The Venice Film Festival is the oldest film festival in the world and today still stands as a prestigious event where some of the most critically praised films of the year premier before their fall or winter theatrical run. The 2017 event, the 74th annual edition of the festival, took place from August 30 through September 9 with a slew of films from across the globe spanning numerous genres making their debut. Most of these films are more hidden gems than the mainstream projects presented at other competing festivals, and with one of those films, “Mother!”, making its debut this week in theaters I took a look at the Top 10 American Films From Venice 2017.
For this list I only included English language films and films that are considered a “United States” productions, seeing as I myself am based in the United States. Even if their primary country of origin is not the United States as long as it is considered in some part an “American” film I considered it for this list. Also, as per the nature of my blog, no short films, documentaries, or series/mini-series were considered.
For this list I didn’t really have any particular criteria in mind of the order other than which films stood out more as creative and potential unique projects as well as their success at the competition if they happened to win or be nominated for an award. Where possible I included trailer for these films as well, but some have yet to release any promotional material to YouTube so if you are interested keep your eyes out for trailers for the remaining films coming soon.
Which American film from Venice are you most excited about? Let me know in the comments below and enjoy the list and be sure to see “Mother!”, which (spoiler alert) is on this list somewhere, opening this weekend.
Debuting in the Il Cinema nel Giardino section of the competition, “Woodshock” is the directorial debut of sister team Kate and Laura Mulleavy. Starring Kirsten Dunst, the film sees a woman coping with a profound loss turning to a potent drug that alters her brain chemistry and creates a struggle between dealing with her emotional state and trippy results of the drug use. The film seems to be geared towards drawing attention to the abuse of drugs and substances to kill pain and other emotions in the human mind. While early critical reactions to the film have been less solid than many others on this list the movie promises to feature a timely theme, considering the opioid epidemic in the United States, and the fact that it’s being released through A24, a studio with a good eye for quality independent material, there’s a lot of promise with this project. If you’d like to see it for yourself “Woodshock” has an expected release date of September 22. A trailer for the film can be viewed below.
9. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
A film with origins in the United Kingdom and the United States “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is another film touching on a timely subject as a mother takes a stand against local police officers, utilizing a series of billboards, when her daughter is killed and police go months without finding any answers. The film won for best screenplay in competition and premiered at the closing of the London Film Festival in August before becoming a main competitor in Venice. It will make another run at the Toronto Film Festival. In today’s world, where police brutality and ignorance in some areas of the country has taken center stage, this film could be quite a controversial tale that seems to be geared towards bringing the controversy of police ignorance or inaction to a more widespread audience. It will also be interesting to see the reasoning behind the ignorance of the officers in the film, such as any potential connection to the murder, and how that plays out. “The Billboards of Ebbing, Missouri” is scheduled for a November 10 release. You can view the film’s trailer below.
8. “The Private Life of a Modern Woman”
Still very much an enigmatic film, this movie was shown outside of competition on September 3 in Venice and only after its showing did buzz start to come out about the film’s plot. The movie sees Sienna Miller as Vera, one half of a former couple engaged in a fight and after her character accidentally shoots the other half of the relationship during a scuffle she starts to question everything about who she is. While the shooting was incidental, and hell maybe even deserved judging by early descriptions of the male in the situation, the guilt still creeps into Vera’s head opening up all sorts of questions about life and everything she has worked to become, both good and bad. With a premise like that the film could be quite the eye opener. There is the potential that, like many good stories, this film could leave us asking important questions about ourselves. There’s still a lot about this film left in the dark, so much so that few websites outside of write-ups from Venice know much about the movie and a release date is still up in the air. There’s not even a trailer for me to show yet, although YouTube does contain some short clips from the film. When it does release to the public however, “The Private Life of a Modern Woman” could be a must-see exploring existentialism and identity through a pretty traumatic event.
7. “Brawl in Cell Block 99”
Screened out of competition, “Brawl in Cell Block 99” could very well be Vince Vaughn’s comeback story. Vaughn will play a boxer-turned-drug runner who finds himself in a battleground prison after a deal goes the wrong way. Vaughn will portray a ruthless, but seemingly good-hearted warrior who has to resort to some pretty violent measures to protect those he loves and in doing so it appears we will get possibly one of the most dramatically brutal films of 2017. “Brawl in Cell Block 99” is said to contain some massively graphic injuries as Vaughn’s character takes on opponent after opponent. The film received a standing ovation at Venice, giving high hopes that it handles its subject matter and the brutality with grace and dignity. Vaughn is well known for being a comedic actor, and it’s been a while since he’s been a part of anything credible. We’ll have to see for ourselves just how great his performance and the film are when “Brawl in Cell Block 99” hits theaters on limited release in October. For now all we have is a teaser which you can view below.
6. “Our Souls At Night”
Shown out of competition, this upcoming drama film will be a Netflix release on September 29 and saw its trailer released along with the September 1 showing in Venice. Staring and produced by Robert Redford, the film is based on the Kent Haruf novel of the same name and will pair Redford with Jane Fonda as the two screen icons play a pair of widowed neighbors who form and unexpected relationship. A romance drama, the movie has already received some pretty heavy critical compliments and was a project headed up by Netflix from the beginning opposed to many of their other efforts that see them purchasing film rights to already-made projects. Over the past year or so Netflix has provided some great…and some not so great film products and several more potential hits are in the pipeline for 2017. “Our Souls At Night” could be a big step forward for the streaming service to make the transition to full-fledged film studio. While critics already seem to love the film, we the viewers will get to see what its all about later this month. View the trailer for the movie below if you wish.
