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A Focus on… Xavier Dolan – Un Certain Regard

This week Un Certain Regard is bringing to you the work of the Canadian filmmaker and actor Xavier Dolan, who is more than ever talked about since the release of his award-winning and acclaimed film Mommy in 2014The young director from Quebec is well-know for his complex and audacious films, visually often keeping away from the classic cinematic techniques, and always dealing with his beloved themes of women’s roles and places in society, the relationship between the mother and the son, impossible or non-reciprocal love, gender questioning and homosexuality. Yet Dolan is often referred to as being arrogant and self-centered, very proud of his works and sometimes despising a little too much some of that of the world’s most prestigious directors.

But his reputation of wunderkind is certainly to take into account, whether one likes his cinema or not; because no matter if he is loved or hated, the fact that he has found his very own style which definitely brought something new to the 21st century cinema is not to be denied.

The positive thing of Dolan only being 26 years old is that he “just” has 5 films under his belt so far, so here is a brief introduction to each of his movies to make you want to discover this very particular cinema, but definitely from one of the most promising young directors of our time.

J’ai tué ma mère (I Killed My Mother, 2009) :

 

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I Killed My Mother is Dolan’s very first film, that he directed at the young age of 19 years old. He clearly shows here his obsession with feminine roles, and magnificently brings to the screen the extremely strained and sometimes impossible relationship that children can have with their mothers. He acts the main character himself, who is a high school boy struggling to get along with his mum who doesn’t seem to be quite fit for motherhood, and also cannot find a way to explain her his homosexuality. This first work already sets the tone for all the other ones to come and is definitely one of the most enjoyable.

 

Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats, 2010) :

 

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Telling the story of two good friends, a boy and a girl, seeing their friendship fading after a third guy joins their group and they both fall in love with him, Heartbeats introduces the notion of the impossible and even worse, non-reciprocal love in Dolan’s cinema. For lack of having a happy ending (like most of his films), the aesthetics really are incredible, and paired with a nice soundtrack definitely add to make this motion picture a great and very interesting one.

 

Laurence Anyways (2012) :

 

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Laurence Anyways is more about gender identity and transgender than homosexuality, but at the same time is also definitely more about love in itself than gender transformation. In the couple, the main characters of this story, Laurence suddenly confesses to his girlfriend that he doesn’t feel himself in a man’s skin and that he knows he has to change into a woman to find his true identity. The news completely astonish Fred, but she eventually decides to help him in his change, although the relationship will not come out of it unscathed. You can read The Hippo Collective’s full review here.

 

Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm, 2013) : 

 

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To be perfectly honest, I have rarely felt as bad with a film as when watching Tom at the Farm. Yet I should add that it was not the fault of the film itself, but just that for reasons that had left me feeling rather down the day I decided to view it, saying that watching a comedy instead would have been better is a serious understatement. At least I realized how important is the “mood” you’re in when watching a film, and how much it can change your perception of the latter in a good or bad way. Yet I must say that this 4th film’s originality lies in the fact that it is the first one (and only so far) that is that sombre and distressing. Some critics have compared it to Hitchcock thrillers and while I didn’t particularly notice the similarities, its anxious atmosphere (a man goes to his boyfriend’s funerals and is forced by his brother-in-law to lie to his mother who didn’t know about their relationship) is completely perceptible.

 

Mommy (2014) :

 

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Mommy is Xavier Dolan’s latest film and definitely to me the most accomplished and representative of his cinema. The cast of actors is incredible, the images, colours and light are absolutely beautiful, and the script is masterfully brought to the screen for the enjoyment of the viewers. It earned Dolan the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival along with Jean-Luc Godard in 2014, and his speech, addressing his generation (that is, the youth) was just incredibly true and sincere, his words being the type to really make you want to “get up and go”, fulfill your dreams and change the world (so I’ll let you go and look it up by yourself if you’re interested !). As for Mommy, you can also read a full review just here.

 

For now, his 6th film It’s Only The End of the World starring some French stars such as Gaspard Ulliel, Léa Seydoux and Marion Cotillard is due for this year and the filming of the next one (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) is just about to start; and again, the scripts surely (and hopefully) promise some very interesting moments of cinema.

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