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The 2012 10 to Watch: Xavier Dolan

This Quebecer isn't even 25 and has already had three films compete at the Cannes Film Festival, including Laurence Anyways (also screening at TIFF12) and J'ai tue ma mere, which took three Cannes awards in 2009.

Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. And the search keeps getting tougher, as the professionals who make up the screen entertainment industry keep getting better. The selection represented here were carefully chosen with input from a variety of industry sources and organizations. This year’s 10 to Watch were revealed in Playback‘s Fall issue, and as promised, the stories featured here are longer versions of the Q&As that appear in the print publication.

XAVIER DOLAN, FILMMAKER

The buzz: This Quebecer isn’t even 25 and has already had three films compete at the Cannes Film Festival, including Laurence Anyways (also screening at TIFF12) and J’ai tué ma mere, which took three Cannes awards in 2009.

Does moving in successive films from relationships between young people to those between adults reflect your own personal growth and world outlook?

Yes of course. But at the same time, Laurence Anyways is the story a woman and a man in their 30′s and 40′s, which is rather far from my actual age, concerns, and lifestyle.

You mix Duran Duran with Brahms and Depeche Mode with Celine Dion in Laurence Anyways. What role does music play in your films, in helping move the narrative along?

Music holds a power over us to use our private emotions to make public its agenda. It haunts the story of the film all the way to the movie theatre, where each and every person brings their own personal relationship to each song, contextualizes the music for themselves. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing a film made by a person you have never met, but with whom you suddenly feel bonded, through a shared intimacy with a song.

You’ve said the film Titanic, as an epic drama and love story, inspired and taught you a lot. Explain how.

Through its notions of rhythm and storytelling, the ambition in the filmmaking, its multiple layers in narratives—voice-overs, its past- and present-tense intertwined intrigues. This movie isn’t afraid of anything, and taught me to think big.

Regarding gay characters in your movies, is gender more a dramatic trope for you than a personal motivator and message?

The “queer” material in my work acts as a metaphor for the ostracism of a very wide community of different people, not only the LGBT community. Gender issues are always, for me, dramatic tropes disguising the contempt shown towards minorities, whether those of homosexuals, or artists, or intellectuals, etc. This “social” endeavour is intrinsic to my work.

If you didn’t express yourself through cinema, what other medium would be your bullhorn?

I think once you’ve been on a set at four in the morning – and the sun still hasn’t risen, and the grips are half asleep, and you’re drinking cheap coffee, and the vile odour of gas from the trucks and generators turns you on, and the whole world is still asleep – it’s already too late to ask that question.

And then you walk out of there, get into the Dodge van that drives you back home and you just don’t see all the other cars stuck in traffic because you are not in this world, and gas price hikes and what’s on TV isn’t part of your vocabulary anymore. You’re talking about props, blue hour and craft binges, and call everyone babe, and everyone calls you babe. And there is no coming back after this. Not for me that is. A life without movies, and especially movie sets, as an actor or a director, is unfathomable!

Photo by Shayne Laverdiere

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