2018's Cannes Film Festival was marked by political activism in many forms. This included black actresses staging a protest against racism in French cinema, Cate Blanchett championing the need for gender parity, and Kristen Stewart’s small nod to “Heelgate” by walking the red carpet barefoot. Needless to say, their actions were every bit as important as the films themselves.
But this was of course the most prestigious film festival in the world. Thus, what ensued when the lights dimmed, and the projectors began to roll, was certainly newsworthy as well.
Arthouse fare dominated - although somewhat surprisingly the border between commercial and niche felt harder to define this year than ever before. Cannes isn't often a place where you can catch the world premiere of something grandiose like Solo: A Star Wars Story, and then roll into Lars Von Trier's latest, The House That Jack Built, which led to mass walkouts.
With regard to the rest, there were some strong international entries as always, which undoubtedly felt universal in their subject matter. Here are Highsnobiety’s top 10 movies to watch out for from the Cannes Film Festival 2018.
Director: Spike Lee Release date: August 10, 2018
Touted as Spike Lee’s best film in years, BlacKkKlansman is built upon former police officer Ron Stallworth’s book, The Black Klansman. Based on actual events - in which Stallworth (a black man) infiltrated the Klan for nine months in 1979, his findings revealed multiple Klan members to be active in the US Armed Forces.
John David Washington plays Stallworth, while Adam Driver is his fellow detective, Flip Zimmerman, who’s forced to act as the IRL Ron Stallworth at Klan meetings. Parallel to Stallworth’s narrative, Zimmerman must come to terms with his suppressed Jewish identity in the face of overt racism.
BlacKkKlansman offers a light touch on a heavy topic and is elevated by premier talent both onscreen and behind the camera, something the Cannes jury recognized when awarding it the Grand Prix prize.
The House That Jack Built
Director: Lars Von Trier Release date: TBD
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Lars Von Trier is back with an even more controversial film than his last (that would be Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & II). But his appearance at Cannes is in fact more unexpected as he was last seen on the Riviera in 2011, spitting bad-taste pro-Nazi “jokes” which resulted in a ban from the festival. Alas all press is good press right? And so here we are with another Von Trier attendance on the Croisette.
Matt Dillon’s career comeback sees him playing a serial killer who recounts his top five kills to a mysterious man named Verge, all the while we’re treated to flashbacks of each one. He topples Uma Thurman, Riley Keough, an innocent duckling, and other victims, while the film’s hyper-stylized 1970s set recalls Fargo’s second season on television. The film is so gratuitous that dozens walked out during its premiere, with many conceding that Von Trier has finally gone too far.
The question now is not so much if he’s gone too far, but if he’s able to surprise audiences by giving them a shock tactic he hasn’t already exhausted?
Director: Kevin Macdonald Release date: July 6, 2018
This new documentary on the life of Whitney Houston has the blessing of the late singer’s family, making it the superior to last year’s Whitney: Can I Be Me doc. Houston’s family appear as talking heads offering their insights and even her problematic ex-husband, Bobby Brown, is interviewed. A bombshell is revealed throughout, finally giving the world a clue as to the source of her pain over the years.
Whitney is a heartfelt examination into the dark side of celebrity, and while it sheds new light, it unfortunately doesn’t make her story any less tragic.
Director: Panos Cosmatos Release date: TBD
Mandy is a little bit like its lead actor Nicolas Cage – overdrawn and overacted in a very self-aware way. In the year 1983, Red Miller (Cage) lives near the Shadow Mountains with his love, Mandy Bloom. When his idyllic world is shattered by the arrival of a deranged religious sect known as the Black Skulls, he makes it his mission to exact revenge.
Movies like this don’t come around that often anymore, which might explain the strong critical and audience reception – finally something a little interesting to pierce the monotony of studio productions. The fact that Mandy is one of the last projects the late composer Jóhan Jóhannsson worked on is all the more reason to watch.
