Xavier Dolan

Les Films Seville

When Diane Després (Anne Dorval) signs her name to have son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) released from a teenage care facility, she scrawls her nickname — “Die” — before dotting the I with a heart. That tiny touch speaks volumes about the crossroads between ominous and ostentatious that Xavier Dolan’s Mommy calls home. A borderline operatic melodrama that emphasizes the emotional states of Solondz-like misfits with Sirkian flair (and a needless near-future setting), it follows the ADHD-afflicted Steve back into Diane’s reluctant care. As a widow, she can hardly hold a job down without having to attend to his latest vulgar or violent outburst, and the schools won’t have him back. Enter Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a mousy neighbor with a bit of a stutter who can withstand Steve’s mood swings. In fact, by tolerating him, the newly empowered Kyla levels out the emotional extremes between mother and son, if only for a while.

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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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College Boy

Why Watch? Sure, there’s controversy surrounding it so it’s a great water cooler topic (if you can find a water cooler these days), but all of that extrinsic nonsense detracts from the intrinsic gusto of Xavier Dolan‘s (Heartbeats, Laurence Anyways) music video for Indochine’s “College Boy.” It features some graphic visuals, including a teenaged character being crucified and shot repeatedly after being bullied by classmates. It’s a powerful if not bludgeoning work featuring some absolutely stunning black and white shots, and while the symbolism is greatly obvious (blindfolds on cell phone-armed on-lookers, Christmas lights slung over the cross), the sheer terror and isolation is still greatly palpable. Possibly, for some, to a sickening degree. When the bullies drive the first bolt through the boy’s wrists, it sends lightning up through your feet. The image itself seems to shake. It isn’t an easy piece to watch, but it’s also gorgeous, meaningful and possibly even vital filmmaking. Hat tip to The Film Stage for featuring it. What Will It Cost? Just about 6 minutes. A new short film posted every week day at 2pm Central.

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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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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movie, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. This week features Nic Cage driving straight outta Hell, two jackasses trying as hard as they can to cheat on their wives, and a love triangle from Canada.

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