Entertainment » Movies

Xavier Dolan On ’I Killed My Mother’

by Tony Phillips
Wednesday Mar 13, 2013

Editor’s note: This interview was first published in August, 2010. It is being rerun today upon the release of Dolan’s I Killed My Mother in New York.

After almost a year on the film festival circuit, 21-year-old filmmaker Xavier Dolan is getting ready to transition. His first feature, I Killed My Mother, made its debut last summer in the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes and picked up three awards. The film has since run the festival juggernaut, garnering more awards at tried-and-true festivals like Toronto, but also hitting far-flung locales like that other TIFF, Romania’s Transylvania International Film Festival. And over the past months, I Killed My Mother added a few gay festivals to its itinerary, from London’s Lesbian and Gay Film Festival to those in Philadelphia, Provincetown, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

One wonders if Dolan’s film, the story of a teenage boy and his funny and touching love/hate relationship with his mother (played by well-known Canadian actor Anne Dorval), has finally gone gay? "Jesus," Dolan exclaims when we get together this past spring while he’s in town for the New Directors/New Films festival, "absolutely not. No, no, no. I’m not big with the whole labeling thing." Okay, post-gay? Check. But surely Dolan, who, like the lead character in his film, is also gay, has some expectation for the film’s gay festival run? Perhaps, but high season for the gay festival circuit finds the prolific filmmaker back in Cannes with his follow-up feature Heartbeats.

On the Cannes red carpet

If I Killed My Mother is the French Canadian’s gloss on Francois Truffaut’s 400 Blows, then Heartbeats looks to be his Jules and Jim. "It’s a film on the love duel between two friends who become infatuated with the same person," Dolan explains, "and develop all kinds of methods to concur the object of their desire." The trailer, set to French icon Sheila’s très French version of "Bang Bang," tells a slightly less dry story. In it, Dolan and actress Monia Chokri battle for the affections of Niels Schneider, the tow-headed, Blue Lagoon-era Chris Atkins ringer, whom Dolan’s character in I Killed My Mother passes on sexually after a night of ecstasy fueled dancing. Thank goodness that injustice, at least, has finally been addressed and Schneider is now a bona fide object of affections, both male and female.

Dolan, for his part, seems as set on dismantling the Cannes status quo as Truffaut was when he brought The 400 Blows there more than 50 years ago. The formality of Cannes, most outwardly evidenced by the ubiquitous tuxedos, comes up and Dolan’s not having one. "I don’t wear tuxedos," he says simply. " I wear bow ties. The only dress specified is bow ties." If the looks he cycles through during his New York stay for New Directors are any indication, the dress code will not be a problem. He’s a flurry of skinny jeans with ankle boots, form-fitting naval sweaters and that trademark mop of hair, currently styled in a more vertical direction than in the film. His wardrobe looks like it just walked off of a John Hughes set, so much so that one must remind themselves that Dolan wasn’t even born when Molly Ringwald was pretty in pink.

The way he goes on to describe Cannes could also be applied to Dolan, himself, particularly the seaside festival’s "bipolar ambiance." Dolan goes onto to detail the bifurcation he found along the Croisette. "It’s an encounter between two different universes," he explains. "You have glamorous thing: the red carpet and the flash bulbs. And then you have some of the finest works of art on Earth. It’s one of the greatest cinematographic rendezvous on earth so it’s thrilling to see these two world’s collide and be a part of this whole artistic hysteria."

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  • CJ Plourde, 2010-08-13 17:56:01

    Xavier Dolan is a fine example of the number of incredibly talented Quebec-based film makers, who usually fail to get attention in the US because they are French Canadian films. It’s incredible that this 21-year old could make such a beautiful movie. I identified with much of it, having grown up in a Franco community. The writing, music and cinematography are excellent, and he already put a new film out a few months ago! Another great lesbian film maker, my favorite of all film makers, is Lea Pool, who has lived in Quebec for close to three decades. She is the author of at least six different gay-themed films.

  • Ted Patchell, 2010-08-14 13:23:01

    I saw J’ai tue ma mere at the Philadelphia Qfest, after it was recommended to me by a friend from Quebec on an online forum we frequent. It’s interesting and manages to go beyond the stereotypical misunderstood-teen film. For example, the mother of the main character finds out he’s had a boyfriend for several months - when she goes to the tanning salon. He never told her himself. Imagine. I hear from Quebec that "Heartbeats" is even better. I can’t wait to see what else Dolan brings us!

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