"I don't choose the projects. I think the projects choose me." At the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, legendary Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike premiered his 100th film. At least, that's what the marketing folks were telling us. When I asked him specifically about this, he gave me a different answer. Nonetheless, Miike is indeed a "legendary" filmmaker. Even at the age of 56, he still keeps making movies non-stop, sometimes two or three in a year. His latest film is titled Blade of the Immortal (or Mugen no jûnin in Japanese), an adaptation of a manga series about a samurai cursed with immortality who takes on a job of protecting a girl. He's known for ultra-violent horror, epic samurai films, and the occasional drama. It was an honor to speak with him for what is the only interview he did with a website from America while at Cannes this year.
What are the best films out of this year's Cannes Film Festival? Which ones should you be taking an interest in? What films should be a priority for you to see? After 12 days at the 70th Cannes Film Festival, after 30 screenings, it's time to present my 2017 list of my Top 5 Favorite Films. This was my 8th time back to this festival, and I love being there in the middle of all, committing fully to seeing as many films as I can. These five below are the ones that I adore, that connected with me emotionally or intellectually, and I hope everyone plans to check them out when they arrive in their neighborhood. They are worth the wait. There were many great films this year, and this is my final recap of the fest (with my list of all the films at the end).
What can I say about the Cannes Film Festival that I haven't already said so many times before? I love this film festival, and no matter what, I keep going back because I can't help it. I am drawn there. Even if I don't love every single film, even if I miss a few of the good ones, even if I feel exhausted, I'm happy to be there. Maybe it's the magic of the Côte d'Azur. The sun, the water, the fresh air, fresh bread every morning, rosé wine every night, delicious food. This must be the recipe for a great life: friends and films in France. This festival has been going for 70 years and I'm sure many others know this recipe. It surely worked for me. The festival may be over, but the memories will last, and the films will begin their march all over the world - to other festivals, eventually to your local cinema, and of course on your TV (and mobile phone) in due time.
What a year! Winners of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival awards, including the coveted Palme d'Or, were revealed at a glamorous ceremony in Cannes featuring Monica Bellucci as the host. The big winner of Palme d'Or is Swedish director Ruben Östlund (seen screaming above) with his new film The Square, which makes fun of the art world and brilliantly criticizes modern society. In addition, Nicole Kidman received a special 70th Anniversary award for her many outstanding contributions to cinema over the years, including appearing in 3 films at this year's festival: The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Beguiled, and How to Talk to Girls at Parties (as well as "Top of the Lake: China Girl"). Lynne Ramsay's fantastic You Were Never Really Here also picked up two awards, including Best Actor. No one knew what to expect, but these winners rule.
This is what happens when there isn't a single character worth caring about in a film - it's not compelling. Good Time is the latest film from the Safdie Brothers, also known as Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, of the films Heaven Knows What and Daddy Longlegs previously. Set in contemporary New York City, this ultra-stylish crime thriller stars Robert Pattinson as a careless wannabe criminal known as Connie Nikas. Pattinson is pretty much the only reason this is worth watching, as he's so incredibly good in this film, and does his best to make his unlikable character likable. But it doesn't overcome that giant flaw, and although it's somewhat interesting to see the story play out, there's just nothing else that makes this film memorable.
Cannes saved the best for last. Lynne Ramsay's new film You Were Never Really Here was the very last competition film to premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Rumor is that this played last because she was finishing it within the last week and just barely got it ready in time for the festival. The good news is that this film is pretty much perfect as is, and I hope she doesn't change too much after the festival, because I really adore it. I went to see it twice during the festival because it's lean and mean and pretty much perfect, there's nothing she can cut from it, and everything about it is fantastic. Masterful filmmaking telling a story of a brutal, broken man who has a big heart. I wasn't expecting this film to be so damn good, but it really is.
Challenge accepted. What kind of world would we live in if there were not any art, or books, or discussions that made us question our own beliefs. This kind of intelligent provocation is how we grow, and learn, and progress, and step forward together as people from different countries and different cultures all over the world. Over the last few days at the Cannes Film Festival, cinephiles and critics have been treated to a few unique films that challenge the audience. These are the kind of films that are designed to deliberately challenge viewers, to make them feel uncomfortable, or upset, or angry, or frustrated. Great artists know that it's possible to create work that challenges us in just the right ways, that makes us think and question ourselves as a process of learning, and critiquing who we are. And it's refreshing to come across these films.
What an exhilarating experience. Tangerine director Sean Baker has premiered his latest film, titled The Florida Project, at the Cannes Film Festival and it's truly worthy of the standing ovation it received. It contains some of the best performances I've seen on screen this year, from very young kids and the talented Willem Dafoe, with a drifting story about childhood and poverty in modern America. The title The Florida Project refers to Disney's domain in Orlando. When Disney first started buying up land and planning Disney World, they referred to it as "The Florida Project." The film is about the many "hidden homeless" living near Disney, and follows a wily group of very young kids living in motels who run around all day causing trouble.
The master provocateur returns again and he's definitely going to rattle some cages with this film, there's no doubt about it. Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has unveiled his latest film at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, titled The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and it's some seriously creepy, unsettling stuff. I don't want to give away too much, but the film is a Kubrickian psychological horror about a family which plays out in the most chilling, disturbing way. It will get under your skin, it will make you feel icky, it will upset you, and test your limits. Some people are going to hate this film, just hate it, while others are going to love it, and laugh with it, and enjoy every second of it. But that's the skill of a great filmmaker - making you feel things that maybe you don't want to feel, and challenging you to either accept or reject the ideas they're presenting.
Sometimes there's a film that is so delightful, so cheerful, full of so much optimism and happiness and joy, that it completely changes your mood. You can be upset, or tired, or whatever, and by the end of this film you're so happy. Nothing will take that happiness away. Everything you just saw was perfect and wonderful. That's how I felt with this film at the Cannes Film Festival, called Visages, Villages, which translates to Faces, Places in English. The film is a documentary made by 88-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda and the 34-year-old French photographer known as "JR". They not only directed it, but it's about their unlikely friendship and collaboration on a road trip around France taking photos of people they meet along the way.
Oh my goodness, I love Ruben Östlund. He's quickly becoming one of my favorite filmmakers. Not only for the way he shoots his films – the iconic cinematography, the music used throughout, the way he blocks his scenes – but also the way he tells such radical, hilarious, brutally honest stories about our society (and all the problems with it). I flipped for his last film Force Majeure, which I also caught at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014. Östlund's latest feature film is a brilliant satire called The Square, set around a modern art museum in Stockholm, Sweden. The film mocks not only modern art and the entire art world, but pretty much everything else in society, including our perceived notions of helpfulness, free speech, shameless publicity tactics, the internet and "going viral", and our seemingly good intentions as people in this world.
I've never seen anything like this film before, and we may never see anything like it again. Okja is the latest feature from Korean writer/director Bong Joon Ho, and it's another completely original story from his brilliant mind. Okja is a fascinating mix of many different things: it's anti-capitalism, anti-meat, yet it's also an animal rescue adventure film. It's a satire, yet also a thriller; it's playful, it's weird, but lovable. At the center of it all is the story of a young Korean girl named Mija whose best friend is a big, mutant "super pig" that a corporation gave her uncle to raise for a competition. When they come to take it, she runs off to try and find and bring her home. If this film doesn't make you a vegetarian by the end, I don't know what will.