I’m sorry, but if TENET is a masterpiece, then how do we categorize The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s *actual* masterpiece? That’s the issue with throwing that word around, as there’s really no higher director for an actor to achieve after that: once they’ve made a masterpiece, everything else — unless it’s ALSO a masterpiece — is technically lesser. But can you have more than one masterpiece? I’m not so sure. It sort of strikes me as being similar to the old football adage that if you have two quarterbacks, you really have none.
This is all to say that, despite how much I admire and respect Denis Villeneuve, I simply reject his notion that Nolan’s infamous 2020 film TENET is a masterpiece. How can a film be someone’s masterpiece when it isn’t even their own best movie? Hell, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who puts TENET in Nolan’s Top 3 films, let alone at the mountaintop.
“I was blown away by Tenet. I think it’s a masterpiece. I think it’s a movie that’s an incredible cinematic achievement. I think that it’s a very complex movie,” Villeneuve said. “I had so much fun, I saw it several times and each time it was a blast and I think the level of mastery of Christopher Nolan is unmatched.”
“He is by far one of the best filmmakers working in the world today because people don’t realize the eye-level of his cinematic mastery, it’s crazy. It’s crazy! Every time Chris puts a movie on-screen, I have to [see it in theaters]. Of course, I saw Tenet in the theaters. You can’t watch a Nolan movie at home, that’s like, that makes absolutely no sense. You have to, at first, receive the full impact of a Nolan movie in a theater. It’s really fascinating to see him evolving from one movie to another and always pushing the envelope, technically, narratively, and always reinventing himself. For me, it’s deeply inspiring to see that master at work.” [via CinemaBlend]
Now, despite my disagreement, I’m absolutely here for the publically unfolding lovefest between Nolan and Villeneuve, who’ve been paying each other compliments through the media in recent weeks. During a recent interview on The Director’s Cut podcast, Nolan praised Villeneuve’s Dune, particularly the massive scale of its technical achievements:
“It’s one of the most seamless marriages of live-action photography and computer-generated visual effects that I’ve seen,” Nolan said. “It’s very, very compelling at every turn.”
“Your entire team did an absolute incredible job. I think this film is going to introduce a whole new generation of fans to ‘Dune’ who have never read the book or encourage fans to go read the book. I think it’s an incredible piece of work. I’ve had the luxury of seeing it a couple times now, and each time I watch it I discover new things, new details to the world. The way in which it’s made is for the big screen. It’s a real pleasure and a real gift to film fans everywhere.”
Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve may legitimately be the two best directors working today. Tenet and Dune isn’t their best work, though, and that’s totally okay.