High Concept: TIFF Cinematheque Revisits the Films of Denis Villeneuve


To coincide with the upcoming release of Blade Runner 2049, TIFF Cinematheque is presenting High Concept: The Films of Denis Villeneuve from September 26 to October 5. The series covers all of Denis Villenueve’s filmography from his early Quebecois films, such as Polytechnique (Sept 27, 6:30 PM) and Incendies (Sept 29, 6:45 PM). to his more recent forays into Hollywood filmmaking, such as Prisoners (Sept 30, 9:00 PM), Sicario (Oct 1, 6:45 PM), and last year’s Oscar-nominated Arrival (Oct 5, 9:15 PM).

Arguably, one of the highlights of this retrospective is the chance to see a 35mm print of Denis Villenueve’s 2000 sophomore feature Maelström (Sept 28, 6:45 PM). This film, which has to be seen to believed, it not one that is easy to describe. Probably the easiest description of the film is that of an urban fairytale that is being narrated by a talking fish (voiced by Pierre Lebeau) on while on a butcher’s block. Maelström introduces its young heroine Bibiane (Marie Jose-Crozée) while in the middle of receiving an abortion, all while the song “Good Morning Starshine” from the musical Hair plays in the background.

All of this happens within the first five minutes of Maelström, with me not having yet scratched on the plot, which involves Bibiane accidentally killing a man in a drunken hit and run, with her being plagued by guilt after discovering what she had gone. One of the themes touched upon in the film is fate, as the film periodically rewinds to show the sequence of events that lead of to a certain action.

After the delightful weirdness of Maelström, Denis Villenueve would move on to more serious films, such as Polytechnique and Incendies. However, some of the weirdness in Maelström would return in 2013’s Enemy (Sept 26, 6:30 PM) and its doppelganger story featuring much spider imagery.

While Denis Villenueve now seems to be firmly embedded into the Hollywood system, this retrospective give you a chance to see the evolution of the filmmaker from Quebecois indie darling to blockbuster superstar.

High Concept: The Films of Denis Villenueve runs from September 26 to October 5 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Tickets to the screenings can be purchased from

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