41st São Paulo Int'l Film Festival (2017)

by massiasmatheus-520-835298 | created - 6 months ago | updated - 5 months ago | Public

This is a somewhat impressionistic ranking of the films I've watched at the 41st São Paulo Int'l Film Festival (41ª Mostra Internacional de Cinema). They are listed from best to worst, some of them have already been included in my Top 20 of the year.

Note 1: four films were added, which I watched at Mostra's "repescagem," that took place in the following week: Adriana's Pact, A Taxi Driver, The Divine Order, and O Beijo no Asfalto.

Note 2: O Beijo no Asfalto, directed by Brazilian actor Murilo Benício is actually his directorial debut. The film is the third Brazilian filmic adaptation of Nelson Rodrigues's play of the same name. Had it been listed on IMDb, the film would have been placed at second, right after The Square. Most probably the best Brazilian film I've seen this year.

A quick thread on Twitter: https://goo.gl/2quecK [Portuguese only] - The descriptions below are the translated tweets, sort of.

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1. The Square (2017)

R | 151 min | Comedy, Drama

73 Metascore

A prestigious Stockholm museum's chief art curator finds himself in times of both professional and personal crisis as he attempts to set up a controversial new exhibit.

Director: Ruben Östlund | Stars: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary

Votes: 31,754 | Gross: $1.50M

Ruben Östlund and the comedy of awkwardness (it reminded me of Toni Erdmann sometimes, a tendency, maybe?). A great auteur for the future. The Square is as magnificent as Force Majeure. Better, actually. Two notes: first, it is the best Palme d'Or of the decade, hands down and hats off; second, a personal one, Sweden is a country so far and so different from Brazil but it is quite striking the amount of themes presented that are common to both, especially in these dark recent times. A must-see.

2. Faces Places (2017)

PG | 89 min | Documentary

95 Metascore

Director Agnes Varda and photographer/muralist J.R. journey through rural France and form an unlikely friendship.

Directors: JR, Agnès Varda | Stars: Jean-Paul Beaujon, Amaury Bossy, Yves Boulen, Jeannine Carpentier

Votes: 4,609 | Gross: $0.95M

It reminded me of Jacques Rancière's discussion on art and who is able to enjoy it. Inventiveness, remembrance, and great humor. Agnès Varda, Nouvelle Vague queen and one of the greatest French filmmakers ever; JR, a quite talented contemporary artist.

3. Scary Mother (2017)

107 min | Drama

A 50-year-old housewife, Manana, struggles with her dilemma - she has to choose between her family life and her passion, writing, which she had repressed for years - she decides to follow ... See full summary »

Director: Ana Urushadze | Stars: Nato Murvanidze, Dimitri Tatishvili, Ramaz Ioseliani, Avtandil Makharadze

Votes: 291

It is less about the mishaps of being a writer (a woman writer, mind you) than the hindrances of being a woman, wife and mother. Superb mise-en-scène and great acting. I'm looking forward to watch Ana Urushadze's next films.

4. 1945 (2017)

91 min | Drama

75 Metascore

12 August 1945, 11 AM. Two mysterious strangers dressed in black appear at the railway station of a Hungarian village. Within a few hours, everything changes.

Director: Ferenc Török | Stars: Péter Rudolf, Bence Tasnádi, Tamás Szabó Kimmel, Dóra Sztarenki

Votes: 1,191 | Gross: $0.68M

Suspense on tenterhooks with melodic cross-cutting. Powerful and beautiful mise-en-scène of a historical drama.

5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

R | 115 min | Crime, Drama

88 Metascore

A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter's murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

Director: Martin McDonagh | Stars: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones

Votes: 234,581 | Gross: $54.51M

Little did I know it would be an almost sold out screening. Definitely one of the best comedies of the year. It tackles a serious issue with acerbic humor. Frances McDormand is splendid. As Chico Fireman commented on his Twitter: "it renovated my faith on American indie."

6. Lucky (2017)

Not Rated | 88 min | Comedy, Drama

79 Metascore

The spiritual journey of a ninety-year-old atheist.

Director: John Carroll Lynch | Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr.

Votes: 8,008 | Gross: $0.96M

"Realism is a thing." If viewers know a bit about Harry Dean Stanton's life, they'll get this right away. A reflection on old age and death seasoned with sagacious humor and with one of the best actors in movie history. Rest in peace, Harry Dean.

7. Yonlu (2017)

88 min | Drama

YONLU is a fiction film based on the real story of a 16 year-old boy who, aided by the internet, won over the world with his talent for music and art. Fluent in five languages, YONLU had a ... See full summary »

Director: Hique Montanari | Stars: Thalles Cabral, Nélson Diniz, Douglas Florence, Lorena Lorenzo

Votes: 13

Exquisite camerawork and formidable is the way with which the film manipulates the space and the unlikelihood. The best Brazilian film I saw at the festival. It is also, for me, a chance to know Yonlu's music better.

