Julia Ducournau and David Cronenberg at the JDD: “We have the same way of seeing the world”

8:15 p.m., May 21, 2022

He has been one of the most famous figures in genre cinema for more than fifty years, she is one of the directors who have followed in his footsteps the most brilliantly; he is a regular at the Cannes Film Festival, where he received a special jury prize in 1996 for Crash and chaired the jury in 1999; she outright won the Palme d’Or last year with Titanium, his second film . What could be more natural than having David Cronenberg and Julia Ducournau meet? We have therefore brought together the 79-year-old Canadian, competing on the Croisette tomorrow with Les Crimes du futur, and the 38-year-old Frenchwoman, who is preparing new projects. She came from Marseille, he had been in Paris for several weeks, for the promotion of his 22nd feature film and to see his friends again after two years of pandemic and to discover the Bourse de commerce. A moment of emotion and pleasure shared (in English) between a young filmmaker, feverish with admiration but who does not let it go, and a quick-witted veteran, displaying the wisdom and humor of a Jedi master.

Do you know each other?
David Cronenberg: We met six years ago at the Toronto festival. I discovered Julia’s first film there, Severe, and I found it great. My producer asked me to meet him and I immediately accepted.
Julia Ducournau: It was completely surreal for me to be invited to share a coffee with David! I was so impressed that at first I was shaking… We spent three hours talking together. Then nothing: I didn’t want to spoil this beautiful moment by asking him for his e-mail… I didn’t think we would see each other again, so it means a lot to be here today.
CD: I was very relaxed! I didn’t know what to expect at the time, but I was very impressed with this young lady who had done such amazing work. Grave begins as a horror film, but it’s not: it’s an artistic gesture, in the best sense of the term. It doesn’t happen that often for me to see something like this.

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What pushed you both towards the genre?
JD: I remember reading that once you said: “I make art, and it happens to be through horror. » That’s exactly how I feel too.
CD: When I create, I never think in terms of genre: I think of a film shot, a line of dialogue, a way of lighting… It’s for the sake of marketing that we are put into categories.
JD: Barely in editing, there is already this question of distributors: “What is this movie? » And I am unable to answer them!
CD: Same for me: I never have any idea what I’m doing! I am not like Hitchcock, who saw himself as a puppeteer manipulating the spectators: there are themes that I want to tackle, images that I want to produce, subjects that I like, others that disturb me… I share with an audience that I want to leave free of its reactions. Of course I want him to understand what I’m doing, but I’m not trying to send any message.
JD: The only thing that interests me is to provoke emotions, no matter what… Especially since the way to appreciate a film depends on the day you have spent, the mood in which you are . We have no control over how the viewer will appropriate it.

Julia, what was the first movie that David saw?
JD:Crash. But the experience was so intense and intimate that I can only tell it to David! I’ll tell him everything when we have lunch together after the interview… Afterwards, I dove into all his filmography, and it was a real shock that completely transformed me, me the teenager in full construction, looking for a voice that echoed within me. That’s why I find it simplistic to say that I pay homage to him in my films: I don’t wink at him for a scene and then ” good bye and thank you ” ! David’s work is part of my DNA: it influences who I am and the cinema I make. He is the only one, with Pier Paolo Pasolini and Francis Bacon, who makes me want to make myself vulnerable to the work of an artist. And I know that these two men are also references for David.
CD: For The crimes of the future, I am often asked if I am influenced by my own films. There are connections since I made them all, but I’m not trying to pay homage to myself! To limit self-quotation, I say to my actors who want to change the dialogues: “Forget that damn screenwriter, he doesn’t know what he’s writing! »

How does it feel to be considered a master by young filmmakers?
CD: I have three children and four grandchildren. Them, I can say that I influenced them all! It is of course very pleasant to hear young directors tell you that they have seen Fly [1986] at 4 years old, even if I think that at this age it is much too young! It means that your films stand for something.

