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Tag: Polytechnique

Denis 2049: Link Roundup

If you missed any of our series on Denis Villeneuve, you can find links to all of our podcasts and writings in this post.

Without further ado:

Podcast Episodes

1) Director Deliberations (52:39)

2) August 32nd On Earth (38:55)

3) Maelstrom (27:13) 

4) Polytechnique (44:22)

5) Incendies (42:24)

6) Prisoners (54:06)

7) Enemy (52:50)

8) Sicario (49:55)

9) Arrival (1:02:35)

10) Bonus: Blade Runner (30:06)

 

11) Blade Runner 2049 (1:01:02)

Fireside Chats

1) August 32nd On Earth

Taylor: I’ve never seen a premise quite like this before. Does this happen often? Have any of your friends ever approached you asking to help them conceive a child in the desert? Would you do this for any of your friends?

Sam: The short answer is yes, of course I would take my friend to the desert to impregnate her. But only if we were married … (Keep reading here…)

2) Maelstrom

Taylor: Um, Sam? This movie was in French. I don’t speak French.

Sam: I speak French just fine, but remember, Taylor, this movie is French-Canadian. And in that field I can only speculate. (Keep reading here…)

3) Polytechnique

Taylor: I felt like I was witnessing something impossible, the act of witnessing it ensuring that I couldn’t deny what was happening right in front of me. A contradiction that I can’t justify but won’t back down from. It was surreal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so compelled and disturbed and haunted by a movie all at once.

Sam: “Polytechnique” is one of those movies – “Schindler’s List,” “Manchester by the Sea,” Villeneuve’s own “Prisoners” – that gladly asks you to pay money to get punched in the throat. It hurts to watch this movie. It’s gut-wrenching and brutal and the longest 80-minute movie I’ve ever seen.

I loved it. (Keep reading here…)

4) Incendies

Sam: It represents what he thinks about what he’s portraying. He believes, I think, that the world is dark and terrible, but not without hope, love and people fighting break cycles of anger and the systems that oppress them. Or, I don’t know, maybe he’s just into incest.

Taylor: I think this is a really good point. He often presents worlds that make no sense, that would make anyone question their existence and purpose and whether anything really matters. By the end, though, nearly without fail, he presents them with a way forward. A way to keep going. It may not be definitive or solve everything (or anything!), but it shows some optimism. And that gives me some hope, too. (Keep reading here…)

5) Prisoners

Taylor: This is such an obnoxiously bad opinion that I don’t even know where to start. Maybe he just wanted people to think, “Wow, what a bold take! He must know something I don’t!” If I was younger, I might have fallen for this, but facts are facts. If you think “Prisoners” is Denis’ seventh-best movie, you should not be allowed into the theater for “Blade Runner 2049.”

Sam: If Melissa Leo and her whack-ass husband kidnapped me, pumped me with some psychedelic Welch’s grape juice, put me in a basement, and said, “Here you go, finish this book of puzzles and you can go home,” and the last page said, “Explain how ‘Prisoners’ is Denis’ seventh-best movie,” I’d happily rot under that 1972 Chevy Vega.

And that’s really what “Prisoners” is about, isn’t it? (Keep reading here…)

6) Enemy

Sam: …let’s try on a couple:

  • Spider Number One: The spider on the plate. At the beginning of the movie, Actor Gyllenhaal goes to the strangest speakeasy in Toronto, in which women step on spiders served on stainless-steel, beautifully-crafted serving dishes. If this isn’t symbolic of the existential threat posed by women taking over the culinary industry, I don’t know what is.
  • Spider Number Two: The spider with long legs walking slowly over the city, careful not to step on any of the sharp buildings. This is clearly Denis’ ode to waking up in the middle of the night and gingerly walking to the bathroom when you can’t see what’s on the floor.

What spiders am I missing?

Taylor: You left out a hugely important spider.

Wife Spider. (Keep reading here…)

7) Sicario

You won’t believe who we got to write this one for us. Go read it.

8) Arrival 

Taylor: Tell me I’m wrong.

Sam: You’re wrong.

Taylor: Okay. Good talk.

Sam: No, listen. Renner is…(Keep reading here…)

9) Blade Runner 2049

Taylor: Your well-founded concerns about the LAPD looking the other way on serious child labor crimes while also sending officers to other states notwithstanding (though, trust me, I also find this deeply concerning), I think it’s time we get to the nitty-gritty: Tell me your thoughts on Jared Leto, and give me your guess for what planet his character is from in this movie.

*dives into bunker, covers ears*

Sam: I don’t want to guess irresponsibly about the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to casting Leto as the titular villain (maybe Denis was trying to impress his 14-year-old stepdaughter?), so I won’t get into the why on Earth was this decision made discussion but will try to only discuss his on-field performance.

I’ll start by trying to answer your question: I have no idea what planet Wallace is from, but I’m guessing it’s a world a lot like Earth except that it is inhabited by blind humanoids who are deeply philosophical, malicious, and don’t read scripts. Leto for sure showed up on set without having seen the original “Blade Runner” or having read anything but his own lines.

He definitely thinks…(Keep reading here…)

Fireside Chats: ‘Polytechnique’

For each movie in the “Denis 2049” series, Taylor and Sam will sit down and bounce some thoughts off each other, off-mic. Their brilliant minds will unleash many words. Make of them what you will. This time: “Polytechnique.”

