Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Written, directed, and edited by Xavier Dolan, Laurence Anyways is the story about a relationship between a woman and a transgender woman that spans a decade through many trials and tribulations. The film is a love story that is unlike anything as it explores two women in which one of them is born a man as it strays from the conventions of many romantic films. Starring Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement, Monia Chokri, Yves Jacques, David Savard, and Nathalie Baye. Laurence Anyways is a tremendous and exhilarating film from Xavier Dolan.
Set in the span of a decade till the end of the millennium, the film plays into a tumultuous relationship between a woman and a man who wants to become a woman. It’s a film that plays into this relationship where this man named Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) questions his own identity four years into a relationship with this woman named Fred (Suzanne Clement) as this decision would send everything into a freefall as Fred wonders how she can help him. There in this on-and-off period that spans of a decade, Laurence and Fred not only deal with each other but also themselves where Laurence wonders if he can become a woman while Fred ponders if she can accept Laurence as a woman. What Xavier Dolan does with this story is showcase this man’s desire to become a woman as he wonders if he will be happier as a woman and could do that with Fred.
Dolan’s screenplay is quite complex and grand since it’s a story that does span a decade though it has a very odd structure. Much of the film’s first half takes place from the fall of 1989 to the end of 1990 where Laurence not only deals with his own identity issues but also into how Fred would react and the response from their own families. Whereas Fred tries to help Laurence with becoming and acting like a woman by wearing a dress, earrings, and putting on makeup. Still, it’s an act that would have Laurence lose his job as a literature teacher as several things would lead to issues with Fred. Its second half would be set in 1995 and beyond where both Laurence and Fred lead different lives but still pine for each as Laurence would write a book of poems dedicated to her as they would get a glimpse of the life they would have if they ever get together for good.
Dolan’s direction is truly intoxicating not just in his approach to framing but in exactly how he manages to capture every attention to detail in his direction. While it is a film that largely emphasizes on style, Dolan’s approach to compositions and how he frames his actors into a scene are just hypnotic as well as his camera movements and how he places the camera for a scene. Dolan goes for moments that play into elements of dramatic tension or something has elements of fantasy in a world that is often quite troubling. Dolan’s approach to close-ups and medium shots are engaging along with some unique camera angles that play into some of the humor but mostly for dramatic effect to showcase the anguish between Fred and Laurence.
Also serving as the film’s editor, Dolan definitely maintains a sense of style in his approach as editor where he uses a lot of jump-cuts, slow-motion cuts, and other aspects of cutting styles to play into some of the dramatic tension as well as this entrancing opening sequence where people stare at this mysterious person. It’s among these moments where Dolan’s approach to editing and in his direction definitely showcase what he is going to do while his approach to the story is a slow burn to play into Fred and Laurence’s relationship with its many ups and downs. Much of is quite expansive in its storytelling as it plays into the decade in the life of a couple where Dolan knows that there’s a lot to be told as it’s a long film at 168 minutes yet he makes every moment and every frame worth telling. Overall, Dolan crafts a compelling yet visceral film about a relationship between a woman and a man who wants to become a woman.
Cinematographer Yves Belanger does brilliant work with the film‘s very colorful and stylish photography with its use of color filters for interior scenes at night along with some unique lighting and vibrant colors for the scenes set in the snow. Production designer Anne Pritchard, along with art director Colombe Raby and set decorators Louis Dandonneau and Pascale Deschenes, does amazing work with the set design from the apartment Fred and Laurence lived in during the film‘s first half as well as the home of their parents to the posh home that Fred lived in during the film‘s second half as well as the party sequence that Fred goes to. Costume designers Xavier Dolan and Francois Barbeau do fantastic work with the clothes that Fred and Laurence wear as it’s full of style in its look and personality as it adds to the film’s evocative look.
Hair designers Michelle Cote and Martin Lapointe, with makeup designers Kathy Kelso and Colleen Quinton, do awesome work with the look of the characters as well as Laurence‘s look as a woman and the hairstyle of Fred throughout the years. Visual effects supervisor Jean-Francois Ferland does nice work with some of the minimal visual effects in the film that play into the sense of fantasy surrounding the characters. Sound editor Sylvain Brassard does superb work with the sound from some of the sparse textures of the sound in the locations to some of the crazy elements in the film. The film’s music by Noia is phenomenal as its electronic-ambient score is entrancing that plays into some of the melancholic elements of the film while its soundtrack features an array of music from classical pieces by Sergei Prokofiev, Antonio Vivaldi, Johannes Brahms, and Gustav Mahler to contemporary music from acts like Fever Ray, the Cure, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Visage, Kim Carnes, Celine Dion, and Craig Armstrong.
The casting by Helene Rousse is incredible as it features notable small roles from Yves Jacques as Laurence’s fellow teacher/mentor Lafortune, Monique Spaziani as another teacher in Francine, Mylene Jampanoi and Jacob Tierney as a couple Fred and Laurence meet late in the film, Vincent Plouffe as Fred’s son Leo, Sophie Faucher as Fred’s mother, Vincent Davy as Laurence’s father, and Susie Almgren as a journalist interviewing Laurence late in the film. In the roles of this family of drag queens that Laurence meets, there’s Catherine Begin, Emmanuel Schwartz, Jacques Lavallee, Perette Souplex, and Patricia Tulasne in very lively and funny roles as this family that would help guide Laurence into finding herself. Magalie Lepine Blondeau is terrific as Laurence’s mid-90s girlfriend Charlotte who knows about his feelings for Fred as she would stalk her from afar while David Savard is superb as Fred’s husband in the mid-90s that she would meet at a party as he tries to deal with her mood swings.
Monia Chokri is fantastic as Fred’s very cynical and biting sister Stefie who isn’t very fond of Laurence as well as she tries to see that Fred is thinking about as it’s a role filled with lots of humor. Nathalie Baye is brilliant as Laurence’s mother Julienne as a woman who doesn’t seem close to Laurence as she was in his childhood as she suddenly becomes closer to him once he decides to become a woman. Suzanne Clement is outstanding as Fred as this filmmaker that is trying to cope with her career but also the change in the man she loves as she tries to support him as she conveys the sense of anguish and rage that a woman goes through in her devotion to the one she loves. Finally, there’s Melvil Poupaud in a tremendous performance as Laurence as this man who becomes confused about his own identity as he becomes a woman as it’s a very engaging and transformative performance where Poupaud brings in that sense of anguish but also desire to find himself as a woman.
Laurence Anyways is a magnificent film from Xavier Dolan that features remarkable performances from Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement. It’s a film that isn’t afraid to use style to tell a story about transgender relationships and other off-the-wall things while creating something is also very accessible and bold. Especially in ways that are visually entrancing with a soundtrack that is just absolutely to the point that plays into the emotional aspects of the film. In the end, Laurence Anyways is a sensational film from Xavier Dolan.
Xavier Dolan Films: I Killed My Mother - Heartbeats - Tom at the Farm - Mommy - (It's Only the End of the World) - (The Death and Life of John F. Donovan) - The Auteurs #46: Xavier Dolan
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