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Film Critics: Today, December 10, nominations from San DiegoFCS, North TexasFCA and San FranciscoFCC.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Laurence Anyways


You can say I am a Xavier Dolan fan as have highly enjoyed his two previous films with interesting explorations on human relationships, great visuals, outstanding use of color, extraordinary compositions, fantastic attention to details, great set design, and yes, fabulous music scores. This film has all the elements I like but there has to be some problem with editing as find film uneven. Perhaps too much.

At the beginning was not easy for me to engage as the way Dolan introduces us to his characters is not much interesting and due to marketing/news knew what story was about; then story captured me only to loose me after a while and it happened several times: capture-release me again and again. In the end I was confused with all the capture-release and after clearing my mind I think that there are two movies in here, one very "superficial" with absolutely fantastic images and another that tells the story of a very unconventional love. My problem is that Dolan and the editor are not able to join them together often as there are moments were both are together but more moments where they are independent. Then there is the issue of the length.

I have seen many three hours films and have NO problem watching them. Here and due to the inconsistencies there were moments where got tired (got out of the story) and moments when I wanted more (was inside the story); but one thing is fact, I noticed the length which I never do in, for example, movies from India. Perhaps that's the major consequence of the capture-release thing as breaking the flow -especially when you're engaged- is not pleasant as breaks all the emotional building that you were starting to feel. Ah! the emotional component.

Dolan's storytelling style of choice for this movie is different than the one he used in his two previous movies (J'ai tué ma mère and Les amours imaginaires) where I was able to feel for his characters, to have my emotions positively disturbed by what I was watching. Here was not easy to feel emotional connections with the characters and/or the intense love story. I know that story is NOT about a man's transformation into a woman, is about love, very intense love, that cannot be lived freely because the inability of a woman to accept the changes in the man she intensely loved. She couldn't love a woman and after leaving his transformation experience, she couldn't love a man. She was really unable to love a person and most of all, was unable to realize that she loved Laurence because the person, not the gender. Thus, story is about true acceptance of others. In paper story is very interesting, seems engaging, emotional and intense; in the screen this story is diluted with all the "big bangs" that showcase visually outstanding images and music.

Do not get me wrong, I highly enjoyed the visuals but regret that some of them disconnected me from the story as in my opinion some "big bang" visuals did not contributed to the narrative. As an example of the exceptions, the pouring water scene (photo) was one that visually blew my mind and made me feel in that moment, intense emotions for the character. Conversely, the ball scene blew my mind for the visuals, the costumes, the glitter, the sumptuosity, the music, the surrealism, so much blew me that was unable to feel for the character during that key moment. Ah! the movie surrealism.

When reading reviews most critics and viewers mention that they didn't liked some scenes, especially the ones with the Rose group. Then many compare/relate Dolan to other directors and I'm not an exception. There are many surreal scenes in movie and most made me think about Fellini, which was highly unexpected for a Dolan film. But find that most of these scenes while being gorgeous highly distracted me from story and yes, if Dolan wishes to continue to be surreal, needs to improve his skills; but I am not closed to visualize that for his learning process he gives us a film that ONLY uses surrealism. That will be just fantastic -based on what I saw here.

The use of color. Mainly viewers comment about the great use of color in this movie which I tend to agree but mostly disagree. The thing is that I have a reference, a Dolan's reference. If you wish to see how extraordinary Dolan can be with the use of color then you have to see Les amours imaginaires. Here he uses mainly red to tint, darkish colors to dramatize, and most of all, a lavish palette that really contributes to move the narrative as yes, I believe that if something did not distracted me was his use of color. But in my opinion, his use of color here is a notch down to what he did in Les amours imaginaires were color was not used to move narrative but was an essential part of the narrative.

Performances were above the norm but the one I really enjoy for the brutally honest character she plays so well is Nathalie Baye. Most of the one-liners that got stuck in my head came from her mouth; her character is so well-written that I imagine was easy for her to deliver a fantastic performance. I simply love Louis Garrel performances but do not regret that he dropped out of this movie, as is not easy for me to imagine a better Laurence than the one Melvil Poupaud gave us. Suzanne Clément performance allowed me to pay her character more attention than to Popaud's character but perhaps her moments in the screen are the ones more broken for me.

No doubt that the newest of cinema "Enfant Terrible" or as some critics call him, ambitious Boy Wonder, is exploring new -to him- territories with this film that he calls his "most accessible" and maybe it is, but my true feeling after watching is that I wanted scissors to cut and glue to rearrange this movie, not because the length (the 10 years story could be so good that four hours or more are all right) but to make it more emotional, more engaging, not broken, not uneven. All the elements are here but some needed to be polished to make it an almost perfect cinema experience.

As we know film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at 2012 Cannes and news told us about Dolan's "surprise" to not being in the main competition; I really understand why film was not chosen to be there and now more than ever understand Dolan not going to accept in person the Queer Palm as believe that this is NOT a gay-interest or transgender-interest genre movie, this is a mainstream movie, so much mainstream as love (or tolerance) can be.

Nevertheless, film has collected many honors while travelling the fest circuit, starting with Suzanne Clément winning (tie) the Un Certain Regard Award for Best Actress to continue with winning the Best Canadian Feature Film at 2012 Toronto fest and more accolades; then won't surprise me if film collects more recognition in the next Canadian award season.

Do I recommend movie? Yes, of course. But suggest to be prepared for an uneven ride and if you're not patient with "long movies" then be glad that movie is now available to view it at home, so you can select the right viewing-rhythm for you. For those readers that enjoy the LGTB-interest genre share that my impression is that due to how story is tell, looks and feels more like a cross-dressing film than a male to female transformation story (especially when consider that Laurence is straight, not gay -by-the-way, I'm not giving film the label-), there are no real gay-interest scenes and the brief lesbian-interest with transgender tones scene is thankfully brief as generates a non-positive impression.

Still, I am Xavier Dolan fan and after watching this film still are, as for me is exciting that he is moving forward and exploring new-to-him territories; now I just can't wait to see his next one, Tom à la ferme especially because he is also acting and not doing only a brief cameo as he did here (his cameo was fantastic!). To tease you readers, check the following clearly gay-interest synopsis: "The story of Tom, who is in the grip of grief and depression following the death of his lover. When he meets the family of the deceased, it is revealed the mother was not aware of her son's sexual orientation, or his relationship with Tom either, for that matter."

Enjoy!!! (if movie was not uneven, this could have been Big Enjoy!!!)

Watch trailer @MOC

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