Taylor: It’s not often that I have to actually put my hand over my heart to make sure it’s still beating. Typically, it’s something I trust is happening by the simple fact that I’m still walking around. When it comes to movies, I typically don’t have big reactions, either. It’s more of an “ooh, ahh” type of excitement when something tense is happening than any kind of physical reaction. I’d call it an … intellectual reaction, I guess.

In “Polytechnique,” though, I felt physically sick. I was straight-up terrified watching this movie. And I’m not saying that to try to reduce this movie to some kind of cheap thriller or horror movie. This movie is horrifying because of a realistic, eyes-wide-open portrayal of what it looks like when pure evil intrudes onto normal life.

As we discussed at length on the podcast, “Polytechnique” tells the story of a 1989 school shooting that took place on a college campus in Montreal. And as Villeneuve’s camera watched the killer wander the halls of the school, a sensation came over me that is hard to describe. I felt like I was witnessing something impossible, the act of witnessing it ensuring that I couldn’t deny what was happening right in front of me. A contradiction that I can’t justify but won’t back down from. It was surreal. I don’t think I’ve ever been so compelled and disturbed and haunted by a movie all at once.

Sam: “Polytechnique” is one of those movies – “Schindler’s List,” “Manchester by the Sea,” Villeneuve’s own “Prisoners” – that gladly asks you to pay money to get punched in the throat. It hurts to watch this movie. It’s gut-wrenching and brutal and the longest 80-minute movie I’ve ever seen.

I loved it.

It never tries to be theatrical or jumpy for the sake of fear. Villeneuve puts this story out in the cold light of day, and by mere exposure to the action, we feel every gun shot. That’s more frightening than anything. It takes something dark and unthinkable and puts it in the midst of complete normalcy – the exact place that tragedy really happens.

Taylor: I want to go on an insane tangent or make a dumb joke or change the subject randomly as I’m wont to do in these Fireside Chats, but this movie feels too serious and important to do that.

Keep talking smart about it.

Sam: Okay, try this.

The weird thing about “Polytechnique” is that, when you place someone so heinous among the everyday, he blends in. One of the most deeply affecting sequences is the intercutting series of shots between the killer and the protagonist, Valérie, as they get ready for their day in the morning. Before shots are fired, they’re both leading plain, indistinguishable lives. They’re both messy, somewhat alone, and essentially “normal.” The interwoven scenes have a two-sided effect where you feel like, “Wow, a killer could come from anywhere and be anyone,” but also, “Even the most terrible people are still just … people.”

Villeneuve could have easily made the killer a faceless, pitiless evil, but he chose to make things more complicated. He showed someone who was purely sexist and hellbent on exterminating women, and then had him write an apology letter to his mother.

You also see the suffering and stain on the survivors’ lives caused by the killer’s actions. Things are hard for them. Dillenuve is able to show the full width and breadth of a tragedy like this – the way it expands beyond just those on campus that day and affects life writ large – by zooming in with a microscope. He took a huge event that affected many people and focused in on three characters. In doing so, he was able to make something completely universal.

Denis was perfect for this movie. He told the story in a way that shocked and hurt, but it did so with total respect and integrity. It’s one of the best movies I’ll never watch again.

Taylor: Ooh, here’s a tangent. This is a list of eight movies I’ll never watch again (except when I have to for the Denis 2049 series…)

1. “Polytechnique”

Asked and answered.

2. “12 Years A Slave”

This movie is about being a slave for 12 years. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.

3. “Prisoners”

“Hey, honey, let’s watch this movie that makes us feel what it would be like if our kids were kidnapped by a stranger and we never saw them again. I’ll make some popcorn!”

4. “Boyhood”

This is a feat of filmmaking, but it’s pretty boring in retrospect. I’m glad I saw it because it feels important, but I would like to never see it again.

5. “Lone Survivor”

Too intense.

6. “Foxcatcher”

Too creepy.

7. “Manchester By The Sea”

If you’ve seen this movie, I don’t need to explain myself.

8. “Man of Steel”

This movie is actually terrible, I just want people to know I will leave their home if this movie is ever put in front of my eyes ever again.

Sam: Great list. A-plus. But I would add the movie “Shop Girl.” Saw it on a cruise when I was 11 and got really excited because Steve Martin was in it, but it bored me off the ship.

Taylor: Damn, you probably missed out on a great cruise because of that.

All that being said, “Polytechnique” is easily the best movie we’ve watched so far in this series.

Sam: Easily the best.

The Denis rankings after three movies:

  1. “Polytechnique”

(gap to show how much better I think it is.)

  1. “August 32nd on Earth”
  2. “Maelstrom”

Next up: “Incendies.”

Denis 2049: ‘Polytechnique’

Taylor Gaines is joined by Sam Hensel for the third edition of the official Denis Villeneuve filmography podcast. On this episode, they talk about “Polytechnique,” a sobering tale of a 1989 school shooting in Montreal. It’s a tough watch, but a worthwhile and powerful film.

Next time: “Incendies

You can find all of our previous podcasts on our website, OnTheIslandPodcast.com and on iTunes. Subscribe, rate, and review!

As always, thanks to Levi Bradford for the theme song. You can find his music at poblano.bandcamp.com.

Find the written companion piece here.

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