Magazine article Screen International

Xavier Dolan Goes Full Circle

Magazine article Screen International

Xavier Dolan Goes Full Circle

Article excerpt

Expectations will be running high when Xavier Dolan walks up the red carpet to introduce his Cannes Competition title It's Only The End Of The World (Juste La Fin Du Monde).

Besides being the prolific Quebec writer-director's follow-up to his widely acclaimed 2014 Cannes Jury Prize winner Mommy, Dolan's new film - which features several generations of leading French acting talent - could be an important stepping stone into a bigger, broader career for the 27-year-old, Montreal-born wunderkind. As such, it could also deliver another boost to the rising international reputation of French-Canadian cinema.

It is hard to tell if Dolan is feeling the pressure. Answering Screen's questions by e-mail in the busy run-up to the festival, he skips a query on his feelings about presenting the film, with its Gallic all-star cast and theatrical pedigree, at a French institution as revered as Cannes.

Quite possibly Dolan remains unfazed by the prospect of the close attention the new work is likely to attract. He has been dealing with attention for two decades now, first as a child actor and more recently as the creator of six intensely emotional yet finely balanced French-language dramas that deal with subjects including adolescence, maternity, homophobia and transsexualism.

Dolan first staked his claim with his 2009 directing debut and Directors' Fortnight prize winner I Killed My Mother, which he also wrote, produced and starred in. The following year, Heartbeats earned a spot in Un Certain Regard, and two years after that Laurence Anyways was in Un Certain Regard, winning the Queer Palm award.

Tom At The Farm (in which he again starred) took a side trip to Venice in 2013, where it won the Fipresci prize, before Dolan returned to Cannes with Mommy, which went on to take the César for best foreign film and a clutch of other awards around the world. Most recently, Dolan cemented his relationship with Cannes by serving on the 2015 Competition jury and upped his pop-culture cred by shooting the moody black-and-white video for Adele hit Hello.

Mommy was at one time to have been followed by The Death And Life Of John F Donovan, Dolan's planned English-language feature debut. But, he now explains, "I could feel Donovan would be hard to finance and I felt that It's Only The End Of The World would be an intelligent transitional piece - to attract actors to Donovan, and financiers, I guess. I also knew that it was too soon to shoot The Death And Life. I would've hit a wall. I still wonder, at times, if I will. But I don't think so."

Based on a dialogue-heavy 1990 play by French actor-director-playwright Jean-Luc Lagarce (who died of Aids in 1995, aged 38), It's Only The End Of The World stars Nathalie Baye, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux and Gaspard Ulliel in the story of a writer who, after a 12-year absence, goes back to his home town planning to announce his impending death to his family.

"I tried reading the play in 2010, but unfortunately I never got past page five," Dolan admits. "Lagarce's style is so sophisticated it bored me at the time. I just didn't get it. But four years later, right after Mommy, I felt the need to shoot something before Donovan. I went back to the play, knowing who I would cast and how to shoot it if I connected with the material this time.

"Suddenly, I understood it. And loved it. How the characters talked, how unlikeable they often were, their prolixity and nervousness.

I loved every single bit of it and thought it would be a challenging exercise to have such a strong cast saying those things to each other, and with the specificity and singularity of Lagarce's dialogue. …

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