Tag Archives: Maxim Gaudette

Incendies (2010) Review

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Incendies

Time: 130 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence and content that may disturb
Cast:
Lubna Azabal as Nawal Marwan
Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin as Jeanne Marwan
Maxim Gaudette as Simon Marwan
Rémy Girard as Jean Lebel
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Nawal (Lubna Azabal), a dying Middle Eastern woman living in Montreal, leaves separate letters to her twin children to be read once she passes away. Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) is to deliver hers to the father the twins never knew, and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) is to give his to the brother they never knew they had. The siblings travel to the Middle East separately, where they each experience acts of brutality, uncover a startling family history, and have revelations about themselves.

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Incendies was the last of Denis Villeneuve’s films that I had got around to watching. I had caught up on his other movies, all the way to his first with August 32nd on Earth. This is his last non-English language movie before he started making movies that most people know of now with Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and beyond. I’ve heard some great things about Incendies, mostly that it’s a really impactful film. I can confirm that it is indeed fantastic, and that it’s among Villeneuve’s best.

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Incendies is a mystery movie, with a plot containing a number of twists and turns, and so I’d say that that it is really best going into it knowing not much beyond that, so I’ll keep my description of it reasonably vague. The plot of Incendies is essentially about twins about looking for their father that’s still alive and looking for the brother they never knew they had, at the request of their dying mother. It’s split in two storylines, with the twins going to certain places that the mother had once been, as well as the flashbacks of the mother. It’s a very closed in and intimate movie and you are absolutely locked in from start to finish. Although it is generally great, as the movie progresses further on and comes together at the end, it’s something quite excellent. This movie can get very bleak, even by Denis Villeneuve’s standards, and certain revelations later on are quite ‘impactful’ (an understatement really). I guess if you wanted nit-picked a little, you could say that the movie does really rely on a lot of coincidences, but I guess that’s kind of the point, it didn’t bother me too much.

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While the cast isn’t particularly known and isn’t particularly large, the acting is great from everyone. The twins played by Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette do well in their roles. These characters don’t have a lot to them and you don’t really get to learn much about them (outside of one initially being more willing than the other to do deliver on their mother’s final request), however that works fine enough, because Incendies is essentially the story of the mother, not the children. Really, it’s Lubna Azabal’s movie as Nawal, and she carries the movie excellently. The story goes to some very emotional levels, and Azabal more than delivered on her part.

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Denis Villeneuve’s direction is fantastic as usual. It’s a stunning looking movie, Andre Turpin’s cinematography is outstanding, and there are so many memorable and emotionally impactful images that are burned into your memory. Much of the movie is actually rather quiet and subtle, but it all just made everything feel all the more real and raw.

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Incendies is a devastating and unforgettable film, it’s truly remarkable. It’s constantly engaging, greatly acted, and an effective emotional punch when it needs to be. Denis Villeneuve has done such fantastic work here, and this ranks among his best movies, which is saying a lot considering some of the other films he’s made. Although it’s not an easy watch by any means, I’d say to definitely check this movie out, especially if you like Villeneuve’s other movies.

Polytechnique (2009) Review

Time: 77 Minutes
Cast:
Maxim Gaudette as The Killer
Sébastien Huberdeau as Jean-François
Karine Vanasse as Valérie
Évelyne Brochu as Stéphanie
Johanne-Marie Tremblay as Jean-François’ mother
Pierre-Yves Cardinal as Éric
Director: Denis Villeneuve

A dramatization of the Montreal Massacre of 1989 where several female engineering students were murdered by an unstable misogynist.

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Polytechnique was one of the remaining Denis Villeneuve movies that I’ve been meaning to catch up on. Villeneuve in recent years has shown himself as one of the best directors working today, so I’ve been making sure that I would catch up on all of his movies (with this film, Incendies, Maelstrom and August 32nd on Earth being the remaining movies that I hadn’t watched yet) and now I’ve finally got around to Polytechnique. All I knew about this film going in outside of the director was that it was a dramatization of a real life shooting. It definitely lived up to all the hype, and was a really great (albeit difficult to watch) movie that worked very well for what it was supposed to be.

It’s really impressive what Denis Villeneuve was able to put into this movie with the runtime being less than an hour and 20 minutes. The first act quickly establishes the prevalent characters and the location before the shooting start. This movie is seen through the eyes of two students before, during and after the shooting, and it does really well to keep your attention throughout the entirety. It really does its best to respect the story, and it doesn’t try to give too much context about the events or try to comment on it, they just let is speak for itself. Even the killer himself is established briefly at the beginning, with a monologue from him about what’s driving him to commit these actions and that’s it. From there it’s one very impactful and effectively devastating experience of a film as it unflinchingly forces you to watch this tragic event, without it ever feeling gratuitous.

There’s not a lot of actors to talk about but really everyone played their parts well. The main characters of the film however are the killer played by Maxim Gaudette, as well as Sébastien Huberdeau and Karine Vanasse as the two students that the film focusses on over the course of the events. The three of them were really great and feel really authentic and real in their roles, doing so much with very little.

This is Denis Villeneuve’s third movie and at least at this point he’s really honed his skills and from this movie is a very talented filmmaker. Having watched Villeneuve’s prior movies, I’d say that it’s Polytechnique where he has really found himself with his direction and style. The film throughout is shot in black and white, it felt very appropriate and was much more effective. The cinematography itself was really great. Polytechnique has a very eerie feel throughout, probably because of how painfully realistic it all feels. Even before the shooting starts, the movie effectively places you right there and you really feel a lot of tension as it all builds up to the shooting. And when the shooting actually happens, it hits really hard.

Polytechnique is not an easy movie to watch, given how disturbing and upsetting the subject matter was). However, it is a really great and important movie, especially considering the political climate today. It was directed and acted incredibly well, and considering the seriousness of the subject matter (as well as the fact that it was based on real events), Denis Villeneuve and crew really handled this movie the best it could possibly be. It may not rank among Villeneuve’s best films considering the high calibre of his recent work and it’s not one I want to watch again, but it’s nonetheless a great film and really worth seeing.