Laurence Anyways

10 You May Have Missed 2013

The middle of the year brings a lot of things, but we can probably all agree that the most important of those things are lists. With that in mind, Landon Palmer and I set out to highlight ten of our favorite films of the past six months, but instead of being a straight forward list of the year’s best movies so far we chose to zero in on the great, smaller movies that may have bypassed your radar as they slipped in and out of just a handful of theaters. This factor is most obvious in the absence of Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor from Landon’s selections. The films we’ve chosen run the gamut of genres and countries of origin, but they share a sense of quality sadly missing from the majority of Hollywood films opening wide in theaters these days. (Although if you have to see a wannabe blockbuster choose Roland Emmerich’s White House Down… the damn thing is dumb as dirt but sweet Jesus is it fun.) You may have heard of some of the films below, but all of them are worth seeking out at your local arthouse or VOD provider of choice.

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Laurence1

Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Boy decides he wants to be a girl, and girl struggles with whether or not she can still love boy-turned-girl. This seems like such an obviously compelling storytelling scenario, a queer twist on an otherwise conventional love story, which makes it striking that a film like Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways hasn’t already been made before (at least, not to my knowledge). Montreal, 1989. Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud of Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale) is a novelist and literature teacher well into a passionate years-long relationship with Fred Belair (Suzanne Clément), an AD in the Quebec film industry. The couple plans a vacation, Laurence prepares his first novel, but something is amiss; something is tearing Laurence apart. While in the middle of a drug-addled, fiery exchange in a car wash, Laurence breaks down and reveals to Fred that he was never meant to be a man, that he despises the body he was given and longs to realize his true self as a woman.

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Kicking off this week with its Opening Night Gala for Hitchcock, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST effectively wraps up the year’s film festival-going season (a season that lasts approximately eleven months). Such calendar placement means that AFI FEST comes late enough in the year to serve as a last hurrah for titles that have been playing the festival circuit as far back as January (at Sundance) or as far away as France, Berlin, and Venice, and is the perfect opportunity for Southern California-based film geeks (or those willing to put some miles on their passport) to catch up on films they’ve been anticipating for months. Of course, of the 136 films playing at this year’s festival, we’ve managed to catch nearly a fifth of them at other fests, and we’re quite pleased to use this opportunity to remind you as such. Confused over what to see at the festival? Be confused no more! After the break, jog your memories of our always-extensive festival coverage with reviews for twenty-eight films set to play at this week’s AFI FEST that we’ve already seen (and, you know, reviewed). It’s like getting your festival coverage whole days early!

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Last year, I kicked off the FSR Cannes Awards by taking the opportunity to give three awards to The Artist (three of the Oscars it won actually, if you’re interested in just how much of a boss I am), and though there isn’t quite the same standout type of film at this year’s festival, there were some notable highlights. The rain was not one of them. This year, I saw 21 of the hundreds of films available to see, so these awards obviously only take in those that I deemed worthy of my attention (or which were possible to see given the intense mathematical equations required to see everything and write reviews of them all in timely enough fashion that all of the key information doesn’t bugger off out of your head). Here are my own highlights of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival:

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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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Whatever happened to brevity? Xavier Dolan‘s latest project – the transgender-infused romantic melodrama Laurence Anyways that was chosen as part of this year’s secondary Un Certain Regard competition in Cannes – weighs in at a comfort-busting two hours and thirty nine minutes. That, in any context, is too long. But, perhaps the plot might offer redemption, and make for an engrossing enough experience to make time less of an issue? It all appeared very promising – a decade spent in the company of Laurence (Melvil Poupaud), who makes the bold and brave decision to change his sex, and his girlfriend Frederique (Suzanne Clement) who must come to terms with exactly what that decision must mean. Over the ten years the pair refind each other as Laurence advances on his personal journey of discovery, making this sort of like When Harry Became Sally, if you’re looking for a provocative, self-indulgent pop reference.

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After literally days of rampant speculation and fanciful rumor-spreading (on my part), this year’s official line-up for the Cannes 2012 Film Festival has officially been unveiled by officials in the South of France. Officially. Unsurprisingly, and as predicted, my own 13 film wishlist was largely completely wrong – but I did predict a massive four (including the absence, thankfully, of Terrence Malick), and in my defense, Michael Haneke’s Love was the 14th film on my list until I decided to oust it for timing reasons. Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Tom Hardy will battle each other as Killing Them Softly (the awfully renamed adaptation of Cogan’s Trade), Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and the other needlessly renamed flick, Lawless (why not just keep it as The Wettest County?) compete for the Palme d’Or.

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