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Denis Villeneuve (French: [dəni vilnœv]note ; born October 3, 1967 in Bécancour) is a Canadian director and screenwriter from French-speaking Quebec.

He earned mass praise for directing numerous critically acclaimed films in the 2010s, many of them revolving around the thriller and Science Fiction genres. These include Prisoners, Sicario, and Arrival; for the lattermost film, he received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. He received the prize of Director of the Decade from the Hollywood Critics Association in December 2019.

Common traits of his films include visually inventive and stunning cinematography (often aided by dramatic uses of light and dark), very deliberate pacing used to build tension, and recurring themes of human trauma and identity captured in unflinching manner, with the end result being a complex, atmospheric filmgoing experience.

Since the late 2010s, Villeneuve has taken on very ambitious directorial challenges in the sci-fi genre building off his experience on Arrival, namely the sequel to Blade Runner and a new adaptation of Dune. He's also been announced to showrun Dune: Prophecy, a live-action Spin-Off series set in his film's universe for Max.


Filmography

Tropes from his works

  • Associated Composer: He worked with Jóhann Jóhannsson on Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival. Jóhannsson was also working on Blade Runner 2049 before being replaced by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Jóhannsson sadly passed away in February 2018. Zimmer, who went on to score Dune, appears set to take over this role for Villeneuve.
  • Auteur License: Much like Christopher Nolan, to whom he is frequently compared, the so-far unbroken critically acclaimed streak of Villeneuve's films (his worst-reviewed film, Enemy has a measly 74% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) means that he basically has a blank check to make whatever kind of movies he wants. Even after Blade Runner 2049, his biggest-budget production to date, lost money, he still got free reins to adapt Dune into another big-budget sci-fi movie aimed at adult audiences, which ended up successful enough to ensure the full adaptation of the novel into two films (the first film covers roughly the first half of the book).
  • Central Theme:
    • A person's individual sanity.
    • The destructive and dehumanizing effects of violence.
  • Chiaroscuro: His films are really good at this. Many of his films feature scenes set in extremely dark, shadowed interiors (Prisoners, Enemy), blindingly bright white sunlight (Sicario), or a mixture of both (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049).
  • Death of a Child: Child endangerment, child abuse and child murder happen frequently in his filmography, in part due to his obsession with the themes of loss of innocence and of parents unable to protect their children from the dangers of the world. Even Arrival features a child dying of a terminal illness.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: In Prisoners, Enemy, and Sicario, the film's deuteragonist resolves the central conflict.
  • One-Word Title: Maelstrom, Polytechnique, Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, Arrival and Dune.
  • Scenery Porn: His collaborations with cinematographers like Bradford Young and Roger Deakins resulted in stunning-looking films, as Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 can attest (the latter of which finally won Deakins an Oscar after thirteen previous nominations).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: While several of his films fall on the very cynical end of the spectrum, films like Arrival can be heavily optimistic and Blade Runner 2049 ended on an happy, if slightly bittersweet, note.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Especially in Polytechnique, Incendies, Prisoners and Sicario. While violence is infrequent, tension lingers in almost every frame and when violence is shown, it is always ugly, brutal and dispiriting for all involved. He also uses a lot of Gory Discretion Shot to prevent the violence from ever becoming stylized and to make the audience reflect on its aftermath rather than on the violence itself. Even Blade Runner 2049, easily his most stylized and "unrealistic" film yet, contains violence that is only portrayed as painful, grotesque and impactful. And though Dune has some conventionally awe-inspiring fight scenes, this is counterbalanced by the War Is Hell themes of the movie, and its protagonist's psychological struggle with having to kill.

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