the allegorical film art
of Denis Villeneuve
by Gary W. Wright
Like most film artists since 1982, Denis Villeneuve was a part of the dread allegorical Zone Wars that had raged since the fatal helicopter crash that killed actor/director/writer Vic Morrow and child extras Renee Chen and Myca Le around 2:20 am in the early morning of July 23, 1982 on the George Folsey jr. produced John Landis set of the Frank Marshall executive produced, Kathleen Kennedy associate produced and Landis and Steven Spielberg produced allegorical Landis, Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller film, TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983). Curiously, however, unlike most other film artists, Villeneuve was reluctant to embrace computer graphic imagery (CGI) as a way to prevent future film set disasters. In addition, like most Quebecois film artists, Villeneuve preferred to use his film art to allegorically roast Anglophone film artists of the Zone Wars, implicitly starting with his first allegorical and CGI free film, MAELSTROM (2000).
‘The Norwegian fishermen use musical waves for a net.’
A curious film that implied that the accidental killing of Norwegian immigrant Annstein Karlsen-played by Klimbo-by Bibiane ‘Bibi’ Champagne-played by Marie-Josee Croze-in a hit and run accident on the street of Montreal symbolized the inadvertent role Natalie Portman played in killing the reputation of George Lucas jr. forever through her appearance as Queen Padme Amidala in the allegorical, implicitly Spielberg and James Cameron roasting and twilit Lucas film, STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999). Indeed, the voix de l’Entite-voiced by Pierre Lebeau-that did its best to narrate the film affirmed the implicit intent of the film, for its head resembled the head of a sea monster seen at the beginning of STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE. The film’s allusions to the allegorical Lucas film, THX 1138 (1971), reaffirmed the implicit Lucas roasting intent of MAELSTROM. How fitting that Karlsen was a Norwegian immigrant, wistfully evoking the exteriors of the Hoth snow world that were filmed in Norway for the allegorical and implicitly Spielberg roasting Irv Kershner film, STAR WARS EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980). Unfortunately, after this intriguing beginning, Villeneuve struck back with perhaps the most implicitly incensing, petty, stupid and CGI free allegorical ‘film’ ever made by a Canadian, POLYTECHNIQUE (2008).
‘He’s dead, I’m alive.’
Unfortunate, infuriating, petty and stupid, indeed, for Villeneuve implicitly used Marc Lepine’ s anti-female shooting rampage at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal in December of 1989 that shocked, changed and scarred a city, a province and a nation forever to petulantly lash out at Stanley Kubrick, implicitly linked to Maxim Gaudette’s Kubrick resembling shooter, throughout the ‘film’. The ‘film’s’ many allusions to the allegorical Kubrick film, THE SHINING (1980), reaffirmed the implicit Kubrick addressing intent of POLYTECHNIQUE. For the camera wound ominously through the hallways of the Ecole Polytechnique like the camera wound ominously through the hallways of the Overlook Hotel, the staff and students fled the psychotic shooter like Danny and Wendy Torrance-played by Danny and Shelley Duval, respectively-fled the equally psychotic Jack Torrance-played by Jack Nicholson-in THE SHINING, while the winter coat the shooter wore evoked a similar winter coat Kubrick was photographed wearing during the shooting of THE SHINING. Thus, the implication was that victims of the shooter symbolized the films that Kubrick ‘killed’ with his directorial touch. And the suicide of guilt wracked survivor, Jean-Francois-played by Sebastien Huberdeau-implicitly symbolized the self-destruction of Lucas with the STAR WARS Tragic Trilogy in his attempt to top Kubrick.
Implications that affirmed only too well that POLYTECHNIQUE was an unbelievably horrible, infuriating, petty, petulant, stupid and unfortunate ‘film’ that should never have been made, and one that revealed all too well the unbelievably and infuriatingly petty, petulant, stupid and unfortunate inner world of Villeneuve at the time of the creation of this ‘film’. To think that someone would actually use the nightmare at the Ecole Polytechnique in such an infuriatingly dumb and petty way was beyond belief and just plain wrong! Even worse, no one understood the implicit and infuriatingly petty and stupid meaning of POLYTECHNIQUE. And so the film art career of Villeneuve did not abruptly end, allowing him to continue and return with Gaudette for another implicit roast of Lucas in the allegorical and CGI free film, INCENDIES (2010).
