Xavier Dolan gets a lot of love at the Cinematheque
In 2012, theHollywood Reporter described Laurence Anyways as “an immersive orgy of pure sensory pleasure”. The same article went on to make the case for filmmaker Xavier Dolan as a Québécois Pedro Almodóvar, something you can judge for yourself when the entire filmography of Montreal’s enfant terrible (minus new film Tom at the Farm, which took a critic’s prize at the Venice Film Festival last week and which happens to be coming to VIFF) unspools at the Cinematheque in September and October in a program titled Les Amours Imaginaires: Xavier Dolan X 3.
Dolan was all of 20 years old when his first film, I Killed My Mother, took three prizes at Cannes 2009. Heartbeats emerged a year later, after which Dolan scaled up his ambitions considerably with his (almost) three-hour Laurence Anyways, the sprawling, passionate tale of a transgender man in a straight relationship. Laurence Anyways was generally regarded as one of the best Canadian features of the year, but—incredibly—it never opened theatrically in Vancouver (although it did screen once at Cinematheque’s Canada’s Top Ten film series earlier in the year.)
“I think it’s a tremendous shame,” said Cinematheque executive and artistic director Jim Sinclair, calling the Georgia Straight from the Toronto International Film Festival. “It’s one of the most acclaimed Canadian films of its year; this director is being championed and hailed around the world, and his new feature can’t even get a theatrical screening in this city—it’s sad.”
Sinclair pointed to a lack of screens as one of the reasons for the film’s absence in Vancouver, coupled with a growing separation between French- and Anglo-Canadian cinema. In the case of Dolan—who inflames the crowd as much as he pleases it—we’re missing out on the big-screen experience that’s vital to the work.
“It’s not slow, contemplative, difficult cinema about anguished people,” Sinclair said. “There’s anguish in his films, but it’s melodrama. He’s a great stylist, and there’s great excitement watching his films.”
Related in some ways to the Dolan series is Boy Meets Girl: The Ecstatic Cinema of Leos Carax, which also runs at the Cinematheque through September. Late Straight critic Mark Harris described Carax’s film Holy Motors as “high octane moonshine for film buffs” when it opened last year. But Sinclair is especially proud to have secured the other four features from “French cinema’s reigning mad romantic” (according to the New York Times) that aren’t in distribution in North America, including 1991’s Les amants du Pont-Neuf, “which I don’t think has ever screened in Vancouver before”.
More information is at www.thecinematheque.ca/