Oct 162014


Xavier Dolan’s new film is formally daring, beautiful and moving. It’s Stella Dallas with a son rather than a daughter and is easily Dolan’s best film to date. Beyond that, I won’t say much. It’s better to just post the trailer.


 October 16, 2014  Movie Logs Tagged with: ,
Jun 162014

tom a la fermeXavier Dolan‘s first stab at a popular genre is a domestic thriller with gestures (often musical) toward Hitchcock. The Beav and I saw it  a few weeks before Dolan’s latest film won the jury prize at Cannes.

Tom à la ferme moves away from the art-house, festival films he’s made before — J’ai tué ma méreLes Amours imaginaires, and Laurence Anyways — and is based on someone else’s work, so in many ways this is Dolan’s biggest experiment to date. It is also, to my eye, his least successful film. It doesn’t quite manage to “inhabit” the genre. And genre is a merciless thing.

Yet, there’s good stuff here. I liked the odd too-long scene in the bar when Dolan plays against his father and thought that the final chase through the woods hit the note of menace and sadness and frustration perfectly.

So I’m sticking to my guns: Dolan remains the most interesting filmmaker working in Quebec.

 June 16, 2014  Movie Logs Tagged with: ,
Jul 082012

Laurence Anyways

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.

 July 8, 2012  Movie Logs Tagged with: ,
Oct 092011

Coteau RougeI don’t know André Forcier’s earlier work, but I’ve seen his last three films. Along with Xavier Dolan’s two films, I think they are among the most interesting to come out of Québec in the last seven or eight years.

This film isn’t polished and works in an anti-nostalgic mode which makes it stand out from films like C.R.A.Z.Y. et al. It is absurd, non-psychological and looks closely at an unvarnished life populated with types of characters and of stories. It is ironic without being cynical or misanthropic. Instead, the irony cycles around toward the mythic. Here, the lawn mowers and grass, the sheets hanging outside, the silly schemes to build condos and to fake paternity, and the maternity that proves sufficient, rich while remaining oddly, terribly human, together these and all the rest press into the terrain of myth, suggesting a new story about who we are and why we’re here.

Films don’t reach for so much today. They come with pre-fab questions and we watch them with pre-fab answers looking for confirmation. They depend upon gestures or styles or twists. and indicate they are serious by being unpleasant or “difficult.” Coteau Rouge is different: short, simply shot and simply edited. It moves along at a good clip. It does what it does so economically and enjoyably that it would take no effort on our part at all to take the film as a bit piece too silly for television. Oops. Pause, rewind.

It would take no effort at all–none–to miss the fact that something bigger is going on.

Long live the pariah.

 October 9, 2011  Movie Logs Tagged with: ,