Newspaper article International New York Times

Cries for Help, Embraced by Praise ; Seeking Acceptance Led Xavier Dolan to Richer Rewards in Filmmaking

Newspaper article International New York Times

Cries for Help, Embraced by Praise ; Seeking Acceptance Led Xavier Dolan to Richer Rewards in Filmmaking

Article excerpt

Seeking acceptance led Xavier Dolan to richer filmmaking rewards.

Deep inside an exhibition crowded with costumes from Hollywood film history, in the future home of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, the 25-year-old French Canadian director, actor and screenwriter Xavier Dolan is, at the moment, a giddy fan.

This Montreal filmmaker stands in front of one frocked mannequin in particular, his slim, handsome face and swoop of brown hair cocked to the side. He stares, fingers clasped over his mouth. Try to talk, and he will shush you.

The costume is Kate Winslet's striped boarding gown from James Cameron's 1997 movie "Titanic," which Mr. Dolan fell madly in love with as a kid.

Since Mr. Dolan burst onto the scene with his 2009 semi- autobiographical directorial debut, "I Killed My Mother," at the Cannes International Film Festival, he has been called a young genius and an enfant terrible for his uncompromising melodramas about dysfunctional love and family as well as for his outspoken pronouncements. He has panned Orson Welles as "lazy"; called Jean- Luc Godard, with whom he shared the Jury Prize at Cannes last year, an "old grinchy man"; and refuses to apologize for influences that mainly run the '90s commercial gamut of his childhood, from "Jumanji" to "Titanic" and Jane Campion's swooning "The Piano."

Still, he has been compared with Alfred Hitchcock, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wong Kar-wai, and his newest film -- "Mommy," about a fiery widow trying to care for her violent teenage son -- is his best reviewed and most mature effort yet. Moreover, it comes as he makes the leap to Hollywood-level filmmaking with his next project, an English-language movie with stars attached.

"I don't have anything to prove to anyone; I don't have to let anyone know what a cultured person I am, because I'm not," said Mr. Dolan, who dropped out of college.

He contrasted himself with filmmakers who start off making short films after years of moviegoing. In person, Mr. Dolan speaks with authority and refreshing frankness. He uses Twitter -- he has more than 100,000 followers -- to respond bluntly to his critics, as he did after one review in The Hollywood Reporter.

He has written and directed four more features, including "Laurence Anyways" (2012), which traced the decade-long relationship between a transgender woman and her female lover. All were shot with intense close-ups and feature people, including strong female characters, who simmer, erupt, whisper and yell but are bound by love.

Despite his age, Mr. Dolan has had a long screen career already, starting when he was 4 in commercials, television shows and eventually his own films as well as those of others (like the 2014 drama "Elephant Song" with Catherine Keener). His extensive dubbing work (he's the voice of Ron Weasley in the French-language version of the "Harry Potter" movies) provided the money, along with government financing, to help make "I Killed My Mother." He also wears the hat of producer, editor and costume designer. …

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