Xavier Dolan: Crossing Over


By Adam Rathe

With his epic transgender love story, 'Laurence Anyways,' indie filmmaker Xavier Dolan takes his place at the table. Just don’t call him an activist.

And they are movies the young director has gone to great lengths to make exactly the way he sees fit. Dolan not only wrote and directed Laurence, he also amassed and styled its costumes and even obsessed over the paint color on the set’s walls. “The control of every detail is my guarantee of accessing the type of material I’m satisfied with,” he says. “I was supposed to do this as my second film, but there was just no way -- I was not ready. I took four years to think about Laurence Anyways and plan every shot in my head. The trailer is literally, frame by frame, the trailer I cut in my head before I even wrote the script. All I had to do was walk the line straight to that trailer.”

If the line was straight, it wasn’t exactly short. What began as a story he first heard from a friend in 2008 expanded into an ambitious, nearly three-hour epic stocked with magical visuals, whip-smart dialogue, and gutting poignancy -- not to mention powerhouse performances from Melvil Poupaud (who stars as the transitioning Laurence) and the enchantingly ferocious Suzanne Clément, whose turn as Laurence’s long-suffering love interest earned her the Un Certain Regard award for best actress at Cannes.

“I hope I’m improving and walking toward a cinema where storytelling prevails over filmmaking,” Dolan says. “My growth is about understanding what’s dispensable in my filmmaking and what’s unnecessary in terms of storytelling.”

Expect to see those objectives at play in both Tom at the Farm and The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Dolan’s first English-language film, currently in preproduction -- and, as far as he’s concerned, in any projects he decides to take on in the future. “Hollywood is knocking, but I’d rather make my own entrance and do it my own way,” Dolan says. “I am going to Hollywood, but I’m afraid I won’t get in through the front door. I might have to go in through the patio.”

Watch the trailer for Laurence Anyways below:

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