Most Famous Works: I Killed My Mother (2009), Heartbeats (2010), South Park (he does the French-dubbed voice of Stan)
He’s made two feature films, won four awards at Cannes, was in the official selection at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, and he’s only twenty-one years old. I first heard about Canadian-French director Xavier Dolan two years ago when his first feature film I Killed My Mother won the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes. While I was of course jealous that someone only a year older than me had made such an impact in the film industry, I was also greatly inspired. My whole life I had seen features made by 40-something-year-olds, and for a while the idea of seeing a filmmaker of my own generation blaze the silver screen seemed like something that would never happen outside student film festivals and a USC thesis showcase. But finally, last Wednesday, USC screened a copy of Dolan’s sophomore flick Heartbeats and I was one of the first in line to see it – call me crazy, but seeing this tutti-frutti French flick seemed a lot more exciting than camping out for Big Momma 3: Like Father, Like Son. I sincerely enjoyed myself watching his film in the Broccoli Theater and probably clapped the loudest when the credits rolled. But on my long walk home, a sad realization dawned on me: while the cinematography was certainly beautiful, and I’d be torrenting the soundtrack when I got to my computer… that was about all the good things I could say about the movie.
Dolan’s biggest fault as a filmmaker is that he doesn’t know how to create a unique story or tell it visually – his film is essentially a series of montages that makes watching it feel more like seeing a marathon of perfume commercials strung together than anything with an actual three act structure. However, my goal with this blog is not to be some film-bashing critic! I began this series because I wanted to address the artist as a voice and that is exactly what I plan to do here. Story aside, when an image is on Dolan’s screen, the screen is on fire. Between art decoration, costume design and cinematography, Dolan uses color to more effect than any independent filmmaker I’ve seen in a long time, and he has a frequent director trademark of shooting many scenes entirely in slow-motion – good filmic slow-motion, not that crappy iMovie slow motion you see in youtube videos. In addition, his portrayal of homosexual love is handled with great care, rarely falling into the cliché.
I haven’t seen Dolan’s premier flick I Killed My Mother, but from I can gage based on Heartbeats, it’s hard to tell whether Dolan will have a long career in the industry like fellow wunderkind Orson Welles, or if he’ll fade into obscurity like ’90’s prodigy John Singleton. The unfortunate thing is, while Citizen Kane and Boyz n the Hood got recognition for being truly great films, I feel Dolan’s work will be bettered remembered solely for the fact that its director was so young. But while I know this hasn’t been the most positive critique of a cinema auteur, I must say that if you get the chance, buy a ticket to a Xavier Dolan film. Even if you can’t appreciate Dolan as a filmmaker, support him for breaking the glass ceiling that has held back young filmmakers for too long. Heartbeats is too small an indie flick to make it on it’s own. He’s the only Generation Y filmmaker out there right now and he deserves our help.
Most Aesthetically Pleasing Scene:
In an earlier scene, Dolan’s Francis is fed a marshmallow by his love interest Nicolas. After Nicolas witnesses an outburst by Francis, he decides to move on, leaving Francis heartbroken. As Francis wanders aimlessly, he purchases a bag of marshmallows in a desperate act to recapture the nostalgia of his time with Nicolas. As Francis bites into the jet puffed morsel, we cut away to a fantasy sequence of Nicolas standing shirtless with marshmallows raining above him. The scene got a big laugh in the theater and I was thoroughly impressed by Dolan’s ability to portray his character’s inner thoughts without resorting to voice over.
By: Eric Weintraub