I KILLED MY MOTHER (2009)
(J'ai tué ma mère)
French with English subtitles
Anne Dorval, Xavier Dolan
Many of the lesbian and gay directors considered in this season of the Film Qlub were not only brilliant artists, but they were also driven enough and mad enough, in order to get their radical films made at a time when homosexuality was at best a handicap and at worst a death sentence. So what happens when a bright young thing comes along, growing up in comfort in a post-legalisation West, at a time when it is possible for gay-themed films to be financed, made, and distributed without committing career suicide?
What happens is Xavier Dolan (b. 1989), a Quebecoise filmmaker who, after presenting his first film in Cannes Film Festival at twenty nine years of age, received a ten minute long standing ovation by an enraptured audience. The film was I Killed My Mother (2009).
Dolan’s films to date have been noted for a dark humour that seeks to upset rather than amuse, for their always compelling but often deeply unlikable protagonists, and for their success at ravishing the toughest film critics. This has been the case with Heartbeats (2010), a story of friendship put to the test by a sexy man, Laurence Anyways (2012), a saga of doomed love with a transexual twist, Tom at the Farm (2013), a dark thriller about a gay stranger turning an idyllic farm into a psychological hunting ground, and Mommy (2014), a tale of mother-and-son love sprinkled with lust and aggression.
Perhaps out of necessity, because visibilising queer love has been the priority of gay filmmaking for most of the history of LGBTQ cinema, most of the films queers have made have been about finding love or finding sex. We still don’t have enough stories celebrating gay friendships, dissecting homophobia, or exploring the relationships between gays and their parents, to give just three examples.
Dolan’s first film, I Killed my Mother, is a study of a teenager’s inexhaustible capacity for selfishness. It shows how ‘The Tantrum’ can become the default setting for creatures (gay or straight) who will turn into abusers and wreckages in adulthood. The protagonist, Hubert, played with conviction by Dolan himself, is, as we say in Ireland, a ‘gobshite’. But he gets himself into such a state in his arguments with his long-suffering mother, that it is great fun to watch him unravel.
So, it is with films like Dolan's that we come full circle in cinematic representation. It turns out that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are not always flamboyant psychos, incurable romantics, sexy outsiders, repressed self-haters, or irresistible cuties. We can also be… embarrassing, stupid fools.
Isn’t it liberating? After a century and an half of LGBTQ-directed films, it turns out that we are much like everyone else.
Dublin Film Qlub 2014, 2015.
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