The start of each new year brings something of a reset for the film industry with it. The most prestigious films have already arrived with the holidays, and even though the laurels are still being given out, audiences everywhere are preparing themselves for the hope of what exciting new things might lie ahead. And for nearly 40 years, the Sundance Film Festival has been part of that process. Thanks to Robert Redford and the Sundance Institute, the Festival has become a place for new filmmakers to emerge, and for those on the cusp of mainstream success to break through.
2017’s lineup is as rife with promise as any, from exciting new voices to reputable auteurs to a couple of familiar musicians making their debuts in a new medium. Staring this Friday, Consequence of Sound will be in Park City, Utah with rolling coverage of the festivities. In the meantime, allow us to make just a few recommendations for a handful of the films that have us the most excited as we prepare to head west for one of the year’s biggest events in cinema. The best part? We still won’t know which movies will take over the early discussion in 2017 until we get there.
Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison) made his first overtures into filmmaking last year with the short Royal, and now Kuso will see the paradigm-busting electronic artist working at the feature-length level. Kuso is described as a “mind-altering freakshow” by Sundance itself, so we can only imagine what lies in wait with Ellison’s bizarre story about the aftermath of an L.A. earthquake. (We think.) With appearances from Tim Heidecker and Hannibal Buress in store, Kuso seems like the kind of thing that Adult Swim might slip into the programming during billed infomercial hours just to keep the most ambitious viewers on their toes. We can only imagine what FlyLo has up his sleeves.
Over the past two years, Taylor Sheridan put himself on the map as one of modern cinema’s most interesting screenwriters, between the paranoid tension of Sicario and the observant, fatalistic social commentary of Hell or High Water. At Sundance, Sheridan will make his directorial debut with Wind River, the story of a murder investigation centered around a federal wildlife agent (Jeremy Renner) who discovers a dead body on the titular Native American reservation in Wyoming, and the FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who hires him as a tracker through unforgiving territory. If Sheridan’s previous work is any indication, the grit and isolation will put him right at home.
From Creepshow to the first couple V/H/S installments, everybody loves a good horror anthology. XX, premiering at this year’s festival, will feature four different short horror films by an impressive lineup of female filmmakers: The Invitation‘s Karyn Kusama, Southbound director Roxanne Benjamin, Jovanka Vuckovic, and in her debut as a filmmaker, St. Vincent (nee Annie Clark). We already talked about XX as one of our most anticipated films for 2017, and with names like those, we’re not even concerned that little is known about any of the shorts so far. When it comes to anthology filmmaking, isn’t the blindside part of the fun? In any case, it’ll be the first look for many at XX ahead of its March release.
Call Me By Your Name
Last year, A Bigger Splash continued to cement Luca Guadagnino as a filmmaker of note after his 2009 breakthrough I Am Love. While the director’s examinations of pain amidst unimaginable affluence might not be for everybody, Guadagnino explores the rituals and downfalls of the privileged with rare skill, and Call Me By Your Name looks to add another shade to the director’s oevure. Call Me sees the director exploring yet another version of burgeoning desire; in this case, it involves a young professor’s son (Timothee Chalamet) and the American graduate student (Armie Hammer) who joins them in Italy circa 1983 to help with the family work. In Guadagnino’s hands, and a Sufjan Stevens soundtrack underscoring the proceedings, this will likely be as indulgent a film as this year’s festival could offer, in only the best ways.
A Ghost Story
David Lowery has been a busy man of late. Right after his update of Pete’s Dragon won a surprisingly high level of acclaim at the very end of last summer, it was announced that his next feature would star Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara, and also that it would premiere at Sundance. A Ghost Story has already been picked up for distribution by A24 in advance of its Park City premiere, and Lowery’s story of a man who dies and remains on Earth as a “ghost” of sorts looks to take an impressionistic approach to the undead and the afterlife. Grace and delicacy have proven to be Lowery’s great strengths as a filmmaker, and A Ghost Story looks to see him work even further in the direction of the abstract with those tools. Don’t be surprised if this makes a good bit of noise before the festival is over.