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Friday
May232014

Posterized: Xavier Dolan

Mommy, which spurred spirited conversation at Cannes (and really wowed our woman on the ground, Diana) and could walk away with a prize this weekend (as literally all of director Xavier Dolan's previous features have but for Tom at the Farm, which went the Venice/Toronto route instead).

Xavier Dolan at the photocall for "Mommy" at Cannes, 2014

I remain perplexed that an international star with this much critical cachet and this many easily marketable elements (young, hot, queer) hasn't found a deep pocketed patron in the world of US distribution, in the way many auteurs do. Think of how Miramax used to favor certain directors or the way Sony Pictures Classics really invested in building the Pedro Almodovar brand. I keep hoping a younger edgier disribution company (my dream: A24) will fall in love with him because with the right promotion and cultivation, he'd have a devout following Stateside. For now, if only here, he'll have to make do with critics and really hard-working cinephiles who attend festivals regularly.  

The Canadian wunderkind just turned 25 and Mommy is his fifth feature in five years. If he keeps up this pace he could have a filmography that's impossible to be a completist about later on. Get in early and sample the goods. They're yummy. Distributors might not have made it easy for you wherever you live, but at least Netflix has been kind. How many of his previous features have you seen?

 

I Killed My Mother (2009)
Dolan's debut won much acclaim at Cannes including two prizes and became Canada's Oscar submission (it was not nominated). Much film festival chatter and an international release in major cities around the world, EXCEPT THE US, kept the buzz going for another year. Supposedly it hit US theaters this past March (yes, in 2013, four years after taking international cinephilia by storm) but I want proof that it actually happened because it seems like every year since 2009 we were told it was opening. [Available on Netflix Instant Watch]

Heartbeats / Imaginary Lovers (2010)
This unrequited love triangle, available on Netflix Instant Watch, won the "Regards Jeunes" at Cannes and was released in the US briefly in 2011 under its new boring title. [Nathaniel's Review at Towleroad]

Laurence Anyways
(2012)
This trans epic, Netflix to the rescue again, ran nearly 3 hours, and was the first that Dolan didn't star in himself. It took another two prizes at Cannes ("Queer Palm" and "Best Actress") and a brief US release in 2013. [Glenn's love for this movie is huge.]

Tom at the Farm
(2013) 
This thriller about a young man (Dolan) attending his lover's funeral in the country, only to discover that the lover was closeted and the family virulently homophobic, is still awaiting US release. [Nathaniel's TIFF Review]

HOW MANY HAVE YOU SEEN?

 

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Reader Comments (19)

I Killed My Mother - 7/10
Heartbeats - 9/10
Laurence Anyways - 8/10
Tom at the Farm - 6/10

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

I've seen his first three. Laurence Anyways was my favorite film (by a rather large margin) last year and is, in my eyes, a masterpiece. Dolan is such a inspiring talent. He's young and ambitious and talented, but he's not inhibited by stigmas and whatnot. He is himself and he knows how to present himself, both in his work and outside of it. His comments at Cannes this week have proved that.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Yes, I've seen them all, usually in the first week when they opened here in Montréal. It's been really interesting to see how his talents have grown over the years...though I still think that his second film (Les amours imaginaires) is still my favourite. I'm really looking forward to Mommy, though there's no release date yet set for it in Québec.

Incidentally, Nat, a correction: Tom à la ferme did go to Venice, just before Toronto; it won the FIPRESCI prize on the Mostra.

And...Dolan is talking about taking some time off to go to university, and to try to live what might be a "normal" life for someone of his own age. Bummer for us cinéphiles!

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBill_the_Bear

Three of four. Haven't seen Laurence - I'll get to it eventually but I just don't have time for 160 minute movies right now. My favorite of the remaining three is Tom at the Farm by a wide margin.

He'll find a US audience eventually. I Killed My Mother got gobbled up in court proceedings when its original US distributor went belly up. Heartbeats was a bad movie and didn't deserve much more than the $68k it made in theaters. Laurence's length and subject matter pretty much made it box office kryptonite in the US. The lack of distro for Tom... is bewildering, though. Maybe the collapse of the theatrical foreign film market - and especially the gay foreign film market - is to blame.

Mommy, if it wins a major award, is virtually assured of some kind of prominent US release, and his next film will be in English, which will help greatly if it's any good at all. And he's only 25, so there's no need to rush his legend along. :)

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Dolan is probably my biggest blindspot for modern directors. I was planning on watching Laurence Anyways this weekend already; now the guilt is overwhelming.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBrianZ

Is it wrong to admit that I hate all of them?

I hate this "in your face" / "trying too hard" movies that instead of telling a story or showing a sensibility, want to impress above all things. It's attention whore movie making.

I've seen all his movies and I just can't say anything about his world view beyond basic things, like queer, mommy issues, and etc.

Now take the filmography of Ozon, for example. We have very specific gay point of view, but with a lot of shades, looking at a lot of themes with different approaches.

He is a director that want to look at something and his generous eyes always brings us surprises. When I see a movie by Dolan I feel like I can anticipate everything, not in story, but in tone.

I don't know if you can understand me or I sound confused, but Dolan is not that great IMO, I mean not great at all. He has a lot of energy, but he is still a 25 yo with a teen sensibility, with the bad side of it.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

Seen his first two films, thanks to Netflix. Will need to see Laurence Anyways and hopefully can get my hands on Tom and his newest one sometime!