‘What does your intuition tell you?’
Indeed, after a mysterious Middle Eastern prologue, the film returned to Montreal and the notary office of Jean Lebel-played by Remy Girard. Here we found Lebel regarding a file folder in a filing cabinet labeled Richard Marchand prior to flipping to a file of Nawal Marwan-played by Lubna Azabal. Of course, the Richard Marchand file reminded us that Richard Marquand was the director of the infuriatingly disappointing, Lucas executive produced and implicitly Spielberg roasting allegorical film, STAR WARS EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983). Not long after, a flashback revealed that Wahab-played by Hamed Najem-the adolescent boyfriend of Marwan before he was shot and killed, looked like a young and bearded Lucas. The unplanned baby that resulted from Marwan’s teenage fling, Rihad of May-aka Abou Tarek, and respectively played by Hussein Sami at five years, Yousef Soufan at fifteen years, and by Abdelghafour Elaaziz as an adult, respectively-reminded us that Lucas was born on May 14, 1944, and that STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977) was released to great acclaim on May 25, 1977.
The link of Lucas to May was further reinforced by the fact that Lucas decided that May 25th was his lucky date and always released the rest of his STAR WARS films on or as close as possible to May 25th for ever after, making him truly ‘Lucas of May’. Indeed, Lucas liked the 25th of May so much, he even convinced Spielberg to release his four Indiana Jones films around the 25th of May, as well. The three black dots tattooed on the back of Rihad of May’s right ankle reiterated his link to Lucas, reminding us that the STAR WARS films were released in two trilogies. Of course, the STAR WARS Classic Trilogy introduced the world to the Jedi twins, Leia and Luke Skywalker-played by Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, respectively-Jedi twins that Jeanne and Simon Marwan-played by Melissa Desormeaux-Poulin and Gaudette, respectively-evoked in INCENDIES. The fact that Rihad of May was first the devoted son of, and then the unknowing rapist torturer of, Marwan also reminded us that many people believed that, after starting off well in film with STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, THX 1138 and the allegorical and implicitly Don Shebib roasting film, AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973), Lucas betrayed and perhaps even raped the art of film with his increasing interest in the blockbuster profits to be made from movie tie-in merchandise. The fact that Lucas stuck by Kennedy, Marshall and Spielberg after the TZ disaster and made more films with them-including three more Indiana Jones films-also infuriated audiences.
Thus, the implication was that by having Nihad of May read two letters from the deceased Marwan at the end of the film-one condemning the rapist father of the Marwan twins, and one praising the devoted son of Marwan-Villeneuve symbolically condemned Lucas for abandoning higher film art for lower blockbuster film art after the release of STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE, and praised him for his early film art for film art years. A quixotic allegorical web that did not return in Villeneuve’s next twilit and CGI free allegorical film, PRISONERS (2013).
Significantly, with its allusions to such allegorical David Lynch fare as the allegorical moving painting, THE ELEPHANT MAN (1980), the twilit and allegorical TWIN PEAKS telefilm series (1990-91) and the equally twilit and allegorical moving painting, TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992), as well as to the implicitly Lynch addressing Sean Penn film, THE PLEDGE (2001), Villeneuve implied that he was addressing Lynch in PRISONERS. Indeed, the determined and intrepid police detective, Loki-played by Jake Gyllenhaal-evoked the equally determined and intrepid FBI Special Agent, Dale Cooper-played by Kyle MacLachlan-of TWIN PEAKS and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME throughout the film, linking Loki to Lynch. Indeed, Detective Loki even favoured the white dress shirts with the collar button securely in place like Lynch, affirming his implicit link to Lynch. The soundtrack of the film by Johann Johannsson also evoked that of perennial Lynch composer Angelo Badalamenti, reaffirming that Villeneuve addressed Lynch in PRISONERS.
