Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Killed My Mother (J’ai Tué Ma Mère)














I KILLED MY MOTHER (J’ai Tué Ma Mère)      A               
Canada  (100 mi)  2009  d:  Xavier Dolan

I want to be alone
Stay here, you, and shut your mouth
I can't calm down
Let me rage and storm
I have too many sad thoughts
So I want to scream
I am not happy
Furious like a child

It's mania
It's mania

I am not bothered
I have a troubled spirit
Give my a little time
It'll pass with the wind
I want to be alone
Stay here, you, shut your mouth
I can't calm down
Let me rage and storm

It's mania
It's mania

I want to be alone
Stay here, you, shut your mouth
I can't calm down
Let me rage and storm (9x)

It's mania! (3x)

—“Vive la Fête,” by Noir Desir (Black Desire), Vive la Fete - Noir Desir YouTube (5:55)

Using $150,000 that he earned as a child actor, another $200,000 from Quebec’s cultural funding agency SODEC for post-production costs, and shooting for free in the homes of family and friends, the first thing that should be said about this startlingly inventive youth in revolt film is its resemblance to Jonathan Caouette’s autobiographical TARNATION (2003), an eye-opening revelatory film that documents his troubled adolescence growing up gay while attempting to develop a more personal relationship with his brain damaged schizophrenic mother.  Xavier Dolan wrote the script at age 16, initially called The Matricide, much of it autobiographical about his love/hate relationship with his mother, prompting the director himself into the leading role (Who better?), while directing and producing the film at age 19, receiving an eight-minute standing ovation at its premiere at Cannes in 2009, but it was only shown in 12 theaters in Quebec, the director’s hometown, and rarely screened elsewhere, finally shown in a special screening in Chicago nearly two years later at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.  Like Caouette, Dolan brilliantly intersperses various film styles, from slow motion to fast motion, confessional video diaries, wish fulfillment reveries, dream sequences, snapshots, home movies, all playing a part in expressing the full range of Dolan’s rebellious 16-year old character, 11th grader Hubert, who from the outset is in full battle mode with his exasperated single mother, Anne Dorval, who is nothing short of brilliant.  In Hubert’s mind, his mother is the black plague of his life, as if she was born to irritate him, as she matches his narcissistic, self-centered behavior stride for stride, where for each personality, the world revolves around themselves.  Since they both can’t be the center of the universe, they continually butt heads with one another, at times wailing away at each another in full-scale assault mode, oftentimes both screaming at the same time.  This might sound monotonously shrill and one-dimensional, but Dolan adds humorous asides, expressing Hubert’s loathsome hatred as a kind of growing personal obsession.   

What sets this film apart from other attempts at raw confessional teenage revelations is the joyous energy of youth and the sheer intelligence of the script, which is immediately noticeable, where the audience is willing to put up with the blistering fireworks sequences, which may not be for everyone, due to the hilarity of the language used and because so much more is thrown in, such as a color flourish and exaggerated range of expression of Almodóvar, moments of rare tenderness, observational moments seeing paintings, figurines, and familiar objects lying around the house, intimately personal scenes with Hubert’s free-spirited teacher, Suzanne Clément, who has a parent issue of her own, or the understated ease of the scenes with his gay boyfriend Antonin (François Arnaud) whose house becomes a place of refuge.  Dolan’s room looks like any teenager’s room, but the attention to detail is significant, as is each piece of music selected by Dolan for the film, as the music is brilliantly realized, effectively representing his state of mind, especially a fast motion sequence that plays a song that builds from a gay love anthem into an angry punk song in French, J'ai Tué Ma Mère (2009) - Xavier Dolan - Noir Désir - YouTube (3:24), where he goes into his mother’s room when she’s not there and wreaks havoc, literally tearing it apart piece by piece, before he can be seen slowly putting everything carefully back into place afterwards.  His unleashed fury symbolizes his growing frustration with his repressed inability to discuss his sexual orientation with his mother, as their incendiary relationship instead leads her to send him to a distant boarding school in the middle of the school year, leaving his life and friends behind, expressed in a surreal dream by Surface of Atlantic’s “No Sleep, Walk” I Killed My Mother ( J ai Tue Ma Mere ) Surface Of Atlantic ... - YouTube (2:15).

The camerawork by Stéphanie Anne Weber Biron is impressive, expressing the changing moods by constantly altering methods of expression, from close ups to medium shots to his reverential shots of the back of the head, which continue in Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires) (2010), using Black and White natural realism with hypersaturated color, where Hubert is the picture of a whining, self-centered youth who feels entitled to be heard, never comfortable in his own skin, showing artistic tendencies but also a disturbing inability to empathize with others, continually dwelling in his own universe with a dissatisfaction of the world around him.  One of the other brilliant musical pieces is a drug induced party sequence at boarding school with a new friend Niels Schneider, also from Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires), where to the sounds of Crystal Castles - 16 - Tell me what to swallow  (YouTube 2:14), his emotions are ecstatically pulled back and forth by all the new changes and developments in his life, including a love scene with Antonin as they are splatter painting the walls of his mother’s office before making love on the drop cloth, a sequence edited by Dolan.  One never quite knows where this film is heading, but it must be said Dolan writes a killer ending, giving Anne Dorval perhaps the scene of the year in one of the more outrageous moments in recent memory, where it’s not just for show, it matters.  What follows is an exquisite, amazingly tender finale that is heart provoking and real, that makes everything that comes before essential and necessary in order to truly comprehend the gorgeous understated complexity that we are privileged to witness.  I can’t think of anyone else who has had two films initially screened the same year in the same city that were both potentially Top Ten films.  It’s impossible not to like this guy who at the moment is a tender 21-years of age, as his stand-out humor and intelligence mixed with his reverence for what makes cinema vibrant and alive makes his films among the most extraordinary viewing experiences of the year.    

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