Heartbeats

My Home Has No Heart: Xavier Dolan’s “It’s Only the End of the World”

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the end of the worldA ball bearing drops onto its track, the little sphere rolling smoothly held between metal wires, its path never too crooked, never uneven, never too wide or narrow. Marbles need support, but otherwise, they seem like little else but totems used to set things off in motion, as the grander design of the path reveals the intricate workings of something like a Rube Goldberg Machine. For me, it was a letter, or an invoice, rather, that arrived a year after my father’s death and a few weeks after my first semester in college, on Christmas Eve. Seated in the living room, before the enormous television that acted as the only string that could keep my mother, my sister, and me together in any semblance. The string between the three of us had been taut since his death – a combination of emotional abuse, physical abuse, pathological lying, betrayal, and manipulation had been the things to cause the relationships to unravel without control. I avoided leaving my room whenever I was home, lest any threads deteriorate beyond fixing. But, as always, returning home sent me into a fury and depression. My skin crawled when I knew I had to be at home. My mother and I were rarely not at each other’s throats, a simple question to either of us (“What do you want for dinner?”) enough to send us down a spiraling, dizzying path to a shouting match. This letter was the catalyst, the climax taking place the next morning when my sister placed her hands around my throat and, in an effort to get her off of me, I smashed a coffee cup on her head. Merry Christmas to us.

Being in the midst of an argument with a loved one, a family member especially, is like seeing red. Everything disappears – your sense of space, time, the language you use. They’re either volcanic eruptions, building up, or when a flame touches the sulfur tip of a match: an overwhelming burst, a spectacle.

If Xavier Dolan knows anything, he knows that he likes spectacle. His most recent film, It’s Only the End of the World, returns to family dysfunction on a slightly larger scale; where his previous films concerned two or three characters at most, giving the works a focus and a balance, his newest jumps around between the four family members of Louis, a gay prodigal son returning home after a 12 year absence, with the intent of telling his family that he is dying. He is the ball bearing, the marble, and domino, and yet he is not unaffected by the events that follow his homecoming. He must contend with his younger sister, Suzanne (Lea Seydoux), who always wished to know him; his smothering mother Martine (Nathalie Baye); his petty and volatile older brother Antoine (Vincent Cassel); and Antoine’s perceptive and compassionate wife, Catherine (Marion Cotillard). Before long, madness ensues. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking: On the Objectification of Male Bodies

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chris-prattIt is becoming slightly more popular, of late, to talk about the idea of the objectification of men. In Out Magazine, Kit Harrington, of Games of Thrones fame, spoke on this, saying, “I found it unfair, really, some of the stuff I read [in response to being labeled a sex symbol],” he says. “I was making a point, which was that I think young men do get objectified, do get sexualized unnecessarily. As a person who is definitely in that category, as a young leading man in this world, I feel I have a unique voice to talk about that. I was making a point to sort of say, ‘It just needs to be highlighted.’ With every photo shoot I ever go to, I’m told to take off my shirt, and I don’t.” Conversely, Chris Pratt, whose transformation from the oafish dude on Parks and Recreation to the charismatic leading man of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, argued that, in the name of equality, “it’s important to even things out. Not objectify women less, but objectify men just as often as we objectify women.” But, here’s the thing; I don’t think men can be objectified. By heterosexual audiences at least. Read the rest of this entry »

My Superlative Year in Film: 2014 Edition

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This year was a little different from last year. It was the year I really started writing. I’ve had this blog for, like, eight or so years and maintained it. I’ve written intermittently for VeryAware.com for a while, as well as TheBlackMaria.org. But this is the year that I really pushed my writing, so that my audience grew and I made more friends and engaged with more people than ever. I was fortunate to have my work featured on Movie Mezzanine (of which I am now Assistant Editor), Under the Radar Magazine, Film School Rejects, IndieWire’s /Bent, Sound on Sight, and elsewhere (you can find all of my work here). I got to go to two film festivals for the first time ever, and attend as press for them, which was amazing. I actually got to meet the writers I so much admire in person, in the flesh, and pick the brains and hang out with them. And this time, I actually got to watch a bunch of movies from 2014, which almost never happens. At the time of this writing, on Christmas Eve, I’ve seen 96 new releases, and 423 new to me films in general (a step down from last year, but whatever). So, here was my superlative year in film, 2014 edition.   Read the rest of this entry »

Dolan Out the Charm: What I’ve Been Writing

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In a feeble effort to make this the one stop place for my writing, I’ve come here to update you on some of my stuffs.

