"I'm Not a Gay Director!" Says Rising Auteur
A mildly bratty puppy with a shock of hair that looks like its being tugged at by the gods, French-Canadian Xavier Dolan is a director/writer/producer/actor with a vision.
His first film, the semi-autobiographical squabble fest I Killed My Mother, won awards at Cannes two years ago, when he was only 20. His new one, Heartbeats, pits man against friend in a gasp of shimmery narcisissm. Dolan cast himself as a young man with a gal pal, both sharing a neurotic obsession with an enigmatic guy they meet on the road to unhappiness. With saturated colors, camera zooms, and documentary-like talking heads musing on obsession, its a neoNew Wavey love romp with lots to say.
At the Mercer Kitchen, I butted shocks of hair with Dolan, but very stylishly.
Me: Hello, Xavier. The characters in your film may be superficial, but I feel the film is profound.
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Dolan: Thats what I think. Since Im very young, critics tend to think Im not capable of having every idea myself. Every choice is a mistake. And its style over substance. I dont see why this is a flaw. And I dont totally agree. I wouldnt say the film is lacking any depth. Its stylish and campy, but so what? Its what I wanted to do. Its about two people infatuated with a perfect stranger whos beautiful but banal and uninteresting.
Me: Been there.
Dolan: Bought the T-shirt. The characters are not in anything concrete. All they want is to be loved. If its not him, its bound to be another, as long as its out of reach.
Me: Your film took me back to certain Godard classics. Intentional?
Dolan: I havent seen Contempt or Two or Three Things I Know About Her. Critics say, Hes seen the films. We get it! But I havent.
Me: None of them?
Dolan: Ive seen three Godard films. Band of Outsiders seemed profoundly long. Im more about Truffaut. But Heartbeats is absolutely not an homage to Jules et Jim. Its not a love triangle, its a love duel!
Me: Speaking of which: Do you still have issues with your mother?
Dolan: Its not issues. Its a matter of incompatibility. We get along pretty wellunder three hours.
Me: Thats pretty long by American standards. Some parents are even less gay-friendly. By the way, you once said you dont want to be labeled a gay director because being gay is only one part of you, like hair color. But you can change your hair color, no?
Dolan: Is this your way of asking if Im going to turn straight?
Me: No. But are you?
Dolan: Im gay. Ive always been. But it doesnt define my craft or style. I dont have any craft or style! What defines my films is the story. I want to be a great storyteller. Not a gay director. Not a director. Im a storyteller! A Serious Man is not a Jewish film, and Romeo and Juliet is not a straight film. Heartbeats is a love story, and one of the characters is gay. Its not a gay film and Im not a gay filmmaker. Is everything you write gay?
Me: Yeah, pretty much. [Pause.] Anyway, let me shift gears here. You do so much on your films, sometimes down to the costumes and art-direction supervision. Would you ever delegate power?
Dolan: A painter doesnt delegate.
Me: What about Warhol?
Dolan: Hes dead.
Me: Not to me.
Dolan: Good for him. But cinema is a form of photography and art, and I dont feel I want to work with 100 assistants.
Me: Well, when Hollywood calls, you can answer the call yourself. Will you accept?
Dolan: Yeah, sure, but Ill want to be famous and respected enough to be able to do my film.
Me: Of course! Youre a storyteller!
Riding the Bus With My Sisters
Have I got a gay story for you! The billboard for Priscilla Queen of the Desert is far from upfrontit shadily features the three singing divas who narrate the musical rather than the three drags who star in itbut the bus is certainly out of the closet, and judging from a sampling presented to the press last week, the musical is gayer than a Thai restaurant in Hells Kitchen. Within just 15 minutes, I caught a choreographed bit that re-creates buttfucking, a disco ode to a young character who asphyxiated to death from peroxide fumes, and, of course, the inclusion of the movies famous line about a cock in a frock on a rock. And its the second show in the last year that interpolates I Say a Little Prayer!
Director Simon Phillips explained why he feels Priscillas jukebox score not only makes sense but elevates the genre to an art form. After all, he said, drag is about appropriating someone elses song and claiming it as your own. That doesnt mean such songs always work in terms of plot and character development, but in this case it certainly makes for a kitschy coup on the barbie, especially when Will Swenson lip-synchs, along with two puppets he maneuvers, to a live singing voice.
Just when we thought wed reached the apogee of camp, a guy dressed as a giant cupcake ran into the room as the event wound down, saying, Sorry Im late. I was getting my tits frosted. Thats the problem with delegating power!
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