I Killed My Mother

Only the resentful or the contrarian could undervalue Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother as an achievement both professional and cinematic. Written, produced and directed by Dolan on the cusp of his twentieth birthday, the film would have fared half-decently with festival critics had he debuted his work at the age of 30. I Killed My Mother is a solid film in its own right, the more so because it transcends the over-homey kitsch that’s drecked up recent Quebecois cinema. It’s at once recognizable as a French-Canadian movie – in style and image, that is – and as the product of an autonomy determined to take new-century Quebecois film somewhere else entirely. It doesn’t completely do away with the kitsch – which is deployed only to be condemned — and it uses it in a more controlled manner than, say, Jean-Marc Vallée’s rather sticky C.R.A.Z.Y. Dolan’s debt to Kubrick, Kiarostami and Wong Kar-Wai (undoubtedly among his favorite auteurs, if I had to place a bet) installs the kitsch in a cool and self-aware zone of detachment while retaining the warm bustle of Denys Arcand’s best ‘relationship’ films. If Lauzon brought a gritty kind of Absurdism to our cinema in 1987 with Night-Zoo; if Lepage brought the brains and Villeneuve the dreaminess; and if Arcand commanded the most attention of all with his coy gab-fests, Dolan cherry-picks the ripest features from his predecessors and serves up a deep enough dish. Quebec has always been the playground of Canada’s best directors – with a few notable exceptions – and Dolan has earned his right to romp in it. Here lies not perfection, but promise.

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