Hollywood is a place of wonder. Producers, directors, actors, cinematographers, and so many others go to Hollywood from all around the planet to seek success and a safe place to express their impression of the world. Thus, one can find any type of production on the Hollywood outline: from amazing sci-fi flicks through mediocre comedies to bad dramas, Hollywood has it all. Seek and you will find it has been said and this certainly implies here.
‘Villeneuve has certainly managed to stand out the crowd’.
Since there are so many different artists working in the industry, it’s completely normal that there are so many different productions. Different people have different viewpoints on the world and different stories to tell, so it makes sense that one can find such diversity in the industry. Example one, Todd Philips, one of the more uprising comedy directors currently in Hollywood. With works such as ‘The Hangover’ and ‘War Dogs’, Philips has managed to find an audience for his work and can be happy making even more of it. Example two, Damien Chazelle, yet another uprising Hollywood director who has a more unorthodox story-development techniques, to say the least, but who has also managed to create fantastic productions that suit to many.
Example three, Denis Villeneuve, a director who is constantly being called ‘the best in the industry’ in recent years. With works as ‘Enemy’ and ‘Arrival’, Villeneuve has certainly managed to stand out the crowd by putting his own unique take on what seem to be ordinary stories.
Because of this, Denis Villeneuve has managed to win over critics and fans alike. With a rising reputation and a ringing phone 24/7 with an aspiring producer on the other end, Villeneuve will surely be a name to remember fifty years from now.
And that is baffling. Not only are his productions wildly overrated, but also extremely manupulative towards the viewer.
‘A pretentious film is one that insists upon itself’.
Denis Villeneuve is the definition of what many have labeled ‘pretentious cinema’. A pretentious film is one that does two things. One, it tries too hard to be ‘art’, so much that it actually disconnects itself from the story it’s telling. Two, talking about ‘smart’ things just in order to appear ‘smart’, rather than actually caring about the matter at hand. For example, a good thought-provoking film will explore and develop real topics, for example isolation, loneliness, and death. A pretentious film will not actually be interested in such things; rather, through brilliant exposition, dialogue, and, in the case of Villeneuve, cinematography, such topics are tucked into the story just so that the viewer can say to themselves ‘wow, this movie is so smart!’.
In short, a pretentious film is one that insists upon itself. One that pretends to be something it is not in order to win over audiences. One that focuses it entirety on seeming ‘smart’ and ‘artsy’, but that is actually careless of both itself and the matters it discusses.
Denis Villeneuve is genius in making exactly that: films that appear amazing. However, if one sits and thinks about what they actually saw, they will realize it was indeed a chaotic mess of nothingness.
Villeneuve’s early work had much potential. Ambitious Indie productions as ‘Maelstrom’ and ‘Incendies’ certainly have a lot to say. Both still very ‘artsy’ and confused movies, to say the least, but both containing much potential and being generally good productions. Sadly, ever since Villeneuve got into Hollywood, his directorial work has gotten more pretentious than ever.
Case study №1: ‘Prisoners’
Of all Villeneuve films, ‘Prisoners’ is certainly the best one. While still being a rather chaotic and very overrated production, it has many great qualities and is overall a good movie. Also, out of all Villeneuve works this one has to be the least pretentious. It is clear that the topics at hand are well-cared for and developed properly, but some pretentiousness comes simply from the general way this film was shot. ‘Prisoners’ insists a unique directorial and cinematographic flair upon its story: one that may be flattering and exciting to look at, but one that is also not needed and that actually takes away many significant things from the story.
Case study №2: ‘Enemy’
‘Enemy’ is not only an awful production from start to finish, but probably the most pretentious film of all time. This production is the perfect example of one that exists simply to build itself a reputation of a ‘this is so complicated, I’m going to have to google blank explained’ film. ‘Enemy’ does not strive to send out a message or even create a good story. No, if it wanted to do that, it would have found a way to do it properly and still stand out of the crowd. It insists upon itself, it creates a fake persona for itself, it is made so that one thinks it is smart when it’s really just chaotic and filled with mediocre clues that are aimed to help the viewer figure out an even more mediocre story. ‘Enemy’ pretends to be different, when it is in fact just lazy and arrogant.
Case study №3: ‘Sicario’
‘Sicario’ had much potential. With a simple-but-great story and a fantastic cast, this truly could have been one of the best films of 2015. Sadly, Villeneuve’s take on the plot has ruined it. The difference here is that this was actually written well. ‘Sicario’ has fantastic dialogue, exciting scenes, and genius plot-points all throughout. However, Villeneuve has made it yet another ‘artsy’ and ‘different’ production with his unique viewpoint on the story. Through his specific direction, the story behind ‘Sicario’ may appear even more devastating and deep, but in reality Villeneuve has takes a lot of the plot. Because of him, the viewer focuses 50% on the great story and 50% on Denis’ ‘artsy’ direction. As in ‘Prisoners’, Denis has insisted a certain directorial uniqueness to ‘Sicario’ that takes away much of the significance of the movie.
e.Case study №4: ‘Arrival’
…or the most overrated film of 2016, perhaps even ever. ‘Arrival’ was received extremely well by fans and critics alike, but it is probably the most pretentious one of them all, after ‘Enemy’, of course. ‘Arrival’ is smart-sounding and smart-looking from start to finish. It is crystal clear, however, that the creators of this particular production don’t care one bit about the topics they are exploring. It’s a pretentious piece of garbage that is pretends to care, but that is really an emotionally blank set of beautiful images. Not only that, this particular film is visually stunning, which makes the viewer subconsciously think the story itself is stunning, when it’s in fact not. This film may fool the general ‘I don’t have an opinion about anything so I just like what everybody else likes in pop-culture’ audience, but if one thinks about it, this production is nothing special. ‘Arrival’ insists it is better than what’s out there, but, ironically, that’s the exact thing that makes it pretentious.
‘As long as there is a thoughtless public, there is a market for his pretentious garbage out there.’
All these films share one thing in common: they appear different and deep, but are rather mediocre. They all consider themselves stunning and think they are putting a new meaning to things and changing the industry, when in fact they are just art-ish. And this is because of Villeneuve’s take on the plot of each film. Denis is very smart in manipulating the public to like his productions because they may seem ‘artsy’ or ‘different’. And he should be respected for that. He may not be a genuine filmmaker, but he is still an extremely intelligent human being.
This article started with ‘Hollywood is a place of wonder’. It went in depth to explain why there is a public for every different creator and every different production because there are so many different people that all like different things. What Denis Villeneuve is geniously doing is silently making his public… well, everyone.
Through films that appear great, he is quickly taking Hollywood around his little finger. Every Villeneuve film in recent years is wildly pretentious: a film that doesn’t care about what it has to say, but that says it anyway just to look smart. Denis uses a genius method to suit everyone. Through creating entertaining films that have a dramatic effect to them and that are ‘different’, Villeneuve will become one of the best and most famous directors to have ever worked in Hollywood. As long as there is a thoughtless public, there is a market for his pretentious garbage out there.
But then again, maybe this is just me? Maybe I’m the one who’s being pretentious by bashing on a well-respected direcotor’s work?
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As always, thank you so much for reading,