August 32nd on Earth

Two pairs of feet on the salt flats

With perfect hindsight it’s easy to see Denis Villeneuve’s first feature, August 32nd on Earth (Un 32 Août sur Terre, in the original French), as the work of a director who would go on to make great sci-fi like Arrival, Bladerunner 2049 and Dune. Back in 1998, when it was released, it looked more like a homage to the French New Wave, albeit with little otherworldly touches ensuring that while its feet are on the ground, its head is somewhere else. With a “here I am” opening announcing Villeneuve as a young man in hurry, we’re introduced to Simone (also the film’s original title), a young woman in a hurry who’s gunning her … Read more

Dune

Paul Atreides with his mother, Lady Jessica

“Dreams are messages from the deep,” it says right up at the front of Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 adaptation of Dune, possibly a nod to David Lynch, whose hazy 1984 version crashed and burned in spectacular, almost sci-fi fashion. Other nods – the design of the stillsuits and the sandworms for instance – also hark back to Lynch, a magnanimous gesture on the part of Villeneuve who, after Arrival and Bladerunner 2049, has nothing to prove in the realm of sci-fi. Lynch was trying to make his version of Frank Herbert’s novel a David Lynch film, dreamy and out there, but his film also tugged in the opposite direction, towards the mainstream Star Wars-y … Read more

Enemy

Adam meets Anthony in Enemy

If there is such a thing as “what the hellness” then Denis Villeneuve’s latest film absolutely has it. But then the French-Canadian does have form. With Incendies Villeneuve managed to turn the conflict in the Middle East into a thriller with a reveal that disconcerted and amazed. In Prisoners he made us feel bad for suspecting that a lank haired, stuttering, educationally subnormal Paul Dano was a paedophile, and then made us feel bad for cutting such an obvious wrong’un too much slack. The tricks are more playful in this latest exercise in duplicity. As with Prisoners, Enemy stars Jake Gyllenhaal, this time as Adam, a history professor who suddenly spots his spitting … Read more