As the dreadful month of August ends, fall begins and with fall comes the most wonderful time of the year: Festival Season! Venice already started, Toronto and Telluride will follow, then comes London and New York. The happiness and the discourse will spread from the sunny seaside of Italy, bringing film lovers together (or apart) until the Awards Season, in which we all will sell our souls to competition. But until then, enjoy a list of some of the films we cannot wait to see from festival season.
The Favourite, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Whether it be dystopian hotels or eerily sterile hospitals, auteur Yorgos Lanthimos is the contemporary king of creating absurdist yet precise diegetic worlds. Now, he’s going back in time to early 18th century England for The Favourite, which will be his first foray into the opulence of period pieces. As an avid Lanthimos fan, I’ve been eagerly awaiting this film ever since I first read about the plot over a year ago: A duchess and a baroness battle to be the court favorite of the ailing Queen Anne. A sapphic love triangle emerges.
With his main muse Colin Farrell busy with Widows, Lanthimos has instead recruited previous The Lobster collaborators Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman (please watch her stellar performance in Tyrannosaur), as well as my future wife Emma Stone.
Word on the street is that this will be Lanthimos’s “most accessible” and “awards-friendly” film to date. In fact, Stone stepped down from Greta Gerwig’s Little Women remake (and was replaced with Emma Watson) in order to promote The Favourite, which hopefully suggests that Lanthimos may be on his way to some seriously overdue awards recognition.
The Favourite had its world premiere today at the Venice International Film Festival. It will also screen at Telluride, NYFF and BFI London Film Festival before its release on November 23 (US)/January 1 (UK).
Suspiria, dir. Luca Guadagnino
Back in January, I said Suspiria was my most anticipated film of the year. As Much Ado’s resident Call Me By Your Name stan and devout follower of everything Guadagnino, I feel like it’s only my duty to put all my obsessive energy into this reimagining of Dario Argento’s horror classic. Word of mouth says this will be on the mother! end of the spectrum of divisiveness, but I’m excited to see Luca transfer his sensual visual style to unfamiliar territory. The tidbits of information we’ve been fed have also been occupying my mind a lot lately: Is Tilda Swinton playing the old man? Will Timothée Chalamet make a cameo? Who is behind the film’s tonally incongruous twitter?
Luca also said the following in a recent interview:
“I hope that the movie comes across as a relentless experience that’s going to go deep into your skin all the way down into your spine. I want the movie to perform as the most disturbing experience you can have.”
Sounds traumatising – I can’t wait! Hold on to your auburn wigs, stay away from your nearest mirror death trap and get ready to give your soul to the dance.
Suspiria will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on Saturday. It will also screen at BFI London Film Festival before its release on October 26 (US)/November 16 (UK)
– Iana Murray
High Life, dir. Claire Denis
Films that take place in space have been on the rise – even this year we got Damien Chazelle’s First Man. But nothing makes a festival season better than a Claire Denis film, and this year we are blessed with her first film in English, High Life. Starring our best blockbuster heartthRob (pun intended) turned indie star Robert Pattinson and Denis’ previous collaborator Juliette Binoche, High Life is a story of a father and daughter trying to survive in space. Rumour has it that Denis wanted to make this film since 2002 and it took a lot of fangirling and insistent meetings from Pattinson that finally convinced Denis that he was right for the part. It’s no surprise that a cinephile like Pattinson stans Denis, after all, who doesn’t stan a legend like her?
After winning SACD Prize (Directors’ Fortnight) at Cannes last year with Let The Sunshine In, we all expected High Life to turn up at Cannes. But alas, High Life will have its world premiere at TIFF which is not much of a surprise considering TIFF is the festival that features the highest number of female directors this year. Maybe 2018 will be the year that the French director gets her longtime deserved attention from the Academy.
High Life will have its world premiere at TIFF on September 9. It will also screen at NYFF.
