19th Jul2015

Elephant Song (DVD)

by timbaros

000211 Michael-1At only 26 years old, French Canadian Xavier Dolan already has five films under his directorial belt, all of which have been well received and critically acclaimed. In addition, he’s acted in 12 films, including the just released Elephant Song.

In 2009, Dolan directed, produced, starred and wrote J’ai tué ma mére (I Killed My Mother), a semi-autobiographical story about him as a young gay man at odds with his mother, and wrote the script when he was at the tender age of 17. It won 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival. The next year he wrote, directed, produced and starred (again) in Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats), a story about three close friends who are involved in a love triangle. In 2012 Dolan continued his string of emotional and heartfelt films by writing and directing Laurence Anyways. At 168 minutes, it was an ambitious project for the young director to do, it was about the struggle of a straight man who, over the course of ten years, transitions from male to female, and how it affects the relationship with his lover (with amazing performances by Melvil Poupajd and Suzanne Clément). Laurence Anyways won many awards, including two Cannes Film Festival Awards (the Queer Palm Award and Best Actress for Clément). Lawrence Anyways was also nominated for ten Canadian Screen Awards (winning two), and more importantly, at the Toronto International Film Festival it won Best Canadian Feature film. Not bad for a local boy.

2013 is when Dolan wore multiple hats in a film. In Tom á la Ferme (Tom at the Farm), Dolan, who wrote, produced, directed and starred, plays Tom, a young man who works in an advertising agency and travels to the Canadian countryside for the funeral of his 25 year old boyfriend. The problem is that the grieving mother did not know that her son was gay, so she accepts Tom as his friend in the hopes that he can tell her all about her dead son’s life. Meanwhile, the deceased’s brother, 30 year old Francis (an amazing Pierre-Yves Cardinal), knew that his brother gay but could never really accept it. Conflict, anguish, thought provoking moments, anger, love, and acceptance follow. More acclaim followed Dolan when Mommy was released in 2015. It stars French Canadian actress Anne Dorval who is a widowed mother overwhelmed by her teenage son (Antoine Olivier Pilon – a relevation) and his attention deficit disorder. Dolan wrote, produced and directed Mommy, and it won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and won nine Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Motion Picture.


In the newly released Elephant Song, Dolan, who co-stars along with Bruce Greenwood and Catherine Keneer, plays Michael, a pychologically unwell young man in a mental institution who may or may not have had something to do with the disappearance of his psychiatrist. So it’s up to Greenwood’s Dr. Greene to interview Michael to try to get to the bottom of his colleague’s disappearance. During the interrogation, Michael plays mind games with Dr. Greene, alluding to the fact that he knows where his pyschiatrist is, but is not quite yet ready to tell. Michael is clearly a very disturbed young man, his very famous opera singer mother all but ignored him, and the one time he spent with his father was when he took him elephant hunting, with the boy Michael crying over his father’s killing of an elephant. And Michael alludes to a sexual relationship that he is having with his psychiatrist, so it’s up to Dr. Greene to take what Michael is saying with a grain of salt. Even the head nurse, Susan Peterson (Keneer), warns Dr. Greene to keep his distance from Michael. It’s a film that at it’s centerpiece is Dolan, who is perfect as Michael, very goodlooking yet very mischevious, you don’t know whether you want to hug him or to run away from him. And the film revisits the themes of homosexuality and the lack of acceptance so common in Dolan’s films.

What’s next for Dolan besides conquering the world? He just finished shooting ‘It’s Only the End of the World,’ about a young man who returns home after 12 years to announce his impending death to his family. It stars Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel. Dolan will also be shooting his first film in the United States, to be titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, in 2016. It’s a fictional story about an actor who is famous for playing a Marvel-style superhero whose life and career are turned upside-down when his private correspondence with an 11-year-old fan is exposed and made to look indecent by a villainous gossip columnist. This one stars Hollywood heavyweights Kit Harrington, Jessica Chastain, and Susan Sarandon. If his previous films are anything to go by, these new films (and his future films) will be eagerly anticipated and will be must sees.

ELEPHANT SONG is released in the UK 1st July.
It is available exclusively through Alarm Pictures on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Blinkbox.

19th Jul2015

Mommy (DVD)

by timbaros

ADorval_AOPilon1-1Wonderkind Director Xavier Dolan’s films all have some sort of a mother theme. His latest film, Mommy, is no exception.

It’s a craft full and clever told story, told in Dolan style (slow motions and all), about a frustrated mother of a son who has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The mother, Diane, is played by French Canadian actress Anne Dorval, in a tour de force performance. The son, Steve, is played by 17-year old French Canadian Antoine Olivier Pilon, who also gives a tour de force performance.

Steve’s father died when he was very young, and he’s been a handul for Diane, so much so that she had put him in a institution for most of his life. But one day he’s tossed out of a state facility for setting a fire, so she has to take him out and to their new home. Steve is young, is playful, looks very innocent, and acts much much younger than the age he actually is. He can be sweet, charming, adorable, with the face of an angel, but then suddenly he can become angry and very volatile, and Diane has no choice but to put up with his behaviour. One day he presents to her a necklace with the word ‘mommy’ on it, she accuses him of stealing it – he turns from a gift-giving young man to a furniture smashing very angry young man, enough so that Diane has to hide in a closet to escape from him. It’s not easy for her, taking care of him while trying to make ends meet on a meager salary.

Eventually Steve and Diane befriend their neighbor Kyla from across the street, (Suzanne Clement – who was superb in Dolan’s 2012 film Lawrence Anyways). Kyla is very shy, even mute at times, due to some vague personal trauma. When she initially meets Steve and Diane she stutters very bad. But over time, all three of them get along very well and grow closer and closer to each other. Diane leaves Steve in the care of Kyla at times and Steve becomes a gentle soul when’s he with Kyla – her reserved quietness in a way calms Steve. Kyla even tutors him. But Steve still has episodes where he erupts and threatens to cause harm not only to Diane but to Kyla as well. And over time Diane simply cannot take care of Steve for the rest of his life so she has to make a decision that will affect all three of them to the very core of their relationship.

Writer and Director Dolan shot this film in a tightened 1:1 aspect ratio (meaning the screen is the size of a large square postage stamp) giving the film a real close, tight and claustrophobic feeling, used very effectively when Steve goes on one of his rants. Dolan delivers yet another very good film that is in French with English subtitles. Dolan, at the tender age of 25, has an impressive list of films under his belt, and Mommy joins the ranks of them, having won the Jury Prize last year in Cannes as well as having won nine Canadian Screen Awards. Dolan has a knack for getting great performances from his actors, and in Dorval he’s given her a role that is her best performance yet. Pilon is a real find, he’s a young boy in a man’s body and he sure can act. And Clement is quiet yet peaceful and demure in her role. Mommy is a triumph not just for Dolan but for entire cast and crew, and for French Canadian filmmaking. Dolan has said that there is just one subject he knows more about than any other, one that unconditionally inspires him, and that he loves above all, that subject would be his mother. Dolan’s next film – called The Death and Life of John F. Donovan -stars Jessica Chastain, Kit Harrington, and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, and is about an American movie star whose correspondence with an 11-year old is exposed and will have repercussions for his career.

Mommy is raw and breathtaking, and a must see.