Cannes 2017: Five must-see films

Cannes, France, film festival, releases, Liam Taft, Kettle Mag
Written by Liam Taft

Cannes, more often than not, is a controversial affair: 2015 saw numerous women turned away from the red carpet for not wearing high heels, polemicist Lars von Trier was banned from the festival after expressing Nazi sympathies in 2011, and the cast of 24 Hour Party People were evicted after pummelling each other with stuffed pigeons over a decade ago.

This is surprising given that the film festival has such a highbrow reputation. Previously, the prestigious Palm D’Or award has been given to auteurs such as Michael Haneke, Roman Polanski, and Steven Soderbergh. For every independent cinema or left-field cinephile it’s the perfect antidote to the Oscars – but still imbued with the same gender imbalance and snobbery.

In the festival’s 70th year, the lineup is more political than ever, including films dealing with topics such as climate change, mental health, and the refugee crisis.

Yet for all its seriousness, the list for 2017 features some unexpected and progressive choices. Twelve female directors have their films showing, including Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, with three of those in competition. TV is making a surprise entrance, with screenings of Twin Peaks and Top of the Lake. Also, How to Talk to Girls at Parties sees sci-fi – a genre usually shunned by film festivals – attempt to gain highbrow credibility.  

Here are five projects to look out for at Cannes, which begins on 18th May.

Come Swim

Kristen Stewart has come a long way since her Twilight days. The past few years have seen her in cinematic limbo, stuck between attempting to escape her franchise origins and craft a career in indie and arthouse spheres.

In 2017, however, one thing is for sure: Stewart has become one of the most talented and exciting talents of her generation. Her role in Personal Shopper, released last month, was one of the most magnetic, nuanced, and naturalistic performances of the past year. 

Come Swim is her directing debut, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It was met with high praise, so much so that she is breaking Cannes’ strict ‘world premiere’ rule, which keeps the festival lineup from repeat content. This, coinciding with an essay she penned detailing a new ‘pioneering’ film technique, gives Come Swim an almost mythical aura. Stewart’s directing career is set to be as enigmatic as her alluring screen presence.


Flesh and Sound

Following The Revenant, the Oscar-winning epic starring Leonardo DiCaprio, director Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki are back with a short film – which is shot entirely in VR.

It’s been described as detailing the “intense and excruciating experience of a group of immigrants and refugees crossing the border between Mexico and the United States.” If The Revenant wasn’t grim enough, imagine being immersed even deeper into Iñárritu’s world… Although we certainly won’t be complaining about DiCaprio in 360°.

As of yet, VR hasn’t made a considerable impact in the film industry. Big name stars such as Jon Favreau have experimented with the medium and IMAX are planning to install VR movie theatres, yet many are sceptical about its capabilities. Björk made it work for music videos and, with Iñárritu’s credentials, Flesh and Sound may just prove the sceptics wrong.

Twin Peaks

Yes, TV has been screened at Cannes in the past – but nothing has been met with as much anticipation (or dread) as David Lynch’s Twin Peaks reboot.

In 1992, the cinematic prequel to the series, Fire Walk With Me, was, in classic Cannes fashion, drowned out by a cacophony of boos. Yet 25 years later, Lynch is set to heal the wounds inflicted by the Cannes audience and make a name for TV as a reputable art form. Hopefully, this reboot will be able to sit alongside his cinematic masterpieces, such as Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet.

Little is known about the plot – will Lynch resolve the second season’s unsolved mysteries, or take on a whole new narrative altogether? Either way, the show’s return is set to make headlines.


How to Talk to Girls at Parties

Author Neil Gaiman has provided the source material for a number of great films over the years, including the hallucinogenic Coraline – the creepy-ass animation that gave a generation of kids plasticine nightmares.

His short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties is heading to the big screen, with director John Cameron Mitchell at the helm. Set against the backdrop of 70s London, it sees an alien detach from her gang and hang out with two guys from the most dangerous place in the universe: Croydon.

Film festivals, Cannes in particular, have been resistant to giving sci-fi a look in for top prizes. Although How to Talk to Girls at Parties will probably do little to change this, the inclusion of a sci-fi romantic comedy is enough to put a smile on our faces.

The Meyerowitz Stories

Noah Baumbach is the master of mumblecore. His previous films, such as Frances Ha and While We’re Young, were light, effervescent, and profound looks at quarter and mid-life crises.

The Meyerowitz Stories is a surprising addition to both Baumbach’s oeuvre and the Cannes lineup for one significant reason: it stars Adam Sandler. If that’s any reason to put you off (which it shouldn’t be – Baumbach’s direction should leave us in good hands), don’t fret – this indie comedy also stars Ben Stiller and wonderful Emma Thompson.

For even more reason to be interested, Robbie Ryan, who was responsible for the cinematography on the gorgeous American Honey, and Randy Newman, who composed the score for the Toy Story series, are also on board.

The film is also backed by Netflix, which nods to a more progressive festival outlook more attuned to audiences' viewing habits. Expect to binge this one in the coming months.