Significantly, it was also noticeable that Det. Loki tracked down the implicitly Hollywood linked child serial killer, Holly Jones-played by Melissa Leo-and succeeded in finding and saving the missing blonde girl, Anna Dover-played by Erin Gerasimovich-in the end. The happy ending reminded us that the retired and implicitly Lynch linked Reno police detective, Jerry Black-played by Jack Nicholson-failed to track down the child serial killer at the end of THE PLEDGE. Thus, Villeneuve not only implied his support for Lynch, but his dismissal of Penn, perhaps in the symbolic form of Anna’s frantic father, Keller Dover-played by Hugh Jackman-in the end. At any rate, Villeneuve scaled twin peaks of his own when he returned to the Temple Theatre the same year as the release of PRISONERS with Gyllenhaal and PRISONERS costume designer Renee April and production designer Patrice Vermette with his next allegorical and mostly CGI free film, ENEMY (2013), inspired by the allegorical novel, The Double by Jose Saramago (2002).
‘I don’t…I don’t really like movies.’
Curiously, the film was shot in the slow, cerebral, menacing and sensual lstyle of David Cronenberg, filmed mostly in Toronto like most Cronenberg films, featured a soundtrack by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans that evoked that of perennial Cronenberg composer, Howard Shore, and was also one and a half hours like most Cronenberg films, implying that Villeneuve addressed Cronenberg in ENEMY. Indeed, the presence of Sarah Gadon as Helen affirmed implicit interest in Cronenberg in ENEMY, as Gadon played Emma Jung in the twilit and allegorical Cronenberg film, A DANGEROUS METHOD (2012), and Elise Shifrin in the equally twilit and allegorical Cronenberg film, COSMOPOLIS (2012). Thus, given that university History professor, Adam Bell-played by Gyllenhaal-discovered that he had a lookalike named Anthony Claire-also played by Gyllenhaal-who worked in bit parts in films, that Bell and Claire swapped lives and lovers-Bell’s Mary (played by Melanie Laurent) for Claire’s Helen (played by Gadon)-and that Bell lived to tell the tale while Claire died in the end in a car crash with Mary that evoked those seen throughout the allegorical and implicitly Lynch addressing Cronenberg film, CRASH (1995), Villeneuve implied that Cronenberg should have stuck to the world of academia and not devoted himself to film art. At any rate, Villeneuve soon returned to the Temple Theatre with April, Johannsson, Vermette and PRISONERS director of photography Roger A. Deakins and the twilit and CGI free allegorical film, SICARIO (2015).
‘You are not a wolf. And this is the land of wolves now.’
Curiously, the Edward Burtynsky evoking aerial photography throughout the film evoked that seen throughout the allegorical Jason Reitman film, UP IN THE AIR (2009). This implied that Villeneuve addressed young Reitman in SICARIO in the implicit form of FBI Special Agent Kate Macer-played by Emily Blunt-and linked her battle against the Mexican drug cartels to the battle against the twilit and corrupt Hollywood studios. Indeed, the name of Kate Macer evoked that of the despondent and implicitly Gary W. Wright linked teen fic writer Mavis Gary-played by Charize Theron-in the allegorical Reitman film, YOUNG ADULT (2011), a film also alluded to in SICARIO, affirming the implicit Reitman addressing intent of the film. The fact that Macer’s Mexican drug cartel busting colleagues, the CIA advisor Matt Graver and fellow FBI agent, Reggie Wayne-played by Josh Brolin and Daniel Kaluuya, respectively-evoked TIFF CEO Piers Handling and TIFF Deputy CEO Cameron Bailey reaffirmed the implicit interest in Reitman in SICARIO. For the Bailey and Handling evoking pair reminded us that the Reitman family donated the land and millions of dollars to enable TIFF to build its permanent HQ at the intersection of King and John Streets in Toronto. The black SUVs that the Cartelbusters drove throughout SICARIO reaffirmed the implicit interest in TIFF, as they resembled the same black SUVs used to drive stars around Toronto during the annual TIFF in September. Of course, the appearance of Victor Garber as Macer’s FBI boss, the implicitly James Cameron linked Dave Jennings, openly affirmed the link of Macer to Canada and its film art and film artists.
