High Concept: The Films of Denis Villeneuve


Denis VilleneuveCanada88 minutes200014AColourFrench

Sep 28
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The strangeness of Villeneuve's sophomore feature cannot be understated: Maelström is a tale of suicidal anguish, passionate romance, and hard-won self-actualization narrated in calm, even tones by a fish being hacked to death. (Pierre Lebeau's vocal performance as the piscine raconteur is indelible.) Alcoholic clothier Bibiane (Marie Jose-Crozée) survives a car accident (shades of August 32nd on Earth) and, realizing that she had killed a pedestrian before plunging her car into the river, vows to find the dead man's son; when she meets him, he falls hopelessly in love with her, exacerbating her guilt. Though the eccentricity of Maelström's style — including jarring, irregular bursts of operatic music laid over the action — threatens at times to drown out its plangent humanism, the film is ultimately a beautifully integrated object that encompasses both the ridiculous and the sublime. "A nervy, risky film … a surrealist vision that serves to heighten the impact of genuine emotions" (The Los Angeles Times).

Print courtesy of the Cinémathèque québécoise.