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Damien Chazelle Says ‘Dunkirk’ Is ‘A Giant Middle Finger’ to Anyone Who Thinks Movies Stopped Taking Risks

The Oscar-winning director of "La La Land" thinks "Dunkirk" is the most personal and moving film of Christopher Nolan's career.



Warner Bros.

Damien Chazelle is the most recent Oscar winner for Best Director, and there’s a very good chance he’ll be followed by Christopher Nolan next year. Nolan has never even been nominated for the Best Director Oscar, but he’s widely expected to earn his first nomination and is even considered a strong candidate to win thanks to his work on “Dunkirk.” Chazelle, who was invited into the Academy in 2015, will certainly be championing Nolan this year.

The “La La Land” and “Whiplash” filmmaker participated in Variety’s “Directors on Directors” series this year, where he wrote a lengthy love letter to “Dunkirk,” noting the WWII survival thriller was Nolan’s most personal and moving film to date. Chazelle says Nolan’s entire career had been building towards an achievement like “Dunkirk.”

“It’s cinema as music — a continuous, breathless flow of images and sound that feels elemental and primal,” Chazelle says of “Dunkirk.” “For such a giant motion picture, depicting such an epic event, it is simplicity itself. Faces, bodies, land and sea and sky. It reminded me of the lessons of silent cinema — when you strip away everything but the essentials, you can look at the real beating heart of a thing.”

Chazelle continues: “It’s something of a miracle, a giant middle finger to all the claims that there’s no place for big risks on the big screen anymore. This is a work of pure cinema, speaking the same language as the cut from flame to desert in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ or bone to spaceship in ‘2001’….In its combination of scope and subtlety, the enormous canvas and the tiny, telling detail, it feels closer to the best work of David Lean than any recent movie I can recall.”

Chazelle is currently working on the Neil Armstrong space drama “First Man,” which is reuniting him with “La La Land” star Ryan Gosling. Universal Pictures has already given the drama an October 12, 2018 release date. Head over to Variety to read Chazelle’s entire “Dunkirk” post.

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