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Maelström (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maelstrom Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDenis Villeneuve
Produced byRoger Frappier
Luc Vandal
Written byDenis Villeneuve
StarringMarie-Josée Croze
Narrated byPierre Lebeau
Music byPierre Desrochers
CinematographyAndré Turpin
Edited byRichard Comeau
Distributed byAlliance Atlantis
Release date
29 August 2000 (Montreal Film Festival[1])
15 September 2000 (Canada[2])
Running time
88 minutes[3]
Budget$3.4 million[4]

Maelström is a 2000 Canadian romantic drama film written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. It stars Marie-Josée Croze as a depressed young businesswoman who becomes romantically involved with the son of a man she killed in a hit and run accident. Employing fantasy and comedic elements, Maelström is narrated by a talking fish.

Villeneuve conceived of the story, basing it on his interest in car accidents and modelling the protagonist after various women he knew. He cast Croze, then a novice actress, in the lead role. Filming took place in Montreal in 1999, with animatronics to depict the fish narrator.

The film premiered at the Montréal World Film Festival in August 2000 and received positive reviews, with some detractors. It won five Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture, and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 51st Berlin International Film Festival.


While being gutted alive by a fishmonger, a dying fish chooses to share a story that took place in Quebec during the autumn of 1999. A 25-year-old businesswoman named Bibiane Champagne, head of three clothing boutiques, has an abortion. She is interviewed by a journalist about her success and being the daughter of a famous person named Flo Fabert. Bibiane claims business is good, but her partner, her brother Philippe, accosts her for numerous failures. She is supported by her friend, Claire, but struggles with drugs and alcohol.

One night, while driving, Bibiane accidentally hits a 53-year-old Norwegian Canadian fishmonger, Annstein Karson, and subsequently flees the scene. Injured, Annstein stumbles back to his apartment, where he dies at the kitchen table. While at a restaurant, Claire and Bibiane order octopus but discover it is stale. The restaurant investigates the poor quality of octopus and realize the usual octopus trapper, Annstein, is missing, and find him dead. Bibiane reads confirmation of the death in a newspaper, and considers turning herself in; she confides in a stranger on a subway and consults him about turning herself in, but he tells her this will not bring the victim back. She eventually decides to dispose of the evidence, driving her car into a river. She survives, and interprets her survival as a sign that she deserves to recover her life.

The fishmonger's son Evian, a diver who was recently inspecting Manicouagan River, learns Annstein was cremated. This went against his plans for burial at sea. He encounters Bibiane by chance and she poses as his late father's neighbour. Evian falls in love with her, and she takes him away from a planned flight to have sex at her apartment. He later learns the plane crashed in Baie-Comeau with no survivors, and realizes Bibiane killed his father. Conflicted about his love for his father's killer, a stranger in a bar (the same man from the subway) tells him to marry her and never tell anyone.

Bibiane helps Evian sort through Annstein's possessions, and she accompanies Evian to Lofoten to dispose of the ashes. Finally, the fish narrator decides to conclude his story by revealing the meaning of life, but is promptly killed mid-sentence.



Villeneuve conceived of a fantastic element for his story, with a talking fish narrator; he modeled the character on prehistoric fish.[5]
Villeneuve conceived of a fantastic element for his story, with a talking fish narrator; he modeled the character on prehistoric fish.[5]

Director Denis Villeneuve conceived of a story, that would revolve around a car accident:

It's more a film about responsibility and [clarity]. Car crashes are the most dramatic events common and closest to us. That's why I'm very interested in them ... The film is a dark tale. One of its subjects is mythology. There's a strange narrator telling the story from a fantasy world. It's a hyper-realistic film, but it goes very close to fantasy at some points.[6]

For Bibiane, Villeneuve modeled the character after numerous women he knew, one of whom he described as a "mythomaniac", like Bibiane.[4] He began making notes on the story in spring 1998, while finishing his film August 32nd on Earth, but set it aside as "too difficult", given its detached heroine. He began working on the Maelström screenplay again later that year, due to his persistent visions of the story.[6] He began pitching the screenplay, and later said some readers told him it gave them nightmares, and that it was "too dark and heavy", though Villeneuve regarded it as nearly comedic.[1] Downplaying the dark subject matter, he described the story as "a playful call to be responsible and to be careful".[7] In his efforts for "balance" in respect to the abortion scene, Villeneuve said he was pro-choice but the operation "should never be taken lightly".[1]

The inspiration for the narration was a trout he had for dinner, which gave him food poisoning. This led him to choose a fish as the storyteller, which he also liked because it would add "a purely fictional element" to an otherwise realistic story.[4] He had also contemplated the alternative of a talking dog, based on a puppy his family had recently adopted, but preferred the metaphor of "a fish out of water".[8] In his story, the fish is being gutted and repeatedly dies only to resurrect and resume narration. Villeneuve explained this, saying, "For me it was the kind of image which was like all the storytellers from the beginning of humanity trying to tell a story, the same story over and over again. I think it's an image that is like my relationship with cinema. And then I think there's a link between storytelling and death".[9]