Shoplifters, dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
Shoplifters won the Palme d’Or, Cannes’ top prize, and continues to make the festival circuit. It’s also one of the films I am most looking forward to this festival season. It comes from the masterful Hirokazu Kore-eda, who is responsible for films such as Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm. He wrote, directed, and edited the film, which centers on a tight-knit family who steal to make a living. The family takes in a five-year-old girl and come together to care for her. As they care for her, something leads to the reveal of family secrets, testing the group’s strength and love for one another. Starring Lily Franky and Sakura Ondo, it’s a testament to the strength of family in the face of poverty, as well as the messiness that comes with such strength. Basically, this is the kind of contemplative subject matter that Kore-eda is familiar with.
After winning the Palme d’Or, Shoplifters has made quite a splash in the film community. It currently has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a critic consensus saying, “Understated yet ultimately deeply affecting, Shoplifters adds another powerful chapter to director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s richly humanistic filmography.”
Shoplifters had its world premiere at Cannes. It will also screen at NYFF, TIFF, and CIFF.
-Mary Beth McAndrews
Wildlife, dir Paul Dano
When I first found out that Paul Dano was finally – and I say finally because it seemed almost inevitable with the way that his creative energy practically sparks off of him – directing a feature film, I jumped for joy. And then to find out that he co-wrote it with his longtime partner Zoe Kazan? And that the stars of the film were going to be Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan? It quickly became my most anticipated film of 2018, let alone this year’s festival circuit. There is such an aura of pride and passion radiating around this entire film, from the friends that he chose to work on it with to the novel that he based it off and it’s so clear that Dano has placed his heart and soul into this project.
Based on the book of the same name by Richard Ford, Wildlife follows the Brinson family, consisting of Jerry (Gyllenhaal), Jeanette (Mulligan), and their son Joe (Ed Oxenbould), as their family begins to falling apart to the backdrop of Great Falls, Montana in 1961. Dano stated at the film’s Sundance Premiere that this was the first of a set of films he hopes to make about dysfunctional families, so the Greta Gerwig Sacramento universe better watch out!
Wildlife had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival and screened at Cannes. It will also screen at TIFF, NYFF and BFI London Film Festival before its release on October 19 (US)/November 9 (UK).
Vita & Virginia, dir. Chanya Button
Vita & Virginia is an upcoming biographical romantic drama directed and co-written by Chanya Button. The film, based on the 1993 stage play by Eileen Atkins, centres on the true love affair between author Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) and socialite/writer Vita Sackville-West (Gemma Arterton), whose relationship inspired Woolf’s novel Orlando. While many on screen portrayals show Woolf in her troubled later years, Button’s film shows her at her most vibrant.
Button also said the following in an interview:
“Her relationship with Vita is the story of her connecting with her body, and her sexuality and it’s a kind of alternative look at an artist-and-muse relationship. It’s the story of the creation of Orlando, but it’s also the story of Virginia using her profound genius to overcome an experience that we might presume, on the face of it, would overwhelm her. That’s what interests me, the opportunity to look at this really iconic writer in a very different way.”
Vita & Virginia will have its world premiere at TIFF on September 12.
Mandy, dir. Panos Cosmatos
Nicolas Cage films can be hit or miss, with a lot of recent misses. But when I heard about his new film, Mandy, I couldn’t help but get excited. Mandy is the latest film from Panos Cosmatos, who directed Beyond the Black Rainbow. Cosmatos is known for his distinct visual style, vibrant, trippy, and colorful. The film follows Red Miller (Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) as they live a peaceful life secluded in the mountains. But that all comes crashing down when a group of deranged cultists, and what look like to be monsters, come and destroy their home, taking Mandy in the process. Vengeance then becomes Miller’s sole purpose.
Mandy is one of the last films featuring music from the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. The trailer promises one hell of a ride. Cage is unhinged, the visuals are nightmarish, and I can’t wait to experience it. This looks like a weird, colorful, and psychedelic gorefest featuring a Nicolas Cage we’ve never seen. It’s currently sitting at a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, with critics praising Cage’s performance.
Mandy had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival and screened at Cannes. It will also screen at TIFF and BFI London Film Festival before its release on September 14 (US)/October 12 (UK).