Seeing Titanium, did you say that the succession was assured?
CD: Not at all ! Julia does things that I have never done, and which I would not be capable of. And that’s what’s exciting: discovering a new cinema proposal.
JD: We have identical concerns and we have the same way of seeing the world, but I don’t recognize myself in your style. Our way of filming is very different: with you, everything is posed and your camera movements are very fluid, whereas I prefer the camera carried with violent movements; your approach is scientific, surgical, mine more psychoanalytical to make the impulse of my characters felt in the image. Even if in the end on the screen everything seems under control.

Life is a race against time and death. Making movies is nothing else

In any case, you have the same fascination for the body…
CD: The definition of what a human being is is constantly evolving. Without realizing it, we have taken control through technology. Just with air conditioning, we have changed our environment, and researchers have recently discovered that we have microplastics in our blood: because the fish we eat ingest them!
JD: David and I share the belief in a changing body. I like his way, in Les Crimes du futur, of not seeing it as proof of our weakness and our finitude, but of using it to make art. Which makes me think that the hero of the film is obviously you, David… Life is a race against time and death. Making movies is nothing else.

David, why did you photograph your kidney stones?
CD: My body had created this for me, it was like a message it sent to me. So, rather than just having them dissolved, I decided to keep them. My daughter came to photograph them and they are for sale on the Internet. If you are interested…
JD: It’ll be worth a lot of money on eBay!

David, how many times have you been to Cannes?
CD: I don’t know, I don’t count… This festival is a wonderful celebration of cinema. But when you’re there, you work hard: you meet people, you find friends you haven’t seen for a long time, but it takes a lot of effort. You have to put on a tuxedo and walk the red carpet without breaking your face.
JD: And again, you’re not wearing stilettos or a long dress!
CD: On Monday, I’m counting on Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux, my actors who will each give me their arm, to limit the damage! When you don’t have the marketing budget of a Marvel, being in competition at Cannes is unexpected and fantastic publicity. So Neon, which distributes Future Crimes in the United States and Canada, decided to release the film this summer, a period reserved for mainstream and popular entertainment. This hadn’t happened to me for thirty years, art house productions being confined to the fall! I’m a director of the month for November.
JD: Cannes is even more important when, as Titaniumwe know that our film will receive a ban for those under 16 in theaters.

Does an award on the Croisette change a career?
JD: Strangely, the Palme d’or hasn’t had a huge effect yet: I’m still working on the ideas I had before Titanium, partly with the United States: ambitious projects that will take time to see the light of day and about which I can’t say anything at the moment… But the Festival has allowed me to start a dialogue with people I would never have expected to meet. Cannes drew attention to me, and today I know that people take me seriously.
CD: I was surprised that Titanium was chosen to represent France at the Oscars this year. It was unusual, and very daring. In general, countries opt for a rather conservative and consensual film.
JD: I was also very surprised, I thought I had no chance! I took that as an honor and a positive sign. Unfortunately, we were not retained in the final list of candidates for the best foreign film.
CD: [Il rit.] That, on the other hand, seems quite logical to me!

There are still a lot of aspects of this job that are not fun at all!

What drives you to make films?
CD: Can we answer this question? It’s like making a baby. An individual wants to create something that did not exist before. It’s the same for a painter, a sculptor, a novelist…
JD: There is still a difference with other artists: the film set is a very special place. When I’m alone writing, I feel like I’m dying because this process is so difficult. So I project myself on the set: a place where I belong, even if it’s another source of stress.
CD: I hadn’t been behind a camera for eight years, I thought I was done. There are still a lot of aspects of this job that are not fun at all! I was nearing retirement and watching my son Brandon [le réalisateur ­d’Antiviral] get started and be in agony to find funding. I didn’t want to suffer so much anymore. I did the actor, especially in the series Star Trek-Discovery, a way to keep a connection with life on set. And then I wondered how the Covid was going to impact the making of a film, and I decided to return to service. The first days of filming, I felt like I was pretending to be a director, but after a week, everything was back. I even plan a film with Vincent Cassel, The Shrouds. It is also where we are sitting today that he read the script and said yes to me. We will shoot in Toronto next spring.

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Julia Ducournau and David Cronenberg at the JDD: “We have the same way of seeing the world”