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Short Film Wednesday - Next Floor

When life gets in the way, yet you still want to continue your film education, here is a short film that you can slip in during a spare moment of the day.

I am not completely on the Denis Villeneuve train yet. While he is certainly an accomplished filmmaker and has a knack for choosing material that best illustrates his gifts, I detect a self-seriousness in his work. While his films do naturally spark great discussion and exploration of deep themes, Villeneuve seems to want to do that with all his work, even his earlier films such as Prisoners and Sicario. He reminds me of Christopher Nolan (another filmmaker I am not completely on board with) in that I think he believes he is saying a lot more than he actually is.

So I was surprised when I saw Next Floor. On the surface, it is basically Villenueve’s take on The Exterminating Angel, in which characters are confined to a fancy dinner party - by what, we are not sure. Villeneuve spends many of his shots taking in the cuisine, which is the most decadent spread of mostly meat, especially exotic animals such as rhinoceros and shark. The only intelligible words uttered are “Next floor…,” which signal, well...I will let you discover that for yourself.

There are a lot of interpretations one can make about this short film, none of which I will indulge in for now since I think the fun of these types of films is to inspire hours of discussion among fellow cinephiles. Instead, I will talk about why I was surprised by this film. Many of his trademarks are here, of course. We see his dark color palette and dramatic lighting that gives almost everything importance, especially the food. There are also the dramatic close-ups, although in this film, he makes his debt to the master Sergio Leone quite clear.

However, there is also a lighter touch than I have seen in Villeneuve’s films. The material really depends on it since the premise is so surreal. He also gets to indulge in some nice visual storytelling, especially with the close-ups on the actors’ faces instead of relying too much on heavy, meaningful dialogue that can sometimes be a liability in his films, an issue that prevented me from loving Sicario.

Villeneuve is still a masterful filmmaker, and my reservations about him are maybe just a disguise for my hopes that he will make even better films. I am not familiar enough with all his work, but I would love to see him take some big risks with the types of stories that he tells, since he is so good at involving his audiences even when he is telling difficult, narratively dense stories.

 

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