The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
Director: Terry Gilliam Release date: TBD
Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote has been 29 years in the making. Originally beginning production in 1989, the film was infamously cursed, with eight different attempts to complete production. A previous version with Johnny Depp was cut short by torrential rain and flooding—in the desert—NATO jets flying overhead, and actor John Rochefort suffering a prostate infection. The film’s “production hell” was immortalized in a documentary titled Lost In La Mancha, which still stands as a real-life portrayal of filmmaking’s worst-case-scenario. But against all odds, it’s finally here.
Jonathon Pryce stars as the titular hero in the modern adaptation of Cervantes’ novel, while actor-of-the-moment, Adam Driver, plays Toby, an arrogant ad director who’s been given a chance to make a feature film. Transporting the classic story to today, Gilliam’s version is comical and full of fantastical elements, harkening to his more lighthearted oeuvre.
Director: Gaspar Noé Release date: TBD
Controversial director, Gaspar Noé, is back with another drug trip technicolor extravaganza; this time in musical format. What’s more surprising than that is the high critical acclaim it’s received since it premiered, ultimately winning him the top prize in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight section. Distributors around the world have picked it up which means it should receive a relatively wide release.
The plot revolves around members of a dance troupe who are drugged during a party causing them to descend into physical and mental hell. It’s got all the hallmarks of a Noé film—colored lights, overt sexuality, drug mania—and it’s been described as “a Busby Berkeley movie directed by Pasolini, or Fame directed by the Marquis de Sade.” An upper to Enter the Void’s downer, it seems.
Director: Matteo Garrone Release date: TBD
Directed by the man behind Italian mafia film Gomorrah, Matteo Garrone’s Dogman follows in a similar vein - albeit a seemingly stakes-are-smaller mob story - set in a small town on the coast of Italy. It centers around Marcello (played by Marcello Fonte, who took home top acting honors in the men’s category), the feeble owner of a dog grooming salon who happens to be a small-time coke dealer. He befriends local tough guy, Simoncino, although their relationship falls into bullying territory much of the time, and together they slip deeper in the underworld through a crime of their own.
It’s an interesting examination of toxic masculinity within mob culture that’s very cleverly contrasted with canines. And while the story may veer on the dark side, the film’s visuals are a stunning consolation.
Director: Lee Chang-dong Release date: TBD
Winning the Fipresci International Critics’ Prize for best film in its section, Burning is one of the strongest movies to screen at this year’s Cannes. Based on the Haruki Murakami short story Barn Burning, the movie tells a sinister story of love, jealousy and male rage. The acting is top notch, with The Walking Dead’s Steven Yeun showing off his native Korean in a strong performance.
Jongsoo is a young man from the country whose budding relationship with Haemi is interrupted after she leaves on a planned trip to Africa. Upon returning she arrives with a new friend, Ben, a wealthy and worldly young man unlike Jongsoo. Tensions arise as the three spend time together but when Haemi suddenly disappears Jongsoo starts to find out the truth about Ben.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Director: Bi Gan Release date: TBD
Long Day’s Journey Into Night is the sophomore film from promising director Bi Gan, who received critical acclaim for his debut feature Kaili Blues. This outing sees him go back to his hometown of Kaili in Southwestern China with the story of a lovelorn drifter making his way back home. The loosely structured film feels like a dream, echoing the protagonist’s journey, which culminates in a 55-minute single take shot in 3D – with audiences given the cue to use their 3D glasses when the protagonist puts his on in a movie theater. It’s certainly not for everyone but Long Day’s Journey Into Night pushes the definition of what filmmaking can be.
The World is Yours
Director: Romain Gavras Release date: TBD
A play on the one-last-heist-before-retiring plot line, The World Is Yours centers around François, a small-time drug dealer who’s been roped into one last gig in Spain before he can focus on his dream of operating a frozen soft drink chain in North Africa. Of course everything that can, does go wrong.
Known for his music videos for M.I.A., Justice, and Kanye West, French director Romain Gavras’ films are certainly made for this generation. The World Is Yours borrows from Scarface’s ethos but spins the crime genre into a comedy. Continuing his work within pop culture, Jamie xx and French musician SebastiAn fittingly score the film, while French heavyweight actors Vincent Cassel and Isabelle Adjani star.
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