8. Makala (2017)

96 min | Documentary

64 Metascore

Trials tribulation dreams and aspirations of a young farmer earning a living making and selling charcoal in Congo.

Director: Emmanuel Gras | Stars: Kabwita Kasongo, Lydie Kasongo

Votes: 339

This is one of the best documentaries seen at the Mostra. Aesthetics of hunger with naturalistic tones highlighting neorealistic values.

9. Skyggenes dal (2017)

TV-14 | 91 min | Drama, Mystery

In this mystery drama we follow Aslak (6) in a quest for answers about recent tragic events. Valley of Shadows is a film in the tradition of the Scandinavian Gothic.

Director: Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen | Stars: Adam Ekeli, Kathrine Fagerland, Jørgen Langhelle, Jone Hope Larsen

Votes: 290

Suspense ingredients that can put this film in good lists of folk horror. This is the first feature by Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen and I think that the guy has a good eye for composition.

10. Good Manners (2017)

135 min | Fantasy, Horror

Clara, a lonely nurse from the outskirts of São Paulo, is hired by mysterious and wealthy Ana as the nanny for her unborn child. The two women develop a strong bond, but a fateful night changes their plans.

Directors: Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas | Stars: Isabél Zuaa, Marjorie Estiano, Miguel Lobo, Cida Moreira

Votes: 423

There is less atmospheric suspense than Hard Labor, but the result is good anyway. However ludicrous the premise is, the film works quite well, especially when it combines genres. Would Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra be the new Daniela Thomas and Walter Salles? Well, they are completely different, but Rojas & Dutra took the podium.

11. Loveless (2017)

R | 127 min | Drama

86 Metascore

A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments.

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev | Stars: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov, Marina Vasileva

Votes: 16,557 | Gross: $0.57M

It is neither a masterpiece as The Return, nor as great as Leviathan. It is, nevertheless, a grand drama by Zvyagintsev.

12. Love Me Not (2017)

99 min | Drama

A couple hires a young migrant to be their surrogate mother and moves her to their beautiful villa. While the man is away for work, the woman and the girl start to bond and enjoy the ... See full summary »

Director: Alexandros Avranas | Stars: Eleni Roussinou, Christos Loulis

Votes: 207

Alexandros Avranas delivers one more great film. It is not as jaw-dropping as Miss Violence, but it is on the radar. Kudos for the shot symmetries and the dangerous cobweb in which the characters are inscribed.

13. La Telenovela Errante (2017)

80 min | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy

The film revolves around the concept of soap opera. Its structure is based on the assumption that Chilean reality does not exist, but rather is an ensemble of soap operas.

Directors: Raoul Ruiz, Valeria Sarmiento | Stars: Luis Alarcón, Patricia Rivadeneira, Francisco Reyes, Consuelo Castillo

Votes: 74

Metalanguage, when creative, can be a comic ace. Raúl Ruiz's latest is Monty Pythonesque but it is theoretically tasty.

14. Jusqu'à la garde (2017)

93 min | Drama

84 Metascore

A broken marriage leads to a bitter custody battle with an embattled son at the centre.

Director: Xavier Legrand | Stars: Léa Drucker, Denis Ménochet, Thomas Gioria, Mathilde Auneveux

Votes: 1,910

When the French are not shooting pathetic comedies, they make great parental dramas. I loved the resolution à la The Shining.

15. Taeksi woonjunsa (2017)

Not Rated | 137 min | Action, Drama, History

69 Metascore

A widowed father and taxi driver who drives a German reporter from Seoul to Gwangju to cover the 1980 uprising, soon finds himself regretting his decision after being caught in the violence around him.

Director: Hun Jang | Stars: Kang-ho Song, Thomas Kretschmann, Hae-jin Yoo, Jun-yeol Ryu

Votes: 5,995 | Gross: $1.53M

It works quite well with some genres -- comedy, drama, and action -- and, above all, it questions alienation and manipulation by information. A Taxi Driver is South Korea's selection for foreign-language category at the Oscars.

16. Vazante (2017)

116 min | Adventure, Drama

68 Metascore

Brazil 1821. A rich cattle herder finds out that his wife dies in labor. Forced to live in the property with numerous African slaves, he marries his wife's niece. But he returns to droving, leaving his wife behind alone with the slaves.