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I've seen the first three. They're all excellent, but Heartbeats is my favorite out of that group. He's so accomplished and only a year younger than me, I feel so inadequate!

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterThefilmjunkie

I have seen all of Mr. Dolan's films except his last release "Tom on The Farm" I am a big fan of his work and shocked that he has not received.more attention.here in the U.S. Hopefully he will do well at Cannes with "Mommy" and it will open some doors for.him

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnthony

Bill -- corrected the Venice thing. But also if he really wants to take a few years off to educate himself, i think that's great. the movies will still be there for him when he's done. and he is only 25 and we've all seen the dangers of famous artists who live too insularly in their self-created hermetically sealed worlds.

Cal -- well, at only 25 there is surely developing still to do. but i'm happy to hear a second opinion. I don't have a super firm opinion of HOW talented he is (it's early still) but i do think he's talented. I can see all the criticisms of Heartbeats tthat's it's like a chain of influences worn on sleeves but i still really like it.

May 23, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I haven't seen anything by Xavier Dolan and I hope to rectify that for next year as I have other things to do for the year.

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

None, which I'm embarrassed to admit as he's a fellow Canadian and I always bemoan the fact that there's a serious lack of Canadian talent getting international recognition. Maybe I need to jump on the Netflix bandwagon? Hmmm...

May 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMDA

I Killed My Mother is completely horrible and insufferably narcisistic but Heartbeats and Tom at the Farm were fine but both neither totally suceeds mainly because he's not good at directing himself, it becomes too personal. Also Heartbeats had annoying direction and Tom at the Farm an underdeveloped story. However, Laurence Anyways is a glorious masterpiece, a film for the ages. I have high hopes for Mommy as well and I hope he gets a prize (though I'd most love to see Cronenberg win the Palme).

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMYS

Can we also accept the fact that if this guy was in his mid-30s rather than -20s, people wouldn't be talking about him half as much?

Okay, okay, I exaggerate. But I sooo didn't get the fuss about I Killed My Mother. There was nothing prodigious about it. It pretty much felt exactly like a narcissistic 19-year-old filming his own journal with arbitrary samples from his favourite filmmakers. Zero depth, no real formal inventiveness - unless you count ripping off bit of Wong Kar-wai as somehow exciting.

Heartbeats was barely any more interesting formally (narratively, it was even less).

I'm aiming to watch Tom at the Farm later this week, and who knows, it might turn me. The premise certainly sounds more absorbing than the above 2.

But I can't commit myself to a three-hour film until its director has at least impressed me with something of a more reasonable length first.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergoran

goran -- regarding his age. that is unmistakably true. but it is what it is. would people talk about kathryn bigelow as much if she were a man? I love Bigelow but that's a part of the hook for people or the way the media frames the interest. Eventually Dolan won't be young and his films will have to totally stand on themselves as films... but the excitement of all new directors eventually wears off and people are left with only the films to determine what they think of the person.

maybe i'm just fascinated by people who churn movies out. it always makes me wonder what's going in the lives of directors who do only a couple of films a decade. Like, how do they fill their time?Are they a hobbyist (other things) at heart and filmmaking is more of a job they have to do once in a while. Or is it the other way around.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

His attitude is the problem. US distributors are unwilling to pay high acquisition fees. And give his films a wide theatrical release. Because they see his work as too queer for the cost. Xavier wants what Pedro gets. And they're saying no. So the circulation of his filmography stateside is viral.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I've seen the first three and loved them all. Laurence Anyways was amazing, truly a movie I've never seen before, influences or no. Some of the less fully formed ideas he works with (especially in I Killed My Mother) are due to his age. I'm not sure how that is bad, though. Who wants movies made by a teenager that feel like the same crap the older dudes are making? Everyone's first film has too many reflections of the works of others. I can't believe Tom at the Farm hasn't appeared in the US even on dvd. That's truly ridiculous.

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervladdy

So interesting to read these comments. I loved I Killed My Mother, my favorite from him; I hated Laurence Anyways; Heartbeats I originally thought I liked, but ultimately decided I was ambivalent; Tom at the Farm I recently saw and thought of it as a mixed bag, but the more it has sat with me the more I think I like it. Dolan comes across as clever to me more than anything else. He was originally torn apart as stealing from other artists, but in each of his films there's an appealing combination of taking pieces of other styles of filmmaking and matching them to a modern, frankly strange voice. If he doesn't burn out, he's going to do amazing things. I'm happy for all of his success thus far.

May 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

I've seen the first three (or, all that's available in the US), but I didn't see them in order. I loved them all and am perplexed by some of the comments. I found I Killed My Mother - which I watched on YouTube! - to be astonishing. And Dolan was 20 years old when he made it. Of course it's not mature, not subtle and shows its influences. It was made my a 20-year old!! What was great about the film was the commitment, the risk-taking, the intense performances and the surprisingly compassionate resolution of all that intensity.
Saw "Heartbeats" first and really enjoyed it. Laurence, Anyways is something grander than the other two. I'm not ready to call it a masterpiece, but it shows a largeness of spirit and a curiosity about life that is a sign of growth and immense potential for Dolan.
The lack of distribution in the US is surprising, but then, to borrow a phrase from Bud Grossman: "I don't see any money here." Is there an American audience for challenging sub-titled cinema?

May 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErin Matthiessen

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