Tag Archives: Denis Villeneuve

Denis Villeneuve receives an honorary degree

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JOHN MAHONEY

Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve receives an honorary degree from Université du Québec à Montréal rector Robert Proulx on Tuesday. ‘I’m a professional dreamer,’ Villeneuve told the graduates at his alma mater. ‘To earn my doctorate, it took me 30 years.’

Denis Villeneuve pulled out two speeches, as he took the podium at Place des Arts’ Salle WilfridPelletier, Tuesday morning.

The acclaimed filmmaker is, of course, no politician. He was not holding a victory speech and a concession speech, but rather two versions of his advice for graduating students of his alma mater, Université du Québec à Montréal’s (UQAM) communications program.

Clad in a long black robe and sporting a bashful grin, Villeneuve was there to receive an honorary doctorate. He began with a story.

“A few years ago, I had the pleasure of adapting a novel by José Saramago, The Double, which became my film Enemy. The film tells the story of a history professor, who is intelligent but timid, and is obsessed by the cycles of repetition of humanity. One day, he meets his double, who is vain and narcissistic, and one tries to eliminate the other. But the forces of the unconscious are much stronger than the professor believes, and the spider (a recurring, nightmarish vision in the movie) is reincarnated. It’s not my best film, but it’s my most honest.

“It’s no coincidence that I have two speeches. I won’t read the first, which I’m very proud of. I wrote it a while ago. But I woke up in the middle of the night and realized I had it all wrong. I wrote this second speech for you graduates. I wrote it at dawn, when most of you were negotiating with strange images troubling your unconscious.”

Villeneuve joked that he is no example to follow.

“To earn my doctorate, it took me 30 years,” he said, “and more than $300 million,” the latter number a reference to the combined budgets of his films including Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, Prisoners, Incendies and Polytechnique.

“Time doesn’t have the same value for you as for me,” he admitted. “That took me an eternity to understand. I like to watch the trees grow. The force to accelerate requires enormous energy. The only thing that gets me moving in life is the explosion of cinema.”

He had no wise words on this day, Villeneuve insisted. But he did share a key tool to his artistic development, which he wished someone would have let him in on a long time ago:

“Therapy,” he said. “I have a warning, and I hope that it is completely useless. I imagine you’re all very serene and free of the shadows of your genetic heritage. But if you’re like me, and know nothing of Socrates and his understanding of the self, I offer you this warning.

“I’m a professional dreamer. My job is to build bridges between dreams and reality, and they pay me well to do so. I travel often into my own subconscious. I’ve met very few adults in my life who have conquered their shadow. If you’re like me, and like most decision-makers today, find a good therapist. They’re very rare, but they exist. It’s really the best advice I can give you today. With all my affection, I wish you luck, and beware of spiders.”

Following the ceremony, the director confided that the timing of the honour couldn’t be better.

“It touches me profoundly,” he said. “And it comes at a moment in my career when I feel I must take a break. I have to reflect on how I will evolve as a filmmaker, how to renew myself.

“And to receive recognition from my alma mater, the university that formed me, teachers who radically influenced me in my development — it’s here that I learned the ABCs of cinema and cinematic language — is a nice coincidence.”

Having just finished the first round of Oscar campaign appearances for Blade Runner 2049, Villeneuve is hard at work on the script for his next film, adapting another sci-fi classic, Frank Herbert’s Dune. “I’m renewing with an old pleasure that I hadn’t felt in a long time,” he said. “I hadn’t returned to writing since Incendies. I’ve worked on the scripts for my last four films, but they were all quite far along.

“I’m going back to my early days as a filmmaker, working with a writer I admire, a master who inspires me a lot. Writing gives me energy. Dune will be a long adaptation. It’s going to take time to write; it’s hard.”

Though he has achieved success in Hollywood, Villeneuve insisted that his creative journey is not a blueprint budding directors should feel pressured to follow.

“The objective is not to go to Hollywood,” he said. “The objective is to try to make films that are our own. Myself, as a filmmaker, the cinema I wanted to make is closer to the cinema south of the border. But a whole important cinema has to be made (right here). I hope UQAM graduates have the chance to make their films.”

In lieu of celebrating his newly minted degree, Tuesday evening, Villeneuve was preparing to fête the cinematic accomplishment of someone close to him.

“My daughter is studying cinema, and it’s the first screening of her short film,” he said, beaming.

Like father, like daughter. Yet Villeneuve’s offspring is already showing a rebellious spirit. She’s at Concordia.