Firstly, I’ve been writing a lot about my new favorite filmmaker Xavier Dolan of late.

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Over at IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I wrote about the roles of mothers in his films.

The pet preoccupation of young Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan is not, at first glance, particularly interesting. Mothers. Alright, someone says, he has mommy issues. But the issue runs far deeper than writing it off so dismissively. For Dolan, as a queer filmmaker, uses his experience, position, and talent to explore mothers with atypical approaches. The divide between a mother and their queer child is also nothing particularly new, but, for at least I Killed My Mother and Laurence Anyways, his maternal characters transcend the roles given to them to become much more.

[…]

– All About His Mothers: The Role of Mothers in the Films of Xavier Dolan

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Over at Movie Mezzanine, I examine obsessive love in Dolan’s Heartbeats via Dalida’s “Bang Bang” and The Knife’s “Pass This On”.

It’s intoxicating. It has the power to the make someone do things out of the ordinary. It augments and manipulates the experience of living. Deep infatuation. Few films are able to pin that experience so accurately as Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, a hyper stylistic, elegant piece of filmmaking about two friends who fall in “love” with the same guy. Dolan is able to articulate the spellbinding effect that infatuation has on the two characters through the use of two songs, “Bang Bang”, describing the competition between Francis and Marie, and “Pass This On”, depicting the obsessive nature of their infatuation. Carefully utilized in the film and played nearly consecutively, Dolan nails what it’s like to be obsessively enamored.

[…]

Love, Ostentatiously: The Obsessive Infatuation of “Bang Bang” and “Pass This On” in Heartbeats

And recently, I just had the fortune to see Dolan’s fourth film, Tom at the Farm. And I’m seeing it again this week, because that’s how I roll. And he’ll be there in person. (Yes, I realize I’m linking to a post that was already on this blog, but, I thought it made sense regardless.)

It’s hard to describe 25 year old Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan as anything but a wunderkind, even if you dislike his work. The rate of output, for one, is impressive, but the products themselves are astonishing. But what happens when an art house enfant terrible steps away from his comfort zone to deliver a straight (or, rather, queer) psychological thriller? Certainly one of the most outstanding, heart racing experiences I’ve had at the theater in ages.

[…]

– Our Town: Tom at the Farm

 

I’ve also been doing other work, such as…

At IndieWire’s /Bent Blog, I watched queer romcoms and came up with the best and the worst.

Queer films often get ghettoized to a point where if you aren’t actively looking for them, you probably won’t see them in the spotlight, not unlike looking for an original cast recording of Company. You have your once in a while bursts of recognition, like Brokeback Mountain or Milk, but queer romantic comedies specifically almost never see the light of day outside of either your indie theater, your LGBT film festival, the Gay and Lesbian section on Netflix, or that unfortunate friend who actively decided to buy Were the World Mine on DVD. But why is it that way, beyond the obvious reasons of heteronormativity in mainstream media? So, I took it upon myself to plop onto my bed with my tub of ice cream, my stone cold bitch face, and my Netflix account to explore all that could technically qualify as a queer romantic comedy on Netflix, coming up with a personal 5 best, and a personal five worst.

Here are the Best 5 LGBT Romcoms on Netflix. 

And here are the Worst LGBT Romcoms on Netflix

Will be back later to add more stuff I’ve written lately.

Animal Farm: Tom at the Farm

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Tom at the Farm

It’s hard to describe 25 year old Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner Xavier Dolan as anything but a wunderkind, even if you dislike his work. The rate of output, for one, is impressive, but the products themselves are astonishing. But what happens when an art house enfant terrible steps away from his comfort zone to deliver a straight (or, rather, queer) psychological thriller? Certainly one of the most outstanding, heart racing experiences I’ve had at the theater in ages.

Read the rest of this entry »

So in Love: Heartbeats

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“He seduces you,” says one corner of the cinematic triangle of Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats, referring to another corner. There are plenty of films about love, friendship, and love and friendship, but Dolan’s second film, about two friends in love with the same guy, does an impressive thing that few of those films can do: articulate the exact feelings of love and heartbreak through cinematic form. Several films capture moments of love, perhaps even recreate scenes easily identifiable, but the actual emotion itself is hard to render. Wordless, invisible feelings are rendered nearly tangible and very palpable on the screen. The film seems to bleed emotion.

Read the rest of this entry »