Thursday, February 4, 2016

The O Canada Blogathon


Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings have teamed up to bring the second installment of the O Canada Blogathon. Feeling adventurous (this will be one of several blogathons I partake in this month so you've been warned), I decided to chip in my two cents on a particular Canadian subject. Of course there are several people who've gotten famous over the last several decades that hail from there (as well as films being produced and/or filmed there) so whom did I settle on writing about? Well, Andrew and Kyle, get excited because I'm writing about one of your favorite directors: Xavier Dolan.


Now you yourself may not be well-versed with his small filmography but if you saw the music video for Adele’s "Hello", then at least you've seen one piece of his work. His films, however, deserve recognition beyond the art house film critics. With two films being released in the near future (one of them sometime this year), I decided to re-visit his films. For the record, they are:

(2009, dir. Xavier Dolan)
(2010, dir. Xavier Dolan)
(2012, dir. Xavier Dolan)
(2013, dir. Xavier Dolan)
(2014, dir. Xavier Dolan)

I think what makes Dolan an interesting director to watch is not just because of the many images he captures (believe me, it wasn't easy screencapping only three shots per film) but because of the elements that are known to his films. Like Pedro Almodóvar before him, Dolan frequently features queer characters in his films. (More often than not, said characters are played by Dolan himself.) And of course there are the stories he tells...

I KILLED MY MOTHER

Dolan's directing career began with this glimpse into a fraying relationship between mother and son. The film doesn't make the viewer take sides with either Chantale (Anne Dorval) or Hubert (Dolan); it just wants the viewer to watch the tempers flare and the domestic chaos unfold.


What makes I Killed My Mother fascinating is where Dolan was in his life when he made it. (He was sixteen when he wrote the script and twenty when the film was released.) There are also aspects in Hubert's story that come from Dolan's own life. It’s this detail that proves what the world of cinema would be expecting from the French-Canadian wunderkind.


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HEARTBEATS

Dolan's next film again focuses on a fraying close bond, this time on friends Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Dolan) as they vie for the attention of Nicolas (Niels Schneider). With elements inspired by Wong Kar-Wai, the film depicts the impossible romance between this trio.


Heartbeats doesn't have the same intensity as I Killed My Mother though Dolan does show the everyday lives of the younger generation. He doesn't discriminate when it comes to what happens behind closed doors or within a small gathering of people; he just wants to show everyday life.


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LAURENCE ANYWAYS

Dolan's third film continues the director's exploration of self-identity as Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and Fred (Suzanne Clément) watch their worlds change as he begins living as a woman. The film follows them amid the aftermath of these changes, drifting away as their lives take different paths. But will they stay apart?


What makes makes Laurence Anyways decidedly more different than, say, The Danish Girl is that Dolan doesn’t reduce the story to cheap clichés and stereotypes. (Then again, Laurence Anyways is set in a decidedly more progressive and accepting time than The Danish Girl.) That said, it doesn't seem that Dolan has that firm of a grasp of the trans community.


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TOM AT THE FARM

The fourth film of Dolan's directing career was the first to be a non-original work (it's based on Michel-Marc Bouchard's play of the same name), and it's thus far the best of his career. As he attends the funeral of his lover Guillaume, Tom (Dolan) finds himself thrown into a contained world of control and lies. Will he emerge intact?


Tom at the Farm has a noticeably more sinister tone than Dolan's earlier work in both mood and appearance. With elements that would make the likes of Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique) and Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face) proud (as well as part of Gabriel Yared's score being reminiscent of Bernard Hermann's work in Psycho), Dolan proves that he can do more than his usual fare of light drama. (Hopefully this won't be the only time he dabbles in the thriller genre.)



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MOMMY


Dolan's most recent film calls back to his first in that it revolves around the strained bond between mother and son, right down to having Dorval playing the distressed mother (and Clément as the one caught up in their family woes). The connection between Die (Dorval) and Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon) is more complicated than what Chantale and Hubert went through (Die's a widow, Steve has ADHD), and Die has her moments when her level of maturity matches Steve's.


Mommy also differs from I Killed My Mother in that it's from the perspective of the mother at wit's end rather than the unruly son. As frequently shown in fiction of this nature, Die is trying her best to provide for Steve even as trouble follows him like a bad smell. But what are her limits when it comes to being a mother?

4 comments:

  1. Xavier Dolan's first film made quite a splash in Canada, along with his most recent film. I haven't seen any of his films, but after reading your post, I'm wondering why the heck that is! There are so many talented filmmakers in Quebec, but Dolan seems to be exceptional.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon, and for spotlighting the work of this very talented director!

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    1. Oh, believe me. The pleasure is mine. :)

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  2. This was a great choice to write about--the future of Canadian filmmaking. Very much looking forward to seeing Mommy soon, and you got me interested in Tom at the Farm! Thanks for joining the blogathon!

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