promising elements. First, the film will take place near the French town of Calais, where France experienced a crisis of migrant overpopulation - and Haneke is intelligent enough of a filmmaker to handle politically charged material without being ham-fisted. Second, the film will star the formidable Isabelle Huppert, fresh from her Oscar nominated performance in Verhoeven’s Elle. If Haneke mixed these ingredients well, Happy End could be one of Cannes’ most impressive works.

The Florida Project
The merits of Sean Baker’s Tangerine cannot be stressed enough. The film didn’t shy away from depicting how trans people of colour can be swept to the fringes of a society while also allowing his characters to be real, flawed, anarchic, flesh-and-blood individuals and not the cinematic equivalent of political power point presentations. The look of Tangerine was stunning - all bathed in a glow of orange Los Angeles sunsets and neon light from the signs of off-brand shops. What’s more, the movie was a fucking riot. His follow-up film, The Florida Project, which will play in the Director’s Fortnight, will hopefully be just as delightfully fun, just as subtly sociological, and as ravishingly beautiful.

Jeannette: the Childhood of Joan of Arc
A sacrilegious rock musical by one of France’s most outrageous visionaries, Bruno Dumont? I’m down. The film will play in the Director’s Fortnight.

Based on a True Story
Hate the man but love the movies. Roman Polanski is a cinematic legend who, though his bite has softened, still manages to make really good movies. His last film, the wickedly delightful Venus in Fur, played in competition in 2013. His newest, Based on a True Story (playing out of competition) deals with the obsessive fan of a famous author, subject matter that fits right in Polanski’s wheelhouse of paranoia and malaise. Can this film, with a screenplay by acclaimed director Olivier Assayas, recapture the glory of some of Polanski’s early work?

Claire’s Camera & The Day After
The indefatigable Hong Sang-soo, whose Right Now, Wrong Then enjoyed critical success last year, will be presenting two movies this year: Claire’s Camera (a special screening, also starring Huppert) and The Day After (in competition). The last big prize Hong took home from Cannes was the Prix Un Certain Regard for HaHaHa (2010), a gentle, funny movie about relationships that recalled Rohmer’s Comedies and Parables cycle of films. The Day After and Claire’s Camera (whose title could possibly reference Rohmer’s chef d’oeuvre, Claire’s Knee) deal with Hong’s two major cinematic preoccupations: love and filmmaking. The Day After will deal with the former, Claire’s Camera will deal with the latter. Many high-profile Cannes flicks will be pretty trenchant this year, so Hong’s gentle, humorous sensibility should offer what will be some much-needed respite.

Twin Peaks
That show you like is coming back in style. I’ve been waiting for it, you’ve been waiting for it, we’ve all been waiting for it. Twin Peaks is back. David Lynch hasn’t released a movie since Inland Empire in 2006, and even though it’s not a movie in the strictest sense of the word, Twin Peaks will let us see hours of new Lynch material - a cinephile fantasy that’s been percolating with as much effervescence as Agent Cooper’s beloved coffee for the past 11 years. The first two episodes of Twin Peaks, lasting 50 minutes each, will premiere at Cannes not too far off from the time the reboot will premiere on Showtime.

Three legends:

Agnes Varda, Claude Lanzmann and the late Abbas Kiarostami will all have films playing out of competition. Their impressive bodies of work all but guarantee that their new films will be worthwhile.

Three newcomers:

One great thing about Cannes is that you can discover new voices just as readily as you can see works by established filmmakers. In the Un certain regard competition, Leonor Serraille will present her first feature film, Jeune Femme, a work that seems to deal with Parisian ennui, a subject that, ironically, I could never find boring. In the Director’s Fortnight Competition, Pedro Pinho will present his second feature, A Fabrica de Nada, which will put an interesting aesthetic spin on the question of factory workers’ rights in the face of rapidly developing industrial technology. In the Critics’ Week, Atsuko Hirayanagi will present Oh Lucy!, a film that appears to be a wacky farce about aging.

These titles are just a smattering of Cannes films that have great potential. Last year, Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada was never even quite on my radar, and it turned out to be my favourite film of 2016. Few had the premonition that Maren Ade’s unique comedy/drama, Toni Erdmann, would be such a hit. So who knows what movies are waiting quietly in the wings of the Grand Palais des Festivals to steal the spotlight of the festival and hearts and minds of audiences all over the world? Along the course of the next 10 days, we’ll certainly find out.