This movie accomplishes more than any movie from Québec in the past year. And it attempts even more. The failed attempts are what people are complaining about, but that’s a bad critical strategy.
So what are the things I take away from this first viewing?
- Dolan is working through his heritage. This is not a weakness. It is necessary. Weak artists avoid this out of fear of losing the struggle. (Bloom is right about this.) Fellini is a major presence here and Dolan captures and detournes him in the most mysterious and most expansive sections of the film. With these few moments he suggests another world from the one we see directly. Because Laurence lives (at least in part) in this world, the scenes expand, deepen and ground his character. As a result, the film can remain with Laurence inside the fairly constrained terms of its narrative without risking shrinking him down or limiting him because from within the film we see that he has an “outside”. Laurence can transform yet remain trapped and unchanged, and both parts of his character are convincing and moving.
- Dolan works as a Quebec filmmaker. He has not dashed off and taken up his career in France or the United States. Which means he’s not cut off from his sources. (It also protects him from his heritage.) His films are set in recognizable, Montreal locations that add to the scenes rather than serving as backdrops. (Yet they don’t operate as the locations of a “regional” filmmaker either.) This film leaves Montreal for Quebec not some other world. It goes deeper rather than elsewhere.
- This film is queer in the strictest sense of the term, yet it is also contemporary. It feels completely different from ninties, political cinema without being a repudiation of it. It is queer, political, aggressive, destablizing and completely fresh. I haven’t seen an on-screen sexuality this interesting in years. Not least because this sexuality is non-identity and non-identity politics. Very exciting, very queer.
- There are more kinds of beauty than we imagine. Being shown new beauty is extraordinary.
Overall, I think this is Dolan’s most ambitious and best movie so far. I continue to be fascinated.
Here’s the trailer. Here’s the website.