After bursting onto the scene with I Killed My Mother and crafting the trans epic Laurence Anyways, Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan returns with Mommy, another triumph informed by queer and Freudian sensibilities. Starring Antoine-Olivier Pilon as a teen whose maternal love is achingly gnarled, the Cannes Jury Prize winner marks an emotional boost for Dolan, who dishes on his process.
Out: You've given plum roles to Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clement. Why do you think gay men have such appreciation for strong female characters?
Xavier Dolan: It's easier to project ourselves in female-character writing. I had to struggle to be who I am because I'm gay, so I can relate to women's struggles to belong. And who gives a shit about strong males? Their strength seems automatic.
When casting your vulnerable male lead, were you looking for the best baby face you could find?
[Laughs] No. Antoine was actually in "College Boy," a music video I directed for the French band Indochine. I was going to scout at schools, but it just so happened he was there -- the right one. I just felt it.
Mommy's best scene has the three leads dancing to music by Celine Dion, and Titanic is your favorite film. Did you have the urge to pay tribute to "My Heart Will Go On"?
Oh, no. The thing I least appreciate about Titanic is that song. I can't hear it anymore. It's like, if you push that button, it's the hurl button. But I do appreciate Celine's career. I was brought up listening to her songs with my mom.
What's a trait you inherited from your mother that you love, and one you hate?
Most gay men have had defining relationships with their mothers, whether stormy or good. My mother and I have a considerable incompatibility, yet she's so involved in the creative process. Her tics, her flaws -- she's always there, somewhere.
Among the things that make you so distinct are your extremely striking formal choices. Laurence Anyways, for example, is a wild hybrid of highbrow orchestral music, synth pop, baroque production design, tacky clothing--
Yes, but somehow very specific.
I don't know. I can't articulate my aesthetic because I don't have one. I don't have a precise style. There are aesthetics to each film, and Laurence, which is very baroque and over the top, is different from Tom at the Farm, which is very raw and dirty, and Mommy, which is warm -- orange and pink and yellow, as if it had been shot in Cali.
You have a knack for capturing the agony of love. Any stories from your own life that inform that?
I do love friendships -- or loveships -- that have a beginning and an end. I've been in shamefully short relationships with guys, and I was also severely heartbroken a good four times in my life. But I've never experienced the full scope of meeting, loving, climaxing, and separating.
Mommy has a very memorable karaoke sequence. If you had to sing a karaoke song, what would it be?
I'm a horrible singer, and it's been a while since I've listened to it, but I think I could try "Let It Go" from Frozen. I might be able to achieve that--maybe with ice skates.
Mommy opens in select theaters Jan. 23. Watch the trailer below: