Dear Xavier Dolan,
I’m not quite sure how to do this. I’ve never written an open letter before and yet, you’re most likely never going to read this so I guess I shouldn’t feel much pressure. Still, I want to get this out in a way that says exactly what I want it to say, and so I’m feeling the pressure. In dedicating this week in your honor, I’ve come to realize something. Whether it’s the way you work with your actors, the way you frame your scenes, the way you select and incorporate your music or the way you flesh out every single character, you make movies that I want to see.
No, you make movies that I NEED to see.
As a cinephile, I’ve seen a lot of movies. I’ve explored many different actors and directors and their filmographies and I’ve become attached to lots of different works, careers even. There is something special about the way you make movies, something special about the attachment I have to your work. This may sound hyperbolic, but you are my favorite thing about modern cinema, and there’s a very specific reason for this.
History has taught us that certain names will become legend. We will think of film and we will think of their names. Charlie Chaplin, Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, Woody Allen, Terrence Malick; these are names that are synonymous with film, and I feel like you are among those greats. The reason that those names, those directors, are legendary is because they did something that no one else was doing at the time. They ushered in a new era of filmmaking. Whether they were genre specific or universal in their scope, they fathered, birthed, a new idea of what film was. They changed filmmaking as a whole, and because of their influence we have so many brilliant directors who have taken their lead and carried it further.
This is what you are doing, and this is why you’ll be remembered.
From your very first film, it was obvious that you had talent, but what was even more apparent was that you had a distinct vision, and that is something that separates you from the pack. Vision, I feel, is the most important quality to discuss when looking at directors. We can love films for many different reasons, but there is a very specific reason why someone like Ron Howard or sadly even Ridley Scott (what happened to him?) will never be ‘remembered’ in the same light as some of their contemporaries; they don’t really possess vision. Yes, they can make a great film, and they can exhibit great directorial style (Scott, in particular, has had tremendous success with Science Fiction), but at the end of the day they make movies that anyone else could have made. They don’t inspire as much as they entertain. Charlie Chaplin; he inspired. Jean-Luc Godard pretty much created a new breed of French cinema. I am convinced that you, Xavier Dolan, will be remembered in this light. Your films are unlike anything else anyone else is making right now. They are uniquely your own, and they are bound to inspire others to play with your ideas, play with your tones, play with your techniques and, because of you, we are bound to experience some incredible cinema in the years to come.
And yet, there is another reason that you are going to be remembered so fondly. Next month you will be 26. 26! Next month I’m going to be 30. What you have done, at such a young age (‘I Killed My Mother’ was released when you were only 20) is remarkable. Charlie Chaplin, despite toiling away for YEARS with short films, didn’t make his name legend until ‘City Lights’, which was released when he was 42. Scorsese was 31 when he made ‘Mean Streets’, and 38 when ‘Raging Bull’ made him a certified cinematic legend. Terrence Malick didn’t give the world ‘The Thin Red Line’ until he was 55! At 26, with 5 films under your belt, you have become possibly the youngest ‘game changer’ to ever grace us with your talents.
And yet, there’s something else. I know that this next reason is going to be somewhat personal, but the obvious fact about cinema is that it is personal, and we all have our favorites because of those personal reasons. You see, Xavier, you are a director who gets me as a movie lover. I absorb your films into my skin, into my soul. I walk away from them changed, the themes you present stirring in the pit