Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Best of Black Sheep: LAURENCE ANYWAYS

Written and Directed by Xavier Dolan
Starring Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement and Monia Chokri

LAURENCE ANYWAYS, the third film from Canadian director, Xavier Dolan, is a mesmerizing love story of epic proportion and extraordinary circumstance. After astonishing the cinema elite with his first feature, J’AI TUE MA MERE, Dolan stumbled in his sophomore effort, LES AMOURS IMAGINAIRES (in some eyes, at least, as I enjoyed the film more than most). He withdrew as a filmmaker after that experience and has now returned with a story so grand, it needs nearly three hours to be told. And while some might interpret the length as pretentious and unnecessary, I see it more as evident growth for the filmmaker himself, and furthermore, a true testament to just how deep love can run between two people.

Laurence Alia (Melvil Poupaud) is a 35-year-old college professor. He is working on his first book of poetry; he is receiving awards for his talent; and he is happily in love with his partner, Fred (Suzanne Clement). Thanks to two passionate and powerful performances, we can see quite clearly what a great bond there is between them, and that it would require a major blow to even begin cracking the foundation of what they have. That blow comes when Laurence announces to Fred that he has been living a lie for years. He can no longer go on living as a man when he knows, in his soul, that he was in fact meant to be a woman. Naturally, Fred is thoroughly freaked out. When two people are so intertwined in each other’s existences though, it can be incredibly difficult to separate from that, no matter what the reason is. Their love goes further than just the body but can changes to the body blind them to it?

Dolan continues to establish himself as a unique and fascinating Canadian voice, drawing comparisons to the likes of Wong Kar-Wai and perhaps even more aptly, Pedro Almodovar. LAURENCE ANYWAYS spans a full decade, the 90’s to be specific, which allows Dolan, who was also responsible for editing and costumes on the film, to take his time with his characters and their relationship. It also allows the viewer to come to terms on their own with Laurence’s decision and subsequent transition. Transsexuality is still taboo to this day, so setting this story twenty years ago not only highlights even more so how difficult their lives must have been, but also just how brave they both were for choosing love and holding each other’s hands throughout every moment of this great change. By the time the film closes, it is clear that Dolan has pulled off a pretty tricky feat; LAURENCE ANYWAYS transcends transsexuality to become a spectacular lament for love itself.

Writer's note: The soundtrack for this film is incredible and not available to purchase. Here is a link to a brilliant YouTube playlist of the entire thing. Click here to check it out. And click here to read my 2010 interview with Dolan himself.

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