Director: Daniela Thomas | Stars: Adriano Carvalho, Luana Nastas, Sandra Corveloni, Juliana Carneiro da Cunha

Votes: 239 | Gross: $0.02M

Just like the Brazilian movie Joaquim, Vazante displays beautiful shots; however, its narrative lacks energy. Plus, I think I was expecting a colonial critique as its undertaking.

17. Django (2017)

PG-13 | 117 min | Biography, Drama, Music

49 Metascore

The story of Django Reinhardt, famous guitarist and composer, and his flight from German-occupied Paris in 1943.

Director: Etienne Comar | Stars: Reda Kateb, Cécile de France, Bea Palya, Bimbam Merstein

Votes: 845 | Gross: $0.05M

A good biopic about one of the greatest jazz musicians. Reda Kateb kicks ass playing Django.

Impressive colorization about Marcelo D2 and Skunk friendship and the genesis of Planet Hemp. Also, the film tackles over racism, police brutality, AIDS, abortion, and MACONHA.

19. 1917 - Der wahre Oktober (2017)

90 min | Documentary, Animation, Biography

The Russian revolutionary year narrated from the point of view of the involved artists.

Director: Katrin Rothe | Stars: Maximilian Brauer, Inka Friedrich, Arne Fuhrmann, Klemens Fuhrmann

Votes: 17

A study of historiographic reconstruction from a very good and creative animation, even though it is withered by the orality of history.

20. L'amant d'un jour (2017)

Not Rated | 76 min | Drama

69 Metascore

A young woman returns home after the breakdown of a relationship to discover her father is dating a woman her age.

Director: Philippe Garrel | Stars: Éric Caravaca, Esther Garrel, Louise Chevillotte, Paul Toucang

Votes: 1,071

Less is more and sometimes Philippe Garrel gets things right. Simple is the way to tell and to show and the black and white photography is charming as it can be.

21. Nico, 1988 (2017)

93 min | Biography, Drama, Music

68 Metascore

The last year of singer Nico's life, as she tours and grapples with addiction and personal demons.

Director: Susanna Nicchiarelli | Stars: Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair, Anamaria Marinca, Sandor Funtek

Votes: 403

A claustrophobic aspect ratio that reflects part of the distress of the singer, the other part is left to be desired. For all it's worth, it is a good film.

22. 24 Frames (2017)

114 min | Drama

76 Metascore

24 Frames is an experimental project made by filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami in the last three years of his life. It is a collection of 24 short four-and-a-half minute films inspired by still images, including paintings and photographs.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Votes: 295 | Gross: $0.03M

Kiarostami aims at theory but his SHOTS backfire. There is a lot to say about his latest when you have in mind Jacques Aumont's L'oeil interminable: cinéma et peinture. I, for one, stick to Godard (and Aumont, accordingly...): "film begins with Griffith and ends with Kiarostami," and while Godard also claims that Lumière was the last impressionist painter, if only he saw 24 Frames, he would say that Kiarostami took Lumière's status.

23. El Pacto de Adriana (2017)

96 min | Documentary

An astonishing documentary about a woman who is looking about her aunt past during Pinochet's period in Chile.

Director: Lissette Orozco | Stars: Adriana Rivas, Lissette Orozco

Votes: 85

The film won Mostra's top prize, the best film, according to the jury, in the New Directors Competition. Good movie, but I saw better ones, especially O Beijo no Asfalto and Scary Mother. El Pacto de Adriana's highlight is definitely its personal touch.

24. Soviet Hippies (2017)

75 min | Documentary

The hippie movement that captivated hundreds of thousands of young people in the West had a profound impact on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Director: Terje Toomistu

Votes: 41

Intriguing documentary about an intriguing culture. Besides the footage and interviews, the animations are perhaps the highlights of the film.

25. Geu-hu (2017)

92 min | Drama, Romance

72 Metascore

The married Bongwan leaves home in the dark morning and sets off to work. The memories of the woman who left weigh down on him. That day Bongwan's wife finds a love note, bursts into the office, and mistakes Areum for the woman who left.

Director: Sang-soo Hong | Stars: Yunhee Cho, Ki Joabang, Min-hee Kim, Sae-byeok Kim

Votes: 982 | Gross: $0.01M

Hong Sang-soo in a nutshell: if you've seen one, you've seen them all. Minimalist mise-en-scène, long takes, drunk people, and betrayal.

26. 9 doigts (2017)

99 min | Adventure, Drama

Magloire starts running with no luggage and no future until he meets a dying man from whom he inherits a fortune. Subsequently, Magloire is chased by a gang and becomes not only their hostage, but also their accomplice.

Director: F.J. Ossang | Stars: Paul Hamy, Damien Bonnard, Pascal Greggory, Gaspard Ulliel

Votes: 117

A concoction of Alphaville and Stalker, for its black and white opulence and mysterious narrative. A peculiar film, but it does not get you anywhere.

