Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve

Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve is a busy guy – after all, the frequently lauded director is steadily lining up compelling new projects after the one-two punch of his last two projects (that would be last year’s Prisoners and this season’s Enemy, both of which bowed back in September at TIFF, making it clear that the Incendies director had arrived in a big way) – but the new heat on his career doesn’t mean he’s cutting corners. He’s not getting sloppy. He’s not picking up films about monster trucks or winged aliens or whatever it is that Hollywood is throwing at emerging filmmakers. Villeneuve is making his own way. But is that going to include finding a female muse to match the relationship he’s cultivated with Jake Gyllenhaal, who quite memorably starred in both of Villeneuve’s latest projects, in very different roles? 

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Jake Gyllenhaal and Jake Gyllenhaal in ENEMY

Last year’s Prisoners had an atmosphere driven by dread. Still, it was completely accessible and even with a clunky finale still managed to deliver conventional genre thrills. Director Denis Villeneuve‘s followup, Enemy, is a thriller that makes Prisoners light and cheery by comparison thanks in part to screenwriter Javier Gullón‘s ceaseless desire to ask thought-provoking questions throughout his meaty mystery. Villeneuve’s film is an intense experience. Nothing ever feels right in this loose adaptation of “The Double,” even at the start of the film when we see the protagonist’s harmlessly repetitive lifestyle. Adam Bell (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a reclusive professor whose personal life is almost nonexistent. The most he has going for him is his distant girlfriend (Melanie Laurent). Everything in his life is on repeat until a fellow staff member recommends a local film to him. This is when Adam discovers Anthony St. Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal), an actor who looks exactly like him.

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Next Floor Short Film

Why Watch? This one pairs well with never eating again. A stunner from Incendies and Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve, it’s a sumptuous must-see not only for its absurdist concept from Phoebe Greenberg, but also for its top flight execution of the bizarre. In the short, a stately dinner party is taking place where a cacophony of animals is being laid before a ravenous chorus of well-dressed mayhem. A string quartet sings in the background, waiters flutter about with speed to replace disappearing food and every diner has a fine layer of dust on their clothes. Then, something startling happens. With table top views, Villeneuve slurps out every ounce of gastronomical disgust like marrow from the bone. Shanks, arms, legs, offal and full bodies are laid out for the patrons who snatch and grab like possessed castaways who’ve finally made it back to shore. A political message is there if you want it, but even without any metaphors stuffed into stomach lining, it’s a gorgeously gross, dark comic wonder. It’s been touring film festivals for years, so I’m thrilled to finally see it online.

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REW-FFWD

“Stop your cinema. Wake up.” Denis Villeneuve’s 1994 short film, REW-FFWD, wants to jerk you violently out of your comfort zone. In a way this makes it a forerunner to the French Canadian director’s new thriller, Prisoners. Yet while the new film is a star-studded psychological thriller, with the mainstream participation of Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman, REW-FFWD is an odd little experimental “psychodrama.” Its violent assault on the audience is at times rudimentary, but this only adds to its enigmatic and staunchly independent voice.

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I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to watch Jake Gyllenhaal go through his daily routine. To see him use public transportation and brush his teeth and peruse nondescript work papers. And now, with the first teaser for Denis Villeneuve‘s Enemy, all my dreams have come true. Check it out just after the jump.

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trailer prisoners

Despite screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski‘s script earning raves all around Hollywood, Prisoners wasn’t exactly fast tracked. If you recall the project’s development, a series of talent were on and off the film, from directors Bryan Singer and Antoine Fuqua to stars Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio. Even Mark Wahlberg was attached at one point, who, from the start, served as a key cheerleader for the project. According to Guzikowski, Wahlberg was one of the script’s biggest and most important fans. “Mark Wahlberg was the first person to champion it.” After that stamp of approval “everything got more and more attention.” Guzikowski wrote Prisoners as a spec script, and without Wahlberg, Prisoners and Guzikowski’s career would not have blossomed the way that it has. “He was totally pivotal in getting the film made. That endorsement helped it get around.” He went to write the modest hit Contraband for Wahlberg. While both features are drastically different, they feature a race against the clock tension. To keep that tempo on high, Guzikowski says, “You have to keep the visual of it all in mind. It has to have a musical sort of pacing. I think the best thrillers have a real rhythm to them.” As for where that rhythm comes from, it’s all about the drama. “That pace is informed by however the characters are feeling. I think that’s they key to making that ticking clock.”