Significantly, the appearance of Benicio Del Toro as the mysterious, solitary and deadly CIA ‘advisor’, Alejandro, reaffirmed the film’s implicit interest in Toronto, for his name evoked the Royal Alexandra Theatre just up the road from TIFF on King Street. The solitary and nasty Alejandro also reaffirmed the film’s implicit interest in the equally solitary and nasty Gardevil. Indeed, Alejandro hailed from Colombia, reminding us that, while born in Toronto, I was raised in Delta, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. Significantly, it was also noticeable that it was Alejandro and not Macer who tracked down and killed the film’s most wanted and implicitly Marshall linked Mexican drug cartel leader, one Fausto Alarcon-played by Julio Cesar Cedillo-in the end. It was also noticeable that the film ended after the termination of Alarcon with Alejandro dismissing Macer as a naïve lamb amongst wolves who would not survive the battle against the Hollywood studio linked Mexican drug cartels. Thus, Villeneuve implied his support for the mean and nasty Gardevil and his fearless Zone War revelations, and predicted that short would be the film art career of Reitman.
Curiously, the world seen through night vision goggles that made an American raid in the darkness of Mexico near the end of SICARIO look like scenes from an all CGI film or first person shooter video game prepared viewers for the first major appearance of CGI in a Villeneuve film when he returned to the Temple Theatre with April, Johannsson, Vermette and SICARIO editor Joe Walker with his next allegorical film, ARRIVAL (2016).
‘Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue
that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn
in a conflict.’
Curiously, the film long struggle of master linguist Louise Banks-played by Amy Adams-to communicate with the CGI created and squid-like alien heptapods not only caused Banks to go to shell and back again, but perhaps also symbolized the struggle of Villeneuve to master how to communicate in the new cinematic language of CGI enhanced film. An experience in linguistic mastery that Villeneuve clearly enjoyed, for even more spectacular CGI enhancement was on display when Villeneuve returned with April, Deakins, Walker and another patient and intrepid young investigator who evoked Det. Loki in PRISONERS in his twilit and allegorical film, BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017), another Great Flawed Film like its inspiration, the eerily twilit and allegorical Sir Ridley Scott film, BLADE RUNNER (1982), both in turn inspired by the allegorical and implicitly Disney roasting Philip K. Dick novel, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (1968).
‘I don’t know. Ask him.’
Indeed, the film was a Great Flawed Film because it repeated all of the mistakes of BLADE RUNNER. Along the way, Villeneuve also implied that the quest of the implicitly Lynch linked Agent KD 6-3.7-played by Ryan Gosling-to find the child of Rick Deckard and Rachael Tyrell-played by Harrison Ford and Sean Young, respectively-and reunite Deckard with that child symbolized Lynch’s attempt to use his film art to heal the wounds of the TZ disaster and reunite audiences with a love of film art. Along the way, Agent K’s standoff with the implicitly Cameron linked Niander Wallace and his triumph over the implicitly Kathryn Bigelow linked Luv-played by Jared Leto and Sylvia Hoeks, respectively-symbolized Villeneuve’s belief that the film art of Lynch had held its own with that of the often Lynch roasting film art of Cameron and had triumphed over that of the equally Lynch roasting film art of Bigelow. As for why Agent K’s holographic girlfriend, Joi-played by Ana de Armas-had such a fondness for the allegorical work Pale Fire (1962) by Vladimir Nabokov-a fictional look at a poem in four cantos called ‘Pale Fire’ by the equally fictional American poet, John Shade, linked to July by his ‘birth’ on July 5, 1898 and his ‘death’ on July 21, 1959-that remained to be deciphered. However, what was clear was that the allegorical intent of Villeneuve in BLADE RUNNER 2019 was not as implicitly infuriating as in POLYTECHNIQUE, with the pleasing result that the film was not as Incensing.
Fordham, Joe. ‘2049 Foresight’. Cinefex 155. October 2017.
Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire. New York: Vintage International, 1989.