February 1, 2023

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First anniversary of filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée: “He was remarkable…”

On this date last year, Quebec was shocked to learn of the sudden death of filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallée at the age of 58. A year later, the shock wave has faded, but the sadness of losing one of our most talented directors in the prime of life still lingers.

• Read more: A documentary on Jean-Marc Vallée is in production

• Read more: Wally had a heart attack

The news broke late Sunday evening, December 26. Exhausted, director of photography Yves Bélanger, Jean-Marc Vallee’s friend and loyal partner, had gone to bed early that evening. The sound of his phone woke him up. On the other end of the line: Australian actress Nicole Kidman.

“She heard the news from Jean-Marc’s partner in Los Angeles, and she wanted to call me to console me,” Yves Bélanger recounts. “It shocked her a little to see that I still didn’t know. I was very shocked. At first I thought she was playing a joke on me!”

Yves Bélanger was not the only one to feel this inexplicable feeling when he learned that Jean-Marc Vallée had suddenly suffered a heart attack in his room in Berthier-sur-Mer on December 25.

Jean-Marc Vallée and cinematographer Yves Belanger on the set of Big Little Lies.

Photo by Yves Bélanger

Jean-Marc Vallée and cinematographer Yves Belanger on the set of Big Little Lies.

“I learned it at the end of the evening on December 26, and I didn’t believe it, it seemed so unreal to me,” says producer Pierre Evan, who worked with Vallee on films. Crazy And Flora Coffee.

“Jean-Marc was in very good shape and he took good care of himself. It just didn’t make sense.”

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Tribute rain

After the shock of the announcement of his death, evidence quickly began to mount in Quebec and Hollywood. From Jake Gyllenhaal to Naomi Watts, via Michel Côté and Marc-Andre Grondin, many stars and Valley’s former collaborators paid tribute to the director. Crazy, Dallas Buyers Club And Big Little Lies.

“I was touched by the number of people who wanted to bear witness to this loss,” recalls Pierre Evan. “I felt a great wave of sadness. People stopped me in the street and expressed their pain. Jean-Marc was a remarkable person. When you knew him, it was a special thing in life. His departure left us floored.

For his part, Yves Bélanger says he took care of “widows” in the days following Wally’s death. He refers to the actresses thus Big Little Lies (including Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern and Nicole Kidman), have been closely associated with the Quebec filmmaker since filming the series.

“They called me one by one! He throws. Matthew McConaughey [que Vallée a dirigé dans Dallas Buyers Club] Called me and got a lot of messages from the technicians we worked with in the US.

Unfinished work

After filming two back-to-back TV series for HBO (Big Little Lies And sharp objects), Jean-Marc Vallée was preparing to return to cinema to make a film about the lives of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The shooting should have taken place in 2022.

Jean-Marc Vallée won two Emmys for Big Little Lies.

File photo, Ven

Jean-Marc Vallée won two Emmys for Big Little Lies.

“He’s very passionate about this project, insists Pierre Even. It’s his script, his work. One can’t help but wonder what else someone so talented would have given artistically when he left the profession halfway through.

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Yves Bélanger – who was to accompany Wally to the filming of the film on John and Yoko – regrets that his friend and partner could not enjoy life for a long time.

“Jean-Marc, he wanted to live, he wanted to see his grandchildren grow up. That’s why he bought a house in the country. I, what hurts me, is not so much the pictures that we will not see him, what he wanted to do with his life, he will never do. That’s it. I actually see the pocket,” laments the director of photography.

Pierre Even and Yves Bélanger are currently directing a documentary on Jean-Marc Vallee by Marie-Julie Dallaire.

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