“Dune” May Be Set In A Faraway Time And Place, But The Film Has Canadian Roots

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When “Dune” opened in Canada last weekend, I was in Quebec, where the great sci-fi tale was talking about it in the province.

The excitement and anticipation had an obvious source. Denis Villeneuve, the director who finally figured out how to bring Frank Herbert’s classic novel to screen, may be one of Hollywood’s greatest directors today, but Montreal remains his home.

Many Canadians, of course, have risen to the top of the film industry. But many of them left Canada to pursue their careers, like James Cameron, who directed “The Terminator”, “Titanic” and “Avatar”. He was originally from the paper town of Kapuskasing in northern Ontario.

It would be a stretch to call “Dune” a Canadian film. But as was the case with most of Mr. Villeneuve’s films, many Canadians were involved in the production. Patrice Vermette, another Montrealer and longtime collaborator of Mr. Villeneuve, was the master decorator responsible for creating the appearance of various planets as well as the vehicles, buildings, furniture and gadgets used by their inhabitants.

Tanya Lapointe, executive producer of “Dune”, is a former cultural journalist at Radio-Canada and the wife of Mr. Villeneuve. Other Canadians were involved in makeup and prosthetics, and two Canadian companies, one in Montreal and one in Vancouver, were key contributors to digital special effects. (Their work is also responsible for the appearance of the Quebec Film Production Tax Credit System logo, a variant of the provincial flag seen during the film’s closing credits.)

In interviews with Helen Macdonald for a profile and article on the making of “Dune” in the New York Times Magazine, Mr. Villeneuve explained in detail how to grow up in the village of Gentilly on the south shore of the St. Laurent Lawrence River, affected the way he turned a favorite childhood novel into a movie. His time in Canada making documentaries also influenced him, as did a school friend who later joined the film industry and, above all, his grandmothers.

“One of them was an opera character, the other was a caring and warm granny,” he told Helen, adding, “I realize I get so much from them. , but there are so many – there are many neuroses. “

Mr. Villeneuve also participated in a regular Times video report, Anatomy of a Scene, and dissected a scene from “Dune.”

[Watch: Timothée Chalamet and Josh Brolin Spar in ‘Dune’]

“Dune,” the novel, was widely regarded as an environmental parable, perhaps even more relevant today than in 1963, when Mr. Herbert began serializing it. The Times Opinion section published a guest essay by Daniel Immerwahr, professor of history at Northwestern, which shows that the source of the book’s environmentalism was Indigenous environmentalists, who were members of the Quileute and Hoh peoples of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. State.

[Read: How Is ‘Dune’ So Prescient About Climate Change? Thank This Native American Tribe.]

The day before I left for the Eastern Townships, Quebec, I went to a suburban multiplex with my youngest son, Timothy, a recent film graduate, to watch “Dune”. A confession: unlike him, I have never read the novel, and I am not particularly a fan of science fiction. My son has since returned to the movies two more times to see it. And, for what it’s worth, I found the film to be beautiful and captivating. Mr. Villeneuve has found a way to untangle the complexity of the story for “Dune” neophytes like me.

For an informed assessment, please read Manohla Dargis’ review in The Times, which touches on some of the race and hero issues surrounding the story. Mr. Villeneuve, she writes, “has made a serious and majestic opus, and even though he doesn’t have a pop bone in his body, he knows how to put on a show because it sparks a timely discussion about who will play the hero.” now.

[Read: ‘Dune’ Review: A Hero in the Making, on Shifting Sands]

Opinion offered its own review from an unusual source: Paul Krugman, columnist, economist and diehard fan of “Dune”.

[Read: ‘Dune’ Is the Movie We Always Wanted]

One thing in the film disturbed me, however. Although I am the grandson of Scottish immigrants, or maybe because of it, I was dismayed that thousands of years into the future the bagpipes will continue to buzz. While writing about Hans Zimmer, the film’s composer, Darryn King discovered that the futuristic bagpipe tune was not a hit with Mr. Zimmer’s family while he was working on the soundtrack at home. “My daughter told me the other day that she was suffering from bagpipe PTSD,” said the composer.

[Read: How Hans Zimmer Conjured the Otherworldly Sounds of ‘Dune’]


  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may not have secured a majority in the House of Commons in last month’s election. But he acted differently when he announced his cabinet this week and outlined an ambitious agenda for the new parliament and the new government.

  • Complaints ring out in the NHL after Kyle Beach revealed he was the player whose coach sexual assault complaints were ignored during the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2010 playoffs. An independent investigation released by the team found on Tuesday that its executives had failed to act quickly in part because they were more concerned about winning the Stanley Cup.

  • Pope Francis has “indicated his willingness” to visit Canada, following repeated requests from Indigenous leaders to apologize for the church’s role in residential schools. There was no commitment from the Vatican about an apology.

  • Martha Henry, known for decades of memorable performances at the Stratford Festival, has died aged 83.

  • Vanessa Friedman, Times fashion director and chief fashion critic, said the Canadian team’s clothing for the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games “looks pretty good.”

  • The International Real Estate section looks at the housing market in Quebec City and its surroundings.

  • Finally, a follow-up. On Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that comedian Mike Ward had not exceeded the limits of freedom of expression set out in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by repeatedly ridiculing Jeremy Gabriel, a teenager. disabled singer, in his stand-up routine. Earlier this year, our correspondent Dan Bilefsky examined the case in detail.


A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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