Actor Role
Marie-Josée Croze ... Bibiane Champagne
Jean-Nicolas Verreault ... Evian
Stephanie Morgenstern ... Claire
Pierre Lebeau ... voice of the Fish

In summer 1999, casting began. Villeneuve sought "someone with a very specific energy" for the lead, and during casting met novice actress Marie-Josée Croze for the first time. He chose her with no pressure from the financiers to choose a better-known star.[6][10] Jean-Nicholas Verrault was cast with experience in television, while Stephanie Morgenstern was known for appearing in the 1997 The Sweet Hereafter.[6]


Principal photography started in Montreal in September 1999, lasting until November.[6] The fish narrator was portrayed via animatronics; while inspired by a trout, the model was designed to resemble a prehistoric species "with big black eyes and a sad, gaping mouth".[4][5][11]


Maelström premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival on 29 August 2000,[1] before opening the Perspective Canada section in the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2000.[12] The film had its U.S. debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2001, where it received a positive audience response.[13]

In early 1999, Alliance Atlantis chose to distribute the film in Quebec and internationally, while Odeon Films would release the film in the rest of Canada.[6] It went to Canadian theatres on 15 September 2000.[2] In July 2001, it opened on three screens in Paris and 11 total in France, to a small audience of 300 people on its first day.[14]


Critical response

Voir critic Éric Fourlanty positively reviewed the photography and direction, comparing it to a dream, but found the writing lacking in places.[15] The Ottawa Citizen's Jay Stone gave it three and a half stars, and wrote it "aches with allegory" but had humour. Stone specifically noted the film plays "Good Morning Starshine" over the abortion scene and uses the end title "Fin".[16] For Variety, Dennis Harvey called the first two-thirds " enjoyably idiosyncratic", with a "slightly supernatural, fate-ridden atmosphere".[17] Vincent Ostria wrote in Les Inrockuptibles that the production initially disappointed, but it featured whimsy and an ironic use of music, and Villeneuve was among the better Canadian directors behind Atom Egoyan.[18] Stephen Holden assessed it as "a meditation on the disconnection between the glossy surfaces of high-end urban existence and the life-and-death realities they camouflage", with Dadaist elements.[19] In The Los Angeles Times, Kevin Thomas hailed it as a "stylish, breathless film, very much the dynamic work of a young man [Villeneuve] of talent, passion and brashness".[20] Slant Magazine's Ed Gonzalez dismissed it as "instantly forgettable".[21] The Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday called it "beautifully composed" in parts but ultimately disappointing.[22]

In 2017, IndieWire ranked Maelström as Villeneuve's worst film, though not so much "a bad film so much as it is a half-baked one".[23] The Canadian Press recalled it that year as an "off-beat parable" that "showcases Villeneuve's more avant-garde sensibilities".[24]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 81% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 37 reviews, with an average rating of 6.74/10.[25] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100 based on 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[26]


Maelström received 10 nominations, more than any other film at the 21st Genie Awards.[27] It won five, including Best Motion Picture.[28] Canada submitted it for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but it did not receive a nomination.[29] Producer Roger Frappier and Croze, hoping to secure an Academy Award nomination, also unsuccessfully campaigned for a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film nomination, screening the film for 60 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association in Los Angeles in winter 2000.[30]

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Berlin International Film Festival 7–18 February 2001 FIPRESCI Prize Denis Villeneuve Won [31]
Genie Awards 29 January 2001 Best Motion Picture Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal Won [27][32]
Best Direction Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Actress Marie-Josée Croze Won
Best Supporting Actor Jean-Nicolas Verreault Nominated
Best Cinematography André Turpin Won
Best Editing Richard Comeau Nominated
Art Direction / Production Design Sylvain Gingras Nominated
Best Overall Sound Luc Boudrias, Gilles Corbeil, Louis Gignac Nominated
Best Sound Editing Mathieu Beaudin, Jérôme Décarie, Carole Gagnon, Antoine Morin, François B. Senneville Nominated
Jutra Awards 25 February 2001 Best Film Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal Won [33]
Best Director Denis Villeneuve Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Actress Marie-Josée Croze Won
Best Art Direction Sylvain Gingras, Denis Sperdouklis Won
Best Cinematography André Turpin Won
Best Editing Richard Comeau Won
Best Sound Mathieu Beaudin, Gilles Corbeil, Louis Gignac Won
Montréal World Film Festival 25 August–4 September 2000 Best Canadian Film Denis Villeneuve Won [15]
Best Artistic Contribution André Turpin Won
Toronto Film Critics Association 17 December 2000 Best Canadian Film Denis Villeneuve Runner-up [34]
Toronto International Film Festival 7–16 September 2000 Best Canadian Film Special Mention Won [35]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle February 2001 Best Canadian Film Won [36]
Best Canadian Director Won
Best Canadian Actress Marie-Josée Croze Won

