Below is a strictly personal, unapologetically idiosyncratic list of the twenty films I'm most looking forward to in 2018 and which have so far yet to be seen by any paying audiences. Among those seriously considered but ultimately excluded on the basis that they're more likely to be ready next year are Ad Astra (James Gray), Blessed Virgin (Paul Verhoeven), The Fire Next Time (Mati Diop), Late Spring (Michelangelo Frammartino), the particularly-dynamite-on-paper Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello), Mektoub, My Love: Canto Due (Abdellatif Kechiche) and Motorboats (Yuri Ancarani). I also reluctantly discarded a couple of highly tantalising projects whose status, at the time of writing, was frustratingly unclear, namely Tijuana Bible (Jean-Charles Hue) and the worryingly long-in-gestation You Can't Win (Robinson Devor). Omitted because they're made primarily for TV rather than cinemas: Martin Scorsese's The Irishman (Netflix) and Bruno Dumont's Coincoin and the Extra-Humans (Arté). Finally, Joanna Hogg's The Souvenir: Part I was crossed off because of my personal (albeit marginal) involvement in the making of the picture. The following narrowly failed to make the cut—but I'm nevertheless somewhat "stoked" for them all: The Beach Bum (Harmony Korine), The Daughters of Fire (Pedro Costa), Freakshift (Ben Wheatley), Gomera (Corneliu Porumboiu), High Life (Claire Denis), Loro (Paolo Sorrentino), Psychokinesis (Yeon Sang-ho), Roma (Alfonso Cuarón), Suspiria (Luca Guadagnino), White Boy Rick (Yann Demange), Who Will Sing to You? (Carlos Vermut) and the new (as-yet-untitled) Joel Potrykus joint.
1. Peterloo (Mike Leigh, UK)
Sounds like an ideal antidote to the royal wedding: Leigh's follow-up to Mr. Turner is a big-canvas, politically-charged historical epic chronicling how a Manchester protest for electoral reform in 1819 was busted up by the military representatives of King George III. More than a dozen deaths and over 400 serious injuries resulted, in a catastrophe which yielded profound consequences for British democracy. "The universal significance of this historic event becomes ever more relevant in our own turbulent times," Salford-born Leigh recently observed.
2. Transit (Christian Petzold, Germany/France)
Four years after Phoenix, Germany's (Europe's?) greatest living writer-director adapts Anna Seghers' classic 1944 novel ("an existential, political, literary thriller that explores the agonies of boredom, the vitality of storytelling, and the plight of the exile.") Although set in 1942 Marseille, the picture will apparently make no concession to period detail and thus directly transfer Seghers' refugee themes to present-day realities. An unusually "experimental" touch from Petzold, here adapting one of his longtime collaborator Harun Farocki's favorite books.
3. 3000 Killed (William E. Jones, USA)
A multi-disciplinary practitioner whose work rambunctiously straddles documentary and experimental approaches to probe hidden and marginalized histories, Jones in 2014 delivered the sublime found-footage short Psychic Driving. Now he (silently) showcases selections from a vast archive of rejected monochrome photographs from the Historical Section of the USA's Farm Security Administration compiled between 1935 and 1939 (including work by Walker Evans)—which were "killed" by having holes punched through their 35mm negatives.
4. Radegund (Terrence Malick, USA/Germany)
Malick wisely moves on from the Lubezki-shot, semi-scripted ruminations of his last four pictures to tackle a historical subject for the first time since 2005's The New World. Working with a German-speaking cast (including August Diehl, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jürgen Prochnow and Bruno Ganz), the Heidegger scholar relates the story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who was executed by the Nazis after refusing conscription during World War II.
5. Under the Silver Lake (David Robert Mitchell, USA)
The It Follows team of Mitchell (writer-director), Mike Gioulakis (cinematographer) and 'Disasterpeace' (i.e. Richard Vreeland, composer) reunite for a promisingly lurid-sounding, noir-inflected Los Angeles-set tale of murder, dead hounds and underground music. With Andrew Garfield, Topher Grace and American Honey breakout Riley Keough. Plot details: top secret.
6. Second Time Around [Segunda Vez] (Dora García, Belgium)
García's The Joycean Society (2013) is one of the decade's documentary high-water marks, a fly-on-the-wall visit to a Finnegans Wake reading-group that amuses and informs in equal measure. Her latest enterprise is the feature-length segment of an ongoing cross-media project inspired by the life and work of Argentinian author, Lacanian psychoanalyst and "happenista"Oscar Masotta (1930-1979).
7. In Fabric (Peter Strickland, UK)
After Euro-hopping with Katalin Varga, Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy, Reading-born writer-director Strickland finally makes a film set in his native Blighty. A cracking cast (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Hayley Squires, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Julian Barratt, Gwendoline Christie) star in the ghostly tale of a "cursed dress" which brings major woe to its wearers. Ideal double-bill companion for Phantom Thread, what?
8. Black River [Fleuve noir] (Erick Zonca, France)
The arrival of any Zonca picture is an event: this is only the French writer-director's second of the current century, arriving a full decade after the overwhelming Tilda Swinton vehicle Julia. On paper, the story—based on a popular thriller novel by Israeli writer Dror Mishani—sounds a tad generic: Vincent Cassel plays un flic investigating a kid's murder, who has to cope with the sudden reappearance in his life of his own son. But who knows what gold Zonca may magic from such seemingly base metals...
