Villeneuve. A whopping six archiveable films in the 2010’s—remarkable. Villeneuve is poised to vault up this list in future years—especially if he can put together a 2020’s decade that resembles his 2010’s decade in the slightest. He’s a perfectionist who is also prolific. I can’t wait to see what a few years of preparation produces in Dune. Most other directors that are both this brilliant and prolific work in a smaller milieu. For example, Baumbach had 6 archiveable films in the 2010’s and Soderbergh 7 (and a retirement- haha). Villeneuve makes films on a big scale—his 2015-2017 back to back to back of Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049 is utterly inexplicable. He’s been compared to Nolan and I see some similarities—but a Nolan film looks and feels like a Nolan film—I’d compare him a little closer a 1970’s and early 1980’s Ridley Scott—and not just because of the Blade Runner connection- a spectacular visual filmmaker, works often in the science fiction genre, that doesn’t have an indefinable signature style– -though I may be remedying that with closer study– Villeneuve’s best work seems to be in silhouette- check out the images on the page here.
Best film: Blade Runner 2049
- there should be praise for Gosling, Ford, Roger Deakins and Dennis Gassner (the product designer who worked on Road to Perdition, Skyfall, O Brother Where Art Thou?) but this is Villeneuve’s show and he’s in total visual command of this brilliant film
- Intelligent reflections and meditations on what it means to be human
- This is amongst the best work for Deakins (only one I think right now is superior is The Assassination of Jesse James)—he has roots in dark sci-fi dystopia with 1984’s 1984 which is beautifully photographed. The entirety BR 2049 is so visually arresting– highlights I’ll mention below but my favorite section may be the orange haze of Vegas
- Gosling is on fire with this and La La Land and going back to Blue Valentine in 2010, Drive in 2011. If he can continue this we’re talking about a run that rivals the run of say Pacino or Nicholson in the early 70’s. Two runs I have always marveled at.
- Speaking of Pacino, gosling gets the “train whistle” Pacino moment in The Godfather when he finds the horse at the orphanage. It’s a spectacular moment for Gosling aided heavily by Villeneuve
- I think I have a casting issue with Sylvia Hoeks as “Luv” the guard dog for Leto’s Wallace and main villain. That role/character should be more potent
- Robin write’s hard-drinking police chief anchors the film in its noir roots- great touch
- I love Leto’s room—it’s one of the films painterly highpoints- but whether it’s the writing or acting or both I don’t love the scenes with Leto. He’s too often talking about what the film is about instead of being a character in the film
- Another top 3 pictorial scene for me is Gosling and Hoeks walking down the hall in Wallace corporate office and we have a Venetian blind like effect with different size light blocking—very similar to The Conformist
- Ford rivals Gosling’s achievement—if this is his walk-off into the sunset after such a legendary career then what a feather in his cap it is. He has multiple scenes of silence that are devastating. One with Gosling when he’s drinking and the very end of course.
- That ending is another difference with Villeneuve and Ridley Scott. There’s a heart here- I had tears in 2049—it doesn’t make for a better film but it certainly puts the film more in line with Arrival– Villeneuve’s previous effort
- I see influences of Wall-e (orphanage San Diego dump site) where Deakins was of course a key member of their visual team for that film and Pinocchio with Gosling being a real boy, etc
- I can’t unread the Daily Mirror’s comment saying that this is closer to an epic than Ridley Scott’s original which is closer to a noir—I think there’s truth here. I see influences of Spielberg’s AI and Spielberg adores David Lean and Lawrence of Arabia and clearly I see that too with the ability to handle scope, gorgeous establishing shots
- This film is fattier than the original- I don’t love every scene
- The reflected window in the sewer-like area where gosling meets Hiam Abbass’s Freysa is absolutely stunning—one of my favorite 3 film as still frame art moments—it reminds me of Tarkovsky’s Stalker in its stark beauty
- I could change my mind with a third viewing but I thought there were 2-3 times when Villeneuve gave us a reminder of what a character is thinking or why he’s doing something that he didn’t need to. He does it when gosling gets off the bridge (which is a dazzling scene)—he repeats Freysa’s line about dying for a cause and then Bautista’s line (this is the third time we’re heard this and 2nd repeated in our heads) about witnessing a miracle. He should have a little more faith in the audience to put that together—not a big flaw by any means but still
- Gosling’s “K” achieves earned melancholy- it’s what Rutger Hauer achieves in the original. He sees Joi (who is a breakout star and phenomenally played by Ana de Armas) die twice- once by getting stepped on by Luv and another time, in a great scene- the big hologram scene of Ana de Armas), when he realizes she just calls him “Joe” because she was programmed too and it wasn’t real love. It’s devastating for him and gosling is so damn good. He’s great at the end when he, like Hauer, realizes reverence and supreme appreciation for the natural beauty of the world- this time it’s snow-
total archiveable films: 6
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 3 (Sicario, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049)
most overrated: He does not have one. Again, too soon for anything on the normal TSPDT top 2000—but Villeneuve has films in the top 1000 of the 21st century- astonishing. Only Arrival lands in the top 10 its respective year- and it at the #10 spot of 2016. Right about where I’d have it.
most underrated : Enemy. I didn’t know what to make of it the first time, I has grown on me – I find myself looking for it, rewatching it often—I’ve seen it four times now. I think there’s a strong case for it being second behind only Blade Runner. It is currently #44 of 2013 which is absurd. But I’m encouraged- it made its first appearance on the TSPDT 21st century list this year—what does that tell you? It’s been out there for years now and with more films to pull from then ever it makes its debut on the list!
- There is enough here formally to archive for sure—I love the spiders as an ongoing motif and formal construct
- Fantastic silent opening—bizarre and erotic—reminded me of an Eyes Wide Shut meeting
- The green/yellow lighting is a bit like a Fincher film and like the opening of Joe Versus the Volcano– haha– you can feel the lighting sucking the like out of you
- Wonderful use of urban architecture and the city of Toronto as a character with the establishing shots
- Reminded me of Cronenberg’s work—particularly crash—eerie slow-burn also set in Toronto– and Cronenberg’s aptly named Spider from 2002
- Doppelganger, paranoia—largely silent- moody and atmospheric—strong sense of dread the entire film—no narrative drive like Villeneuve’s films like Arrival and Sicario
- The upside down naked woman with spider head is exactly half-way through the film—not a formal coincidence
- Love the windshield broken as a spider web
gem I want to spotlight : Sicario. Another fine candidate to for the underrated section. The narrative propulsion is almost tangible, Deakins work is better here than in No Country For Old Men (I think the overall quality of the two films is much much closer than the consensus) and don’t forget Jóhann Jóhannsson’s masterful grindhouse score.
- Silhouette shots
- Helicopter shots—brilliant establishing shots
- Master collaborator—Deakins, Hans Zimmer—but he’s clearly not dependent on any of them as he’s made great work without each and every one of the collaborators, too
- Prolific output but working on a big canvas- virtually unheard of in 21st century filmmaking
- breathtaking visuals, color tinting, a master of lighting
- Cronenberg certainly feels like an influence in Enemy– he’s remaking/sequeling Ridley Scott (which I talk in the opening) and Lynch with Dune
- Blade Runner 2049
By year and grades
|2017- Blade Runner 2049||MS/MP|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives