Playback 2013 Breakout Award: Xavier Dolan

The young Quebec director, who bowed his latest film, Tom a la ferme in Venice, likens filmmaking to football - seizing the project and taking it as far as possible.
Xavier_Dolan_Shayne_Laverdiere must have by line-1

Although just 24 years old, Xavier Dolan dominates the game of film in Quebec.

But as he considers a tribute as Playback‘s breakout player of the year, the young director debates whether football, where you take the ball across the goal line to score, is a better metaphor for his filmmaking style than baseball’s strategy of putting a ball in play.

“It’s not about throwing it as far as you can and then waiting to see what will happen to you while you’re running for your life,” Dolan tells Playback. “It’s about catching [the ball] to begin with, and then taking it exactly where you want, while you’re running for your life.”

Dolan’s latest long game has him bringing his latest film, Tom à la ferme, for a world premiere in Venice much like a quarterback aiming sniper-like down the field.

“You’re making a movie and you seize it entirely, put both your hands on it, and then visualize a place, a goal – the further, the better – and then you take it there,” the director explains, continuing the football metaphor.

“And it’s all about you in the end, although you have many allies to defend you on your way. Will you run fast enough, will you make the right choices, will you jump over the obstacles, tackle the opponents – if there is such a thing – and take the ball where you said you would?” he adds.

Dolan rejects the notion that he chose Venice over Cannes after the French festival denied his last film, Laurence Anyways, an official competition berth.

He said Tom à la ferme wasn’t ready for Cannes after he put its post-production on hold to act in Podz’s latest film, Miraculum.

“I’ve been mentioning my ardent desire to act for other directors for years, and since for once one had actually taken that unfalteringly reiterated statement seriously, I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity because I had to go and strut my stuff in the south of France,” Dolan insists.

Tom à la ferme, which stars Lise Roy and Pierre-Yves Cardinal and is based on play by Michel Marc Bouchard, is a France-Canada coproduction from Mifilifilms and MK2. In the film, a young ad executive travels to the country for the funeral of his gay lover, who died accidently.

Along the way, he finds out that his lover’s mother knew nothing about her son’s sexual orientation, forcing him to get involved in lies and deception.

Despite his latest film returning to familiar themes of gay dynamics and repression, Dolan doesn’t see Tom à la ferme as a variation on a theme.

Tom à la ferme… rather centres on the ever-growing gap between men from the country and men from the city than the actual division between heterosexual and homosexual men, and… [more] on Stockholm syndrome than on a typical bromance,” he insists.

Tom à la ferme is also the first psychological thriller Dolan has completed.

He has another goal in mind as his latest movie contends in Venice: shedding his fresh-faced young filmmaker label and being treated as more the enfant terrible that Quebec knows him as.

Sure, the “age tag” has helped Dolan woo the Quebec media, at least until now.

“But yeah, I wish the media, just like for Justin Bieber, treated me as a young adult – enfant terrible or not,” he said.

“Actually, I’d be content with them treating me like I was Justin Bieber, period, which means I’d be really cute and take pouting selfies on Instagram while travelling in private jets,” Dolan added, sounding more and more like he’s enjoying the game.

Image: Shayne Laverdiere