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Hays, Matthew (31 August 2000). "Filmmaker as a fisher of tales". The Globe and Mail. p. R.3.
  2. ^ a b "Maelström". Tribute. Archived from the original on 12 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  3. ^ "Maelström". Toronto International Film Festival. 2018. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d Royer, Genevieve (15 September 2000). "Hooking a Story: Bad trout was the inspiration behind Denis Villeneuve's film Maelstrom". The Montreal Gazette. p. C1.
  5. ^ a b "Maelstrom leads Genie nominations". Kamloops Daily News. 13 December 2000. p. A11.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Dillon, Mark (4 September 2000). "Maelstrom". Playback. Archived from the original on 14 February 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  7. ^ Howell, Peter (8 September 2000). "Review Fish hooks ; Quebec film 'Maelstrom' tells deep tale". The Toronto Star. p. D02.
  8. ^ Howell, Peter (26 January 2001). "He's no fish out of water ; Director Denis Villeneuve is the one to beat at Genies". The Toronto Star. p. 04.
  9. ^ Stone, Jay (9 November 2000). "The man behind that talking fish: Maelstrom has an odd narrator and a director with big ideas". The Ottawa Citizen. p. E1.
  10. ^ Villeneuve, Denis (5 February 2001). "Genie-Winning Film Explores Redemption, Responsibility". Canada AM. CTV Television.
  11. ^ Monk, Katherine (9 February 2001). "Maelstrom director a victim of politics". The Vancouver Sun. p. D1.
  12. ^ "Maelstrom ready to hit audiences at T.O. film festival". Barrie Examiner. 26 July 2000. p. C8.
  13. ^ "Le film Maelström de Denis Villeneuve bien accueilli au Festival Sundance". TVA Nouvelles. 19 January 2001. Archived from the original on 12 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  14. ^ Dolbec, Michel (7 July 2001). "French pan Maelstrom: Quebec film gets tough start after Paris critics voice scorn". The Montreal Gazette. p. D13.
  15. ^ a b Fourlanty, Éric (13 September 2000). "Maelström: Eau-Forte". Voir (in French). Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  16. ^ Stone, Jay (9 November 2000). "A fish's carping philosophy: Maelstrom is humorous though it almost aches with allegory". The Ottawa Citizen. p. E2.
  17. ^ Harvey, Dennis (18 September 2000). "Maelstrom". Variety. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  18. ^ Ostria, Vincent (4 July 2001). "Maelstrom". Les Inrockuptibles (in French). Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  19. ^ Holden, Stephen (25 January 2002). "Film Review; Fathoming Meaning From a Talking Fish". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  20. ^ Thomas, Kevin (5 April 2002). "A Woman at Whims of Fate in 'Maelstrom'". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  21. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (10 January 2002). "Maelström". Slant Magazine. Archived from the original on 12 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  22. ^ Hornaday, Ann (22 March 2002). "Quirky 'Maelstrom' Ultimately Flounders". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 25 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  23. ^ Ehrlich, David (2 October 2017). "Denis Villeneuve Movies Ranked from Worst to Best". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 12 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  24. ^ The Canadian Press (24 January 2017). "A look at Oscar-nominated director Denis Villeneuve's filmography". The Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  25. ^ "Maelstrom (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  26. ^ "Maelstrom Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  27. ^ a b Lacey, Liam (13 December 2000). "Maelstrom storms the Genies". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  28. ^ "Maelström". Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. 2 April 2013. Archived from the original on 16 December 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  29. ^ "Record 46 Countries in Race for Oscar". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. 20 November 2000. Archived from the original on 5 April 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2008.
  30. ^ Kelly, Brendan (1 December 2000). "Chasing Oscar: The makers of Maelstrom know it won't be easy to grab a nomination, so they're pulling out all the stops". The Montreal Gazette. p. D1.
  31. ^ "Maelström nets another award". The Globe and Mail. 21 February 2001. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  32. ^ "Cinq Génie pour Maelström". TVA Nouvelles. 29 January 2001. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  33. ^ "Maelström blitzes Quebec's Jutra Awards". The Globe and Mail. 27 February 2001. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 10 February 2018.
  34. ^ Goldsmith, Jill; Smith, Travis F. (21 December 2000). "Toronto Film Crix pick 'Tiger'". Variety. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  35. ^ Goodridge, Mike (17 September 2000). "waydowntown, Crouching Tiger top Toronto prizes". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 11 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  36. ^ "Traffic and Maelstrom pick up top honours in first Vancouver Film Critics Circle awards". National Post. 19 February 2001. p. D8.

External links

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