9. Little Joe (Jessica Hausner, Austria)
After Toni Erdmann in 2016 and Western in 2017, it seems 2018 might deliver another left-field knockout from a semi-established German-speaking female director. Hausner's fifth feature (after Lovely Rita, Hotel, Lourdes and Amour Fou) is the "story of a mother and son who fall under the spell of a mutated plant that's able to influence the behavior and perception of humans and animals." Is Joe Dallesandro involved?
10. The Load [Teret] (Ognjen Glavonić, Serbia/France/Croatia)
Glavonić's documentaries Živan Makes a Punk Festival and Depth Two augur very promisingly for the Serbian writer-director's segue to fiction with the decidedly grim-sounding delve into his country's bloodstained past. Set in 1999, it's a road-movie about a truck-driver who slowly becomes perturbed by his latest cargo as he navigates the bombed-out terrain of a war-ruined Yugoslavia.
11. Is This What You Were Born For? [Pentru asta te-ai născut?] (Radu Jude, Romania/Czech Republic/France/Bulgaria)
From the quicksilver-unpredictable brain behind cracking quasi-western Aferim! and 2017's cracking essay-film The Dead Nation, a drama about a theatre-director in Bucharest whose plans to stage a re-enactment of a massacre of Jewish people in Odessa during World War II proves hugely controversial. Shades of Michael Verhoeven's The Nasty Girl (1990)?
12. The Most Beautiful Country in the World [Najlepša zemlja na svetu] (Želimir Žilnik, Austria/Serbia)
The indefatigable 75-year-old firebrand's latest docu-fiction hybrid (following 2015's more journalistic Logbook Serbistan) looks at refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers in Vienna, using the city as a multi-faceted prism to view much wider political and demographic upheavals across the increasingly troubled European continent with an invaluably mature and sensible eye.
13. The Trial (Sergei Loznitsa, Netherlands/Germany TBC)
The Belarus-born maverick continues to alternate between fiction and documentary forms, following up his Cannes-competing post-Soviet phantasmagoria A Gentle Creature with a found-footage compilation drawn from show-trials in the USSR during the Stalinist era. Also imminent from Loznitsa: Victory Day, shot in Berlin at the Treptower Park site where Soviet veterans commemorate the end of World War II.
14. Luxembourg (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine/Germany/France/Norway)
Working closely with producer/cinematographer/editor Valentyn Vasyanovych, Slaboshpytskiy roared out of nowhere (a.k.a. Kiev) in 2014 with his fiercely original debut The Tribe, a violent saga of youthful disorder told almost entirely in sign-language. His follow-up expands his 2012 short Nuclear Waste to examine life among ordinary folk who inhabit the very extraordinary "exclusion zone" at Chernobyl. ETA theoretically 2018, but post-production has been...slow.
15. Lemonade (Ioana Uricaru, Romania/Germany/Canada/Sweden)
Romanian writer-director Uricaru arguably upstaged Palme d'Or winner Cristian Mungiu with The Official Visit, her witty and wry contribution to 2009's portmanteau Tales from the Golden Age. Nearly a decade later she finally delivers her feature debut—co-produced by Mungiu—about the travails of a single-mother Romanian nurse in an unforgiving USA.
16. His Master's Voice [Az Úr hangja] (Pálfi György, Canada/Hungary/France/Sweden/USA)
After making a considerable splash with his dialogue-free debut Hukkle (2003) and his bizarro follow-up Taxidermia (2006), Hungarian maverick Pálfi has faded somewhat from the international spotlight. His adaptation of Polish genius Stanislaw Lem's 1968 landmark of philosophical science-fiction, about a group of scientists haplessly struggling to decipher alien transmissions, could get him back on the map.
17. The House That Jack Built (Lars Von Trier, Denmark/France/Germany/Sweden)
Von Trier directs the great Matt Dillon as a 1970s/80s serial-killer in a script reportedly inspired by the rise of Donald Trump. "Life is evil and soulless," LvT has remarked, "which is sadly proven by the recent rise of the Homo Trumpus, the rat king."
18. untitled James Benning project (James Benning, USA)
America's grand old man of landscape-oriented experimenta has become admirably unpredictable since switching to digital a decade ago. His latest is shrouded in secrecy, but reportedly has rather a lot to do with Arturo Ripstein's 1972 Mexican classic The Castle of Purity, already the (unofficial) basis of Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth.
19. As Far as We Could Get (Iván Argote, France/Colombia/Indonesia)
Colombian artist Argote's 2016 short Fructose was clearly the work of a distinctive, promisingly wayward new talent. His feature-length debut freewheelingly traces connections between Palembang in Indonesia and Neiva in Colombia, "two middle-sized cities that happen to be exact antipodes."
20. Fangs (Crocs) (Sébastien Vanicek, France/Belgium)
A wild-card pick: 25-minute short directed by former teenage rugby-star Vanicek. Stars the ever-watchable Olivier Barthélémy (gloriously thick in Kim Chapiron's Sheitan) as a hot-headed, lumbering bad-ass unwisely enmeshed in the dog-fighting underground. The trailer promises a stygian testosterone overload.
P.S. Dragged Across the Concrete (S. Craig Zahler)