-Mary Beth McAndrews
The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, dir Xavier Dolan
Love him or hate him, Xavier Dolan is astoundingly prolific. Donovan marks his seventh film in nine years, and while his recent output hasn’t been mightily impressive, his latest looks to correct the course. For his English language debut, the Quebecois filmmaker has gathered quite the cast: *deep breath* Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Ben Schnetzer, Susan Sarandon, Thandie Newton and Kathy Bates among many, many others. The story follows the pen pal correspondence of a TV star (Harington) and an 11-year-old boy (Tremblay).
The lead up to the release has also been something of a whirlwind. Dolan faced controversy after he revealed on instagram that Jessica Chastain, who was slated to appear as the gossip journalist who exposes the correspondences, was cut from the film entirely. The film also failed to make an appearance at Cannes, particularly strange for Dolan who has screened all but one of his films at the festival. The film has been on the back-burner for so long, I just want to see it out of all-consuming curiosity more than anything.
The Death and Life of John F. Donovan will have its world premiere at TIFF on September 10.
Colette, dir. Wash Westmoreland
Keira Knightley has been known to star in films that span centuries – from King Arthur in the 5th century to Atonement in the early 20th century – and she’s not stopping now. The queen of period pieces is back in the late 19th century with Colette, a biographical drama based on the life of the French novelist of the same name. Directed by Wash Westmoreland (Still Alice) and co-starring Dominic West, Eleanor Tomlinson and Denise Gough, the film follows Colette after her marriage to a successful writer named Willy (West). She is plucked from rural France and sent to Paris where she soon begins to ghostwrite novels for her husband. With the immense success of her Claudine novels, it becomes apparent that she’s the better writer and she begins to fight for creative ownership of her work. The character, and the woman herself, would be admired for not just her work, but for her drive to overcome societal constraints and bend gender roles, while revolutionizing literature and fashion.
Colette had its world premiere at Sundance and will screen at TIFF before its release on September 21 (US)/January 25 (UK).
Widows, dir. Steve McQueen
Five years after the massive success of Twelve Years a Slave, director Steve McQueen is finally back with Widows. The premise is simple: After their husbands are killed during a heist gone wrong, the widows step in to do it right. Like Twelve Years, McQueen’s other two features, Shame, and Hunger, are heart-wrenching dramas, and I’m looking forward to the way he handles this genre transition to crime-thriller.
Co-writer Gillian Flynn of Gone Girl and Sharp Objects, has more than enough expertise in this particular domain, however, and Widows likely promises even more mordant murderesses. Four to be exact, played by Academy Award winner Viola Davis, Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo, Fast and Furious bicon Michelle Rodriguez, and tall legend Elizabeth Debicki.
The supporting cast is top shelf, too, including my future husband Colin Farrell and Carrie Coon, most known to the film world for playing Nick Dunne’s infinitely smarter twin sister in Gone Girl. (It’s not too late to give her retroactive Emmys for The Leftovers and Fargo!)
Widows will have its world premiere at TIFF on September 8. It will also screen at BFI London Film Festival before its release on November 6 (UK)/November 16 (US).
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, dir. the Coen Brothers
Originally intended to be a western anthology series on Netflix, the new Coen Brothers project The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has instead shifted itself into a feature-length film. The film is still going to be keeping the anthology structure and has a plethora of stars, with most cast members being newcomers to the Coen Brothers canon. Zoe Kazan, James Franco, and Tom Waits are listed among the cast (although they are all in different chapters of the film). Brendan Gleeson and Liam Neeson are also listed among the cast, as well as a Coen Brothers favorite, Tim Blake Nelson. Between The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Hail, Caesar! from 2016, the Coens seem to be exploring the days of classic Hollywood that had such an influence on them. Past westerns made by the brothers – No Country for Old Men (2007) and True Grit (2010) – have done exceptionally well and gotten praise from the Acadaemy, and it seems Buster Scruggs will be no different. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a new Coen Brothers film is always an adventure, and their time spent in the wild west has always been well worth it.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on Saturday. It will also screen at NYFF before its release on November 16 (Netflix).
