Screening Room: The New Canadian Wave

My article “Les Auteurs: Quebec Directors Make Their Mark in World Cinema” was published in Film Journal International:

Excepting Toronto’s avant-horror maestro David Cronenberg, the Canadian directors making waves outside their home provinces have tended to be art-house auteurs like Sarah Polley (Toronto), Guy Maddin (Winnipeg) and Atom Egoyan (British Columbia).

That is starting to change now, however, with a growing cadre of filmmakers from Montreal making their marks in world cinema as well as Hollywood, while retaining their identity as Quebecois directors. Montreal has deep film roots, after all, boasting the nation’s first movie theatre (1896) and serving as an epicenter for the “Direct Cinema” documentary movement in the 1950s and ’60s. But since the international success of Denys Arcand’s work in the 1980s, it has taken the comparatively recent emergence of directors like Denis Villeneuve, Jean-Marc Vallée, Xavier Dolan and Philippe Falardeau to put the city back on the film world’s map…

Now Playing: ‘Enemy’

enemy-poster1Last year in Prisoners, director Denis Villeneueve pulled a performance out of the normally downbeat Jake Gyllenhaal whose vibrant intensity stunned even in a film filled with it. With Villeneueve’s followup, a thinly creepy take on a Jose Saramago novel, Gyllenhaal somehow delivers less in a story that asks him to play two visually identical but spiritually opposite roles.

Enemy is playing now in limited release; my review is at Film Racket:

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a somnolent professor at some Toronto university  … He’s a phantom in his own life, not even sure whether those inexplicable moments featuring spiders and dark chambers filled with mysterious people are memories or dreams. With long, anxious shots and very occasional jittery interactions with the people who flit across Adam’s anxious path, Villeneueve tracks him like somebody who is about to implode, if only he existed. Even his mother (Isabella Rossellini) doesn’t seem entirely sure that he does…

Here’s the trailer; great soundtrack at least:

New in Theaters: ‘Prisoners’

Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Prisoners'.
Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Prisoners’.

prisoners-posterWhenever Hugh Jackman leaves Wolverine-land to return to the world of real-ish moviemaking, he leaves a spotty record. For every Les Miserables (2012), there’s an Australia. For Prisoners, he teams up with a bona fide director, Incendies‘ Denis Villeneuve, for a story that makes him push into territory beyond his usual action/romance repertoire.

My review is at Film Journal International; here’s part:

For his first Hollywood film, Denis Villeneuve’s take on Aaron Guzikowski’s famously long-unproduced screenplay about the kidnapping of two little girls is rooted in a rare workaday realism. When revelations start knocking the film this way and that, Villeneuve keeps a firm hand on the pressure valve while still giving his performers room to grow with the story rather than in spite of it. Without him, this might have been just an exceptionally twist-laden thriller. With him, it’s a dour but exceptionally high-stakes drama with several performers giving their best efforts in years…

You can see the trailer here: