Laurence Anyways

There are enfants terribles — and then there are infants. Quebecois actor/director Xavier Dolon has, at the incredibly young age of 24, helmed four feature films equally hyper-stylish, deeply emotional, packed with impeccable music choices, and displaying a shocking maturity. Quickly becoming one of Canada’s most prominent filmmakers ever, Dolon is refreshing, as he builds an alternate universe that feels hermetically sealed and fully realized. Across the near-three-hour running time of Laurence Anyways, Dolon shows off a keen sense of epic storytelling: we witness fifteen years in the romantic life of a schoolteacher taken over by his emerging transsexualism, and the girlfriend who can’t ever quite deal with the emotional upheaval. Told in sweeping, novelistic strokes, this is Fassbinder and Cassavetes pressure-cooked into a dense, meaty stock.

On top of hitting a plethora of affecting notes, never have we seen such dedication to Nineties period detail. Every haircut, every car, every sweater, and every scarf is all correctly in place, but Dolon smartly never crams it down our eyeholes, instead leaving it to the attentive viewer to spot how well all these items color the background — or, indeed, the foreground, during one particularly vibrant fantasy sequence when a wintery sky rains a department store’s worth of womens’ garments upon a smalltown highway.

For all the hype, articles written about Dolon and goodwill built up amongst his growing fanbase, pretty much no one at all in the U.S. saw Laurence Anyways in a theater. Was it a marketing failure, the running time, the queer content, all of the above? Whatever the case, the film came and went with zero fanfare, and even less residual effect on our arthouse public. This kind of ambitious, playful moviemaking deserves to be rewarded, though, and marks the beginning of our love affair with this major talent.
Dir. Xavier Dolon, 2012, DCP, 168 min.

Watch the trailer for “Laurence Anyways”!
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