A 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 »
Some notes on Xavier Dolan. Read the rest of this entry »
As I said in another list, this year was slightly different, not only in that I wrote a heck of a lot more, but also in that I just saw more, at least as far as new releases went. My journey to making these lists was a fun one. Finals were already happening and I thought, oh, I have a couple of weeks to finish the seven or so lists I had to make, I have plenty of time. And then I realized I had just over a week. So I crammed in as many 2014 films as I could, and voila!
So, here it is, folks, my final, locked in list of my favorite 14 films that I saw in 2014 (I’m not worrying about US release date or anything, just counting what I saw.)
You can also find my ranked 2014 list on Letterboxd, my top 20 performances at Under the Radar, some capsules I contributed to Under the Radar’s best films of 2014, and to Sound on Sight (my individual ballot here), and my favorite musical moments in film from 2014. And, also, my superlative year in film. And also, my complete list of all the new releases I saw in 2014. Yes, I made a lot of lists this year.
Thanks for taking this cinematic journey with me! I hope 2015 to be as fruitful and fun! Have a safe and very Happy New Year, folks! Read the rest of this entry »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Will be back later to add more stuff I’ve written lately.