5. “First Reformed”
An interesting take on post-service life for a soldier, first reformed tackles a unique concept of service with Ethan Hawke playing a former military chaplain who had encouraged his son to join the forces, leading to his death. Tortured by this outcome, the father’s faith is challenged even more when he is tasked with counseling a young couple. According to early reviews of the film “First Reformed” will show a broken man of faith who has to deal with dark emotions of guilt, anger, and second guessing his own belief in God. Even for those of us who are not part of the faith-based community this film offers an intriguing premise that, if done correctly, could present a new perspective on life and the mental impact military service has on the man of faith. While it was heavily overshadowed by its competition, this Golden Lamb competitor could prove to be a surprisingly moving drama. Unfortunately we do not have an exact date of when this film could be released to the masses to see just how powerful this premise could be or a trailer that offers a peak into the story just yet.
This Golden Lamb contender, which will also be featured in Toronto’s film festival, had received a bit of promotion going into Venice with select spots before mostly limited release films. Scheduled to hit theaters on October 27, “Suburbicon” has become one of the more controversial films out of Venice this year that focuses on a suburban neighborhood rocked by a home invasion that is more than what it seems. With a script by the Coen brothers, George Clooney directing, and Matt Damon starring, there are a lot of big names attached to the movie, but most of the talk has involved its take on race as the movie is, apparently, a not-so-subtle take on American white privilege. Race relations is not a new topic for 2017. Horror hit “Get Out” and the historical drama “Detroit” both tackled the issue with more sympathy towards the abused black characters in the films, but what makes “Suburbicon” controversial is that it will apparently include references and themes involving how whites view black neighbors when an act of violence rocks their town. How credible are the complaints? Well we’ll just have to see. We only have to wait about a month to get a look at the film for ourselves, but we do have the trailer below to turn too even though, judging by early takes on the film, the trailer doesn’t quite show us everything going on behind the scenes.
The second Matt Damon-led film on this list (and in a row) this film offers, for me personally, one of the most unique and coolest ideas out of Venice this year. A competitor for the Golden Lamb, this science fiction comedy finds a family deciding to embrace a new solution to overpopulation, the option to shrink down to 5 inches tall and become part of a smaller society where resources would be more abundant. The decision leads to life-changing events as they literally downsize their lives in hopes for a better tomorrow. The film will see modern comedy great Kristen Wiig team up with Matt Damon as a husband and wife who lead family through the transition. According to early reviews of the film, the project tackles a wide array of social issues in a tightly knit package, which makes sense given the already intriguing concept of solving overpopulation its summary presents. The reviews also promise that this attempt at happiness and a better life doesn’t pan out for the couple. There’s a lot to be excited about from this movie’s unique premise alone and the possibilities are endless in terms of the consequences or potential gains that downsizing humanity could bring. Of all the films present on this list, this is the one I’m probably most interested in seeing for myself just to see how this whole adventure plays out, for better or worse. Downsizing is expected to be a holiday season release with a current release date of December 22. A short trailer is available for viewing below.
This is the first Venice film we will get to see for ourselves as “Mother!” hits theaters this weekend. Described as a psychological horror film, this movie was a main competitor and one of the most publicly talked about movies at Venice being considered a very “ambitious” project. Led by director Darren Aronofsky, who penned and directed a previous Golden Lamb winner “The Wrestler”, the film stars Aronofsky’s girlfriend Jennifer Lawrence, who he met on set, in her first on-screen appearance since “Passengers” in late 2016 as a wife whose married life is turned upside down by a visit and stay of another mysterious older couple in her home. Promising aspects of psychological and supernatural horror, this film has seen a pretty heavy advertising campaign over the past few months including recently receiving a unique advertisement before “It” informing viewers that in one week another potential horror hit would be coming their way. While it didn’t walk away with the top award, “Mother!” is hoping to be the first big hit from the 2017 competition at the box office. You can look for my review of the film this weekend in fact, but first check out the trailer below.
1.The Shape of Water
This was always going to be high on this list, but “The Shape of Water” takes the top spot primarily for one HUGE reason, it won the Golden Lamb making it the 8th United States involved film to win the honor and the 6th film since 2000 out of the U.S. to earn the award. “The Shape of Water” has reportedly been a passion project for director Guillermo Del Toro and depicts the story of a mute woman who forms a bond with a strange sea creature in captivity at a government facility. Early trailers for the film received immediate praise from critics and fans who have shown significant interest in watching this story play out. It seems that anticipation is justified thanks to the movie being named the best film in competition in Venice. “The Shape of Water” currently has an astounding 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, although many critics won’t get the chance to have their say on the film until it reaches other competitions or is released to the public on December 8. Many are calling it the best film by the director since the much-celebrated “Pan’s Labyrinth” and considering the massive following that film has it wouldn’t be too much of a shock if “The Shape of Water” became a holiday season dominating force. I’ll be curious to see if the movie continues it’s winning ways in Toronto and beyond. You can view the trailer for the film below.