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“The next stage of my life is not artistic but personal”

“The next stage of my life is not artistic but personal”

The Quebec director defends his first series for Canal +. But announces that he is ending his career as a filmmaker.

With Xavier Dolan, we are always sharing. And in control. The man is passionate but meticulous. He arrives bundled up in a down jacket – winter is freezing in Montreal –, his eternal teenage look slung over his shoulder, and small eyes, because he worked late into the night. He arranged to meet us in his favorite place, the bar of the Four Seasons hotel. He also used to nestle in this little alcove along the bar to chat. The filmmaker weighs his words, lets silences of reflection float. Raises sometimes, often ignites, in particular to evoke its turn towards television. “The night when Laurier Gaudreault woke up”, a series in five episodes co-produced by Canal+, is as much a thriller with drawers as a family chronicle.

Paris Match. “The night when Laurier Gaudreault woke up” uses all the narrative codes of a series. But can’t we also see cinema there, in five medium-length films?
Xavier Dolan.
It’s interesting that you feel that, while, on my side, I really wanted to pay tribute to the series that I devoured when I was young and that I still watch. They are the ones who originally fueled my desire to make films. Not the contrary. And, beyond the length of the episodes, quite atypical, “The Night Where…” respects all the codes of major series, such as those of HBO or others. Namely, a particular narration, twists at each end of the episode. I did not have this claim to make cinema on television. As a child, I grew up with TV series, Quebec soap operas that my mother watched then, as a teenager, “Charmed”, “Buffy” or “Smallville”. To end with “The Sopranos”, “Six Feet Under” or “Homeland”. All my artistic taste was forged with them. Even if it means defeating a certain snobbery, I’m more of a series buff than a cinephile.

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Is it television that influences creativity today, in your opinion?
Platforms and channels have given so many resources to authors that, logically, cinema is inspired by this renewal. But I am and will remain a great defender of the cinema, I would not like some to see it as a betrayal on my part. That said, we have to face the facts: the spectators come less to the room. It’s cruel for artists. You spend several years of your life on projects that are sometimes reduced to dust in a few weeks when no one comes to see them. Today, I want to go where I can relate to myself best, most efficiently and most generously.

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“I have other passions that I would like to be able to live”

This passage on television surely reveals your most mature work. Are you going to another stage?
Foolishly, I would tell you that I am getting older and that, at 33, my interests and my enthusiasm are changing. But it mostly has to do with the pandemic. It has isolated and bruised many people who have lost loved ones or even, at times, their sanity. I saw it as an opportunity for reflection and introspection. And questioning my life choices, personal or artistic. I never took so much time to prepare a project when, before, I chained the films.

The fear of emptiness ?
No, it was my way of working, one film had to follow another, without really resting. This rhythm, I don’t want it anymore. And it clicked when I saw Michel Marc Bouchard’s play, “Laurier Gaudreault”: I knew that was what I wanted to do.

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“A film always starts from a problem that we want to solve: the inability to say that we love someone, ostracism…”

Did the format impose itself right away?
Yes. The room is behind closed doors where a family tears itself apart in front of the embalmed body of the mother. Each character evokes memories of another era and gradually reveals tensions and a heavy secret to bear. This evoked past, the 1990s, this Laurier Gaudreault that everyone talks about but of which we know nothing, I immediately wanted to tell them, put them into images. It was a matter left to my own imagination. And, on television, to bring to life over five hours characters who would perhaps be superfluous in the cinema.

You have taken over most of the actors in the play, all of them amazing…
They are Quebec actors best known on television. They already had the precision of their characters, and me, as an actor, I also wanted to share their work, to join this troupe. And since few people want to hire me to play, I do it myself. We forget it, but the game is my life, my first passion.
The difficulty of human or romantic relationships, the mother, bereavement or even violence…

Why do these themes constantly recur in your work?
You talk to me about themes, but I only tell about life. I would have made ten films on bank attacks, we could talk about themes. But there… People often talk to me about the characters of mothers, but they are nevertheless one of the founding elements of the human being, and there are as many different women as there are mothers on this earth. I don’t see any repetition, just explorations, each time different.

These are not obsessions specific to young people of 20 or 30, are they?
No, but those are the ones I want to talk about. We always talk about problems that we finally want to solve. A film always starts with a problem… The inability to say that you love someone, the violence of relationships, the ostracism of society against you or even that which you can subject others to.

The series is also more solar, since love can emerge victorious…
This is the first time, in fact, that I have mentioned fraternity. If you felt that, I’m glad, because it’s about the power of love. Sometimes death separates, here it unites. Then this solar side also comes, perhaps, from placing the series in two different eras. These are not flashbacks but really two sides of the same story.

You have made eight films in ten years. Finally, don’t you think that all this went too fast?
No. But today I feel tired. Finishing a film, promoting it no longer interest me. After “Matthias and Maxime”, in 2019, I scribbled down a few ideas, but it didn’t work, there was no more desire. I think that, without necessarily realizing it, I no longer wanted the sacrifices involved in shooting a film, its preparation, post-production… I still wanted to tell stories, but no longer the strength to immerse myself in this manufacturing process.

Did it come suddenly or gradually?
With the pandemic, people have lost their rigor a bit. I see this particularly in the post-production professions. And then, for this series to exist, I had to reinvest my fee, not touch anything and even borrow money from my father. I’m still working on it today to redo the English subtitles, in order to respect the nuances of the language. Why do I have to do this too? It becomes a thankless exercise that makes me bitter.

“I have to live to regain the desire to tell stories.”

How and where do you see yourself in a few years?
I do not know. I have a few series projects currently in development, which fascinate me. We’ll see if that materializes. Apart from that, I don’t want to write or direct films, because I feel like I’ve said everything. I have to rebuild myself, sort out some personal issues, take care of myself, spend time with my friends and family. I must live to regain the desire to tell stories.

But the spectators want you to find this desire!
I will never do it to please or respond to a request. I want to play, being an actor fascinates me, like dubbing films that I have been doing for years. But, above all, I have other passions that I would like to be able to live. Interior design or architecture. Building the house of my dreams. The next stage of my life is not artistic but personal.

You have always mentioned your admiration for Jean Cocteau. You even got a tattoo of him…
And also two of his emblematic phrases that still speak to me today: “The work is a sweat” and “I am bound to the impossible”…

#stage #life #artistic #personal

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