27. Gabriel e a Montanha (2017)

131 min | Drama

63 Metascore

Before entering a prestigious American university, Gabriel Buchmann decided to travel the world for one year, his backpack full of dreams. After ten months on the road, he arrived in Kenya ... See full summary »

Director: Fellipe Barbosa | Stars: João Pedro Zappa, Caroline Abras, Alex Alembe, Rashidi Athuman

Votes: 429

A film that a lot of people will probably like. Is it any good? It is, kind of. It could have been great if its director was good.

28. Cartas para um ladrão de livros (2018)

96 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

Laéssio Rodrigues is considered the greatest thief of rare books in Brazil. Over the last five years, this documentary has followed his trajectory, which includes four imprisonments. It is ... See full summary »

Directors: Carlos Juliano Barros, Caio Cavechini

Votes: 6

The charisma and great life story of the subject is impaired by the telejournalistic tone taken. I wish I could have a beer with Laéssio, tho.

29. Die göttliche Ordnung (2017)

96 min | Comedy, Drama

67 Metascore

In 1971, a young housewife organizes the women of her town to petition for the right to vote.

Director: Petra Biondina Volpe | Stars: Marie Leuenberger, Maximilian Simonischek, Rachel Braunschweig, Sibylle Brunner

Votes: 1,119 | Gross: $0.08M

Despite its thematic relevance, the film displays the same formal conventionality as, for instance, Suffragette (2015). The Divine Order is Switzerland's selection for foreign-language category at the Oscars.

30. Zama (2017)

Unrated | 115 min | Drama

88 Metascore

Based on the novel by Antonio Di Benedetto written in 1956, on Don Diego de Zama, a Spanish officer of the seventeenth century settled in Asunción, who awaits his transfer to Buenos Aires.

Director: Lucrecia Martel | Stars: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Lola Dueñas, Matheus Nachtergaele, Juan Minujín

Votes: 1,242 | Gross: $0.17M

After nine years, Lucrécia Martel releases an uninteresting film that is not bad at all, but I don't believe that Argentina didn't have a better movie to submit to the Oscars.

31. A Concrete Cinema (2017)

78 min | Documentary

Why would a gaunt small-town bricklayer, poor and ill, start a Quixote-like adventure and build a cinema theater on top of his own house, with no help and by himself?

Director: Luz Ruciello

Votes: 9

A simple but lovely documentary about an elderly Argentinian cinephile who built his own cinema.

32. The Young Karl Marx (2017)

Not Rated | 118 min | Biography, Drama, History

63 Metascore

The early years of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Jenny Marx, between Paris, Brussels and London.

Director: Raoul Peck | Stars: August Diehl, Stefan Konarske, Vicky Krieps, Olivier Gourmet

Votes: 2,828 | Gross: $0.13M

Just like almost all biopics, it follows a dull normativity, especially in its editing. Unfortunately, it came as a disappointment: first, because I admire Raoul Peck as a director; second, because Pascal Bonitzer is supposedly a good screenwriter; third, because Karl Marx deserved a good film, really.

33. Una questione privata (2017)

84 min | Drama, Romance, War

An Italian partisan torn between the resistance movement and his obsession with a young woman during World War II.

Directors: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani | Stars: Luca Marinelli, Lorenzo Richelmy, Valentina Bellè, Francesca Agostini

Votes: 180

Another war movie that relies on love and friendship dilemma that has nothing to add. I wish I did, but I don't care if it is a Taviani Brothers film.

34. Bio (2017)


The film tells the story of a man who was born in 1959 and died in 2070, told by people who knew him and somehow contributed to his trajectory.

Director: Carlos Gerbase | Stars: Maria Fernanda Cândido, Sheron Menezzes, Maitê Proença, Marco Ricca

Votes: 11

Needless to say one of the worst films of the year. Unfortunately, it is a Brazilian one. It breaks my heart. Repetitive structure of a silly screenplay with a mediocre direction. It is a shame (and a joke) that the film won a couple of prizes at Gramado.

35. Caniba (2017)

90 min | Documentary

Caniba is a film that reflects on the discomforting significance of cannibalistic desire in human existence through the prism of one Japanese man, Issei Sagawa, and his mysterious relationship with his brother, Jun Sagawa.

Directors: Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel | Star: Issei Sagawa

Votes: 217

Close-ups and lengthy shots where the subject autoanalyzes himself. Monotonous and unstructured. Later, I found out that the filmmakers were the duo Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel, who ~directed~ Leviathan, the documentary. I'm growing suspicious about these two arthouse wannabees.