Denis Villeneuve: What films to see from the renowned director of “Dune”?

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The premiere of Dune directed by Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is an event for movie lovers. This film is preceded by many expectations, since the adaptation of the homonymous novel by Frank Herbert, on behalf of the legendary David Lynch, did not arouse at its premiere in 1984 the enthusiasm that it promised. And boy did it promise, either because of its history, cast and locations. In addition, there was also another attempt to adapt the novel in the mid-70s, that time through Alejandro Jodorowsky. On that experience of the Chilean director, in 2013 the documentary was presented Jodorowsky’s Dune by Frank Pavich.

Trailer for «Dune» (2021). Source: Youtube.

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If there was a movie that deserved a new chance, that was Dune.

But, who is its director? What films to recommend from the one who for many is one of the best directors in the world in activity and who is not yet – what a contradiction of these times – known to the general public?

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The truth is that Villeneuve has managed to move between commercial success and critical value. For example, let’s consider your latest projects, such as Blade Runner 2049 (2017),
Arrival (2016) and Hitman (2015), films with emotional nerve and logical structure, not at all boring, that is, entertainment of the highest quality.

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However, the Canadian has other jobs that should be known and available to the public on the local movie circuit.

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In 2013 he premiered Prisoners, undoubtedly his most commercial film, the one that would become his gateway to the cinematic masses.

For this project, Villeneuve offers a sample of wounded and damaged sensitivities in extreme situations, as we can see in Keller Dover (Huck Jackman), who does not hesitate to torture a mentally disabled person, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), for consider him a suspect in the disappearance of his daughter. The same could be said of detective David Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal), in charge of finding Dover’s daughter and the other kidnapped girl.

Trailer for «Prisoners» (2013). Source: Youtube.

As the story unfolds, we intuit that Loki is keeping a secret. Loki who acts with some delay, speculating more than necessary each act to take, that is why his actions generate uncomfortable manifestations in the spectator on duty. Either by the gesture and the look we intuit that Loki is a man in constant control of himself, as if in the fulfillment of his mission he did not want to repeat blunders committed throughout his career, besides, he is lonely, we do not know if you have been abandoned or if you carry a death that is difficult for you to overcome. These character traits make Prisoners a different film, which does not at all meet the criteria demanded by mere entertainment cinema.

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That same year, Villeneuve passed from the linearity of Prisoners
to the magical and sensual sinuosity of Enemy.

For this occasion, Villeneuve once again has Gyllenhaal, who plays a double role: as Adam Bell, a routine history teacher; and Anthony St. Claire, a supporting actor.

On a soporific night in front of his laptop screen, Adam watches a movie in which one of the actors captures his attention. It is hard for him to believe that there is another person who is so similar to him and he does not delay in investigating as much as possible the actor Anthony St. Claire. The original interest mutates into obsession, he watches practically every one of the films in which his stuntman participates and it does not take long for him to become obsessed with his routine, to the point that he becomes fixated on Helen (Sarah Gadon), his pregnant wife. Anthony, when he realizes that there is another person very similar to him and that he has established contact with his wife, he decides to look for Adam. Unlike the teacher, Anthony is more open to new experiences and since he is one of those who does not make problems, he proposes an exchange of roles. The actor will be for a time the husband of Adam’s wife, Mary (excellent Mélanie Laurent).

We might think that Adam and Anthony obey different personalities, but no. Both share a boredom for life, they are initialed by frustration, only that Anthony is one of those who seek leaks parallel to reality. It is not for nothing that the film begins with a sexual show where we see the presence of tarantulas, a clear announcement about the nature of the project: more sensual than intellectual.

In directors like Villeneuve, nothing is left to chance, everything acquires a meaning, no matter how cryptic their traces are. Whether we understand or not Enemy, It is not important. Additionally, Villeneuve indulges in tributes, such as the nod to David Lynch through Adam’s mother, played by Isabella Rossellini (no spoiler).

Trailer for «Enemy» (2013).

But this is not all, the Canadian is a box of surprises. If what you are reading so far has caught your attention, I think you should prepare yourself for the best of Villenueve: Fires
(2010).

Fires shake you. Fires grabs your head to crash it against the wall.

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Even the most hardened of moviegoers ends up being absolute nothingness with this film that generates pain, but also reconciliation.

Do not waste time wondering whether or not this film deserved to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2011. Nor whether or not the breath of the eponymous play by Wajdi Mouawad that inspires it is respected. But what I can say is that we are facing one of those films that show a spell, a magic that transforms us.

Now we have the narration of a search that starts from a family secret, which in its development acquires the veneer of an unspeakable secret.

The brothers Jeanne (Mélissa Desormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) listen to the reading of the will of their deceased mother Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal).

Before dying, Nawal establishes certain conditions regarding his burial. For example, she does not want any epitaph and wants to be placed naked and face down in the coffin, unless the children fulfill the mission of delivering a couple of letters: one to her lost son and the other to the father of her children. The brothers Jeanne and Simon know little or nothing of the existence of these people.

Searching for the lost brother and father is to delve into the history of the mother. And for that purpose, first Jeanne, and then Simon, leaves for the Middle East.

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As a good creator, Villeneuve tells of the brothers’ search – which is also a sample of the horrors and consequences of the war – without falling into a position (plea), an error motivated by moral superiority and which has suffered the result end of many films of excellent directors, by the way.

For many, Villeneuve’s masterpiece: trailer for «Enemy» (2013). Source: Youtube.

On
Fires there is no space or time for good and bad, only for understanding. We are faced with a work whose development was thought to the millimeter, even every tear shed is consigned in the script. There was no other strategy: Fires He needed an aggressive balance and the director achieves it.

Villeneuve licks himself.

Villenueve shows that he comes from a school that respects the tradition of classic film narration. He assumes the cinema based on a basic principle: tell, recreate, disturb, move.

More than one believed that Villeneuve would repeat the formula in what he would do next.

However, for the good of all, it was not like that. Villeneuve is a fan that explores and experiments because he knows the tradition of the genre in which he travels, because as he knows it, he gives himself the pleasure of going against it in pursuit of a creative and personal honesty that defines the cinematographic look that makes him to date into an essential director. Let’s see: in a decade he has released six films and all must-see. There are reasons to believe that Dune this time it will be what we hope / wish it to be.

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