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Hugh Jackman

How far would you go if someone you loved was kidnapped and you thought you knew who did it? How much duct tape is involved? In Prisoners, from director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies), a father has to face that question after his little girl and her best friend are taken. Hugh Jackman stars here as the despondent dad, Jake Gyllenhaal plays lawman Detective Loki (an Avengers tie-in?), and the rest of the cast is rounded out by some heavy-hitting names. The trailer gets right into the middle of the moral tangle, but watch it at your own risk because it looks like it gives away a ton:

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trailer prisoners

The National Association of Theater Owners recently made a formal request to studios to shorten theatrical trailers to a maximum two minute run-time. The impetus here is as much to speed up the movie pre-roll time for theater-goers as it is to cut back on possible spoilers or a simple excess of information. It appears Warner Bros. didn’t get the memo before cutting the first trailer for the upcoming thriller Prisoners. Hugh Jackman plays a father whose young daughter goes missing along with a friend, but when the detective (Jake Gyllenhaal) assigned to the case is forced to release the main suspect (Paul Dano) for lack of evidence all hell breaks loose in the lives of everyone involved. Terrence Howard, Maria Bello and Viola Davis co-star for director Denis Villeneuve (Incendies). To be clear, the trailer doesn’t appear to give away spoilers, but it does show more of the story than is necessary. Check out the fairly intense trailer for Prisoners below. It’s okay if you press ‘stop’ at the 1:50 mark as you should already be well intrigued and interested by that point.

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James Marsden

What is Casting Couch? It’s the casting column whose Wizards of Waverly Place fandom is finally coming in handy. That upcoming comedy where Elizabeth Banks tries to juggle being a person with loose morals with being a person with career goals, Walk of Shame, has just added another actor. According to Variety, James Marsden has joined the film. There’s no word on what sort of character he’s going to be playing, and seeing as the film is about a series of adventures that occur as Banks’ character tries to get from the scene of a one night stand to a job interview across town, that leaves a lot of possibilities open. Will Marsden be a romantic foil? Just someone who pops in briefly for a humorous interaction? We don’t know, but since we all saw Death at a Funeral, what we do know is that Marsden can do goofy comedy. Hopefully this one will give him another chance to act silly.

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You’ll first get a chance to see Aaron Guzikowski‘s writing when Contraband, starring Mark Wahlberg, hits theaters in March of 2012, but his Black Listed script for Prisoners may finally see the light of day soon as well. According to Twitch, Incendies director Denis Villeneuve has signed on to make it his English-language debut. The story concept is streamlined – a man’s daughter is kidnapped, and he decides to take the law into his own hands by kidnapping who he thinks is the kidnapper. That last part leaves a big window open to fool around with the classic revenge tale, and we’ll undoubtedly learn more about what got the script onto the Black List in the first place. Villeneuve has proven himself to be more than capable, but the road to making films in Hollywood is a notoriously treacherous one for even the best foreign directors. Still, it’s great to see him progress and attempt to reach a broader audience (since he and that audience deserve each other). Now, is Liam Neeson available or should someone else get a shot?

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Incendies is a film of considerable scope and ambition, an epic that follows young French Canadian siblings on a search for their mother’s Middle Eastern roots. Written and directed by Denis Villeneuve, from a play by Wajdi Mouawad, it’s a feast of sweeping hillsides and vast villages, high-end melodramatic set pieces and restrained, quieter moments. Infused with mystery, tragedy and humor, serving as a genealogical study and Greek tragedy wrapped in one, it’s a fine achievement of bold, deeply felt cinema. The picture commands your attention from its opening frames, commencing with the slow-motion and ominously dreamlike image of an anonymous Middle Eastern boy’s head being shaved by a gun-toting elder. Radiohead’s “Like Spinning Plates” plays. From there, the picture gingerly segues into what’s, in simplest terms, a multigenerational detective story. After the death of Canadian immigrant Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal), her children (daughter Jeanne and son Simon) are shocked when the executor reveals letters, penned by their mother, which she wants delivered to their thought-to-be-dead father and a previously unknown brother.

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French Canadian film Incendies has gotten a trailer to promote its release in US theaters. The film is directed by Denis Villeneuve and tells the story of a set of adult twins who are set out on a journey to the Middle East by their mother’s last will and testament to find their long-lost father and sibling. It has already made a splash with critics by touring the festival circuit, gotten itself a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film by the Academy Awards, and is now set to be released in select theaters on April 22nd by Sony Pictures Classics. For all of you Oscar buffs and year-end completists, this one is going to have to be on your must see lists. Check out the trailer below:

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