Denis Villeneuve, the room and freedom

Denis Villeneuve appeared at the entrance to the room, to everyone’s surprise, to greet the spectators who were preparing to see or see again Dune (the first part). There was an “Oh! » collective followed by a spontaneous ovation. “I can’t believe I breathe the same air as him!” », Confided a teenager to her friend, as if she had just witnessed the appearance of a messiah.

It was last week in a cinema in downtown Montreal. Son had the idea of ​​buying two tickets for this unique screening, so that we could get back into the swing of the House of Atreides, in anticipation of the release of Dune: part two1er March.

As a bonus, we were shown exclusive images of this “auteur blockbuster” which suggest, as well as the trailers already revealed, even more action scenes, but just as much elegance. The room was, of course, packed. And I was, obviously, increasing the average age.

“Thank you for seeing the film in the context for which it was made,” Villeneuve said straight away, welcoming the fact that his work was projected in IMAX format. A friend admitted to me a few days later that he had seen Dune on a small airplane screen. I only had one word for him: sacrilege!

Denis Villeneuve’s surprise visit was all the more appreciated given his extraordinarily busy schedule. This week he began a world tour to promote his new film and he already has three others in the works: adaptations of the science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke Meeting with Ramafrom Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra, and from the novel The Messiah of Dune by Frank Herbert, the filming of which has not yet been confirmed.

At a time when filmmakers are resigned to seeing their ambitions reduced to dust, Denis Villeneuve persists and signs by shooting epic films in the desert in person, notes the magazine Time in an interview with the Quebec filmmaker published Wednesday.

“Villeneuve is among a small group of serious mainstream filmmakers – Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino are two others – who, as mid-life veterans, wholeheartedly believe in the blockbuster cinema experience,” writes journalist Stephanie Zacharek.

That seems pretty fair to me. After the mixed success at the box office of Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve told me that he wondered about the negative impact of the length of the film (163 minutes) on cinema admissions. He feared that he would not be allowed to make another one that would be as long. Dune: part two lasts 165 minutes…


Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya in a scene from the film Dune: part two

When Dune was released in October 2021, barely past the peak of the pandemic, it was released simultaneously in theaters and on the digital platform HBO Max. Which did not prevent it from raking in some US$400 million at the worldwide box office (filming cost around US$165 million). Denis Villeneuve, who only entered the Hollywood landscape in 2013 thanks to Prisonershowever, did not hesitate to publicly express significant reservations about this distribution strategy.

In addition to being affable and outgoing, the filmmakerFires has always been frank. With him, there are no evasions. Which perhaps explains why all the actors I have met with whom he has worked, whether they are Quebecois or American, adore him. Also, to the journalist of Timehe said that what worries him today is that “filmmakers behave like algorithms.”

We live in very conservative times. Creativity is restricted. It’s all about Wall Street. What will save cinema is freedom and taking risks. You feel like the audience is excited when they see something they’ve never seen before.

Denis Villeneuve

We know that money rules the world. In Hollywood, more than elsewhere and increasingly, we wonder how much a film cost and, above all, how much it grossed. Denis Villeneuve is not the only one to notice this.

“I’ve never seen Hollywood so scared, helpless and at the mercy of Wall Street,” says actress, screenwriter and producer Issa Rae in an interview published online Thursday, also by the magazine Time. These two statements, in two days, to the same media, are not a simple coincidence. They bear witness to a phenomenon, a reluctance, a lack of courage on the part of the Hollywood industry.


Issa Rae

The one who lends her voice to Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) in the stunning Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is sorry that Hollywood does not keep its beautiful promises in terms of representation and increased diversity on screen. According to a UCLA study cited by Timeethnic and sexual diversity among American film actors, directors and screenwriters declined in 2022 to its pre-pandemic level.

Issa Rae, who played President Barbie in Greta Gerwig’s hit film, like Denis Villeneuve regrets the time when financiers did not get involved in creation in Hollywood.

Unlike the successful author Sintara Golden whom she plays in the brilliant American Fiction, she doesn’t believe in simply “giving the market what it wants.” That is to say, feeding the public something that we believe, often wrongly, that they will love.

“This is what happens when we let the bosses of the tech (companies) take control of our industry,” lamented filmmaker Richard Linklater (Boyhood) in September, at the Venice Film Festival. He noted that, when it comes to cinema, we now talk more about “content” than “works”. Like Denis Villeneuve, he is also worried about the effect of algorithms on the seventh art. Came to present his new film, Hitmanin Venice, Linklater wondered if “there is still a new generation that really values ​​cinema.”

I would like to reassure him by answering that Son is seeing or re-watching these days all the feature films that are in the running for the Oscar for best film. The day after this special screening of Dunewe saw together the disturbing The area of ​​interest by Jonathan Glazer. He then saw Poor Things with his mother and we plan to see again Killers of the Flower Moon this week-end.

Son is not alone in his gang. His brother is just as movie buff and you will never guess the latest film his friend recommended: The young ladies of Rochefort by Jacques Demy. A French musical from 1967! No, cinephilia is not dead. The indoor movie theater experience is here to stay. It’s not me who says it, it’s Denis Villeneuve.


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