Denis Villeneuve and Blade Runner 2049

Today’s Montreal Gazette has Blade Runner on the front page, and more inside.

Below, the interview with Denis Villeneuve.

Click here to read an interview with Festival du nouveau cinéma  co-founder, Claude Chamberlain speaking on how Denis Villeneuve helped get one of the two premieres of  Blade Runner 2049. It’s on Wednesday, but by  invitation only. And we weren’t invited, sigh.

ON THE CUTTING EDGE
How do you follow in the footsteps of a sci-fi masterpiece? Montreal director Denis Villeneuve says he’s ‘serene’ now that Blade Runner 2049 — perhaps the most anticipated release of the year — is done. And he’s happy its Canadian première will be at the FNC.

WARNER BROS. WENN.COM. On the set of Blade Runner 2049: “One thing that’s important, and I don’t say this lightly, is that Ridley Scott liked the film, and Harrison Ford, too,” Villeneuve said. “The two fathers (of the original) liked the film. From the moment (I heard that), I was OK.” Below: Ryan Gosling, right, in a scene from the stylish, esoterically paced noir Blade Runner 2049.

Blade Runner 2049 opens the Festival du nouveau cinéma at an invitation-only screening on Wednesday, Oct. 4 and previews in theatres on Thursday night before opening wide on Friday.

Denis Villeneuve was in a good place Thursday morning — and not just because he was home in Montreal.

He seemed remarkably calm less than a week before the world première of the biggest film of his career — the long-awaited sequel of one of his all-time favourite movies and perhaps the most anticipated release of the year: Blade Runner 2049.

“I feel serene because the movie is made,” he said, sitting on a couch on the top floor of an Old Montreal boutique hotel, clad in a smart black suit, speaking just above a whisper.

“From the beginning, I made peace with the idea that my chances of success were very small and that I couldn’t make this film expecting results or the approval or affection of the film community or the public.

“I had to make this film only as a gesture of creation.  If not, if I had put pressure on myself linked to the fact that (the original) is a masterpiece, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t have found freedom or joy.  When you make cinema, there’s a profound joy of creation, which you have to be in touch with.”

Villeneuve’s freedom is on full display in Blade Runner 2049, a visually spectacular, tonally haunting, dream-like epic that conforms only nominally to Hollywood norms. Continue reading Denis Villeneuve and Blade Runner 2049

Denis Villeneuve will direct Dune

Heads reboot of sci-fi classic

Denis Villeneuve will direct Dune. The Quebec director had been rumoured to be in the running to head the rebooted film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s series of classic sci-fi novels since December. Whispers became reality when the author’s son Brian Herbert tweeted the news Tuesday evening.

“It’s official,” he wrote. “Legendary Pictures has signed the very talented Denis Villeneuve to direct the exciting new Dune series film project.”

Villeneuve’s star is in full ascent in and around Hollywood. His sci-fi film Arrival is nominated for eight Academy Awards, including the prestigious categories of best picture and best director. Things are going so well that Villeneuve even found reason to complain about the nominations, rightfully lamenting that Arrival star Amy Adams was left off the list for best actress.

Next up, the lifetime scifi fan will fulfil a childhood dream with this fall’s release of Blade Runner 2049, starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. The longawaited followup to Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult classic is one of the most anticipated releases of the year.

With Dune now on the horizon, Villeneuve is on the path to becoming one of the biggest directors on the planet. And he’s doing it his way, fashioning artful, thoughtful films that defy mainstream cinema stereotypes. Arrival is an existential take on aliens visiting the Earth. Despite initial fears that it may be too cerebral for some audiences, the film has brought in more than US$174 million.

Villeneuve’s knack for mood and suspense will serve him well in staying true to the original Blade Runner’s esthetic, and as he prepares to bring Herbert’s complex universe to the screen.

Dune has been deemed a difficult project to adapt ever since David Lynch’s ill-fated 1984 film, starring Kyle MacLachlan and Sting. (Spanish director Alejandro Jodorowsky failed to complete his own version in the 1970s.)

Lynch’s movie was harshly reviewed and lost money at the box office, but Villeneuve may be just the man to give the series a fresh look. His two previous American projects, Prisoners (2013) and Sicario (2015), proved his ability to inject depth into even potentially generic plot lines.

The rights to Dune found their way back to Herbert’s estate in 2011; American production company Legendary Entertainment (Pacific Rim, Godzilla) picked them up in November.

Given that Herbert’s original series comprises six novels, there is ample potential for this to turn into a major franchise, if Villeneuve gets it right.