If Beale Street Could Talk, dir. Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins is back baby! Based on the novel by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk tells the story of Tish, a young woman living in Harlem in the 1970s, trying to prove her fiancé Fonny’s innocence while pregnant with their child. Beale Street is one of Baldwin’s most popular novels, and its non-linear narrative structure could only be adapted greatly by someone like Jenkins who won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with Moonlight. First trailer from the film, which was released on Baldwin’s birthday, got film twitter folks hyped. I am especially looking forward to seeing newcomer KiKi Layne’s performance as Tish, and quite excited for Regina King’s return to the big screen.
The film will have its world premiere at TIFF on September 9. It will also screen at NYFF and BFI London Film Festival before its release on November 30 (US)/January 18 (UK).
Shadow, 影, dir. Zhang Yimou
Premiering Out of Competition at the Venice International Film Festival this year, Zhang Yimou’s Shadow is one not to miss. Those familiar with Zhang’s work would remember him fondly by his widely acclaimed film, Hero (2002), one of the first Chinese-language films to top America’s box office. Like most Singaporean Chinese people, I struggle with connecting to my culture as I have grown up in a highly Westernised space, where English reigns as the official language of instruction. To me, Zhang Yimou’s historical films on China’s past have always opened a small window of connection – to intensely experience or even simply merely envision the values and rich history from which I came from.
While Zhang’s work has reached international acclaim, they have never lost sight of Chinese heroic values they faithfully represent. This I feel, is what Zhang manages to straddle wonderfully – a universality with a focus on the personal, without dilution of the latter. His latest film, Shadow, is also a Chinese historical film. However, what marks it as different from his other works is its visuals – every scene resembles a traditional Chinese ink painting, which gives it an air of quiet beauty as one imagines the nuanced black brush strokes on canvas. Yet, from the teaser alone, we can see that it is an action-packed film as well, which gives us an unsettling dichotomy between tranquility and chaos. Given Zhang’s exceptional track record of well-written and directed Chinese films, I am definitely looking forward to Shadow.
Shadow will have its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival on September 9. It will also screen at TIFF and BFI London Film Festival.
Mirai, dir. Mamoru Hosada
It’s an eye-roll inducing comparison, but Japanese director Mamoru Hosada may be a Miyazaki in the making. At first glance, Hosada’s films are innocuous escapist wonders that keep the kids occupied for an hour or two, but when you unravel these stories, you will find intimate, human stories that come prepackaged in fantastical wrapping paper. His films always stay grounded whether they feature a young schoolgirl who suddenly inherits the gift of time travel (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) or a math genius facing off against an artificially intelligent being (Summer Wars). His crowning achievement so far may be the fantasy-family drama Wolf Children – a heartbreaking ode to motherhood that chronicles the messy journey of a single (human) mother left to raise, you guessed it, wolf children. His latest film, Mirai, similarly has an otherworldly feel, as it follows a young boy who meets his future sister in a magical garden – an undeniably inventive way to portray someone reluctantly coming to terms with the arrival of a sibling.
Mirai had its world premiere at Cannes. It will also screen at BFI London Film Festival before its release on November 2 (UK)/November 30 (US).
Border, dir Ali Abbasi
While perusing the sneak peek for this year’s Chicago International Film Festival, I come across a Swedish film named Border. CIFF’s website offered just a few words to describe the film:
“Fantastic in every sense of the word, this idiosyncratic thriller centers on a Swedish customs officer with a special talent for detecting contraband who must ultimately choose between good and evil. This exciting, intelligent mix of romance, Nordic noir, social realism, and supernatural horror defies and subverts genre conventions and is destined to be a cult classic.”
I’m hooked, and also disappointed that I hadn’t heard more about it. Border comes from a short story collection, Let the Old Dreams Die, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote Let the Right One In. Ali Abbasi, who directed the Swedish adaptation of the novel, is bringing another Lindqvist work to the big screen. Initial reviews promise a strange tale that brings together noir, horror, and romance in an impressively successful way.
Border had its world premiere at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard category, where it won the Un Certain Regard Award. It was also Sweden’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2018 Academy Awards. Border will screen at CIFF and BFI London Film Festival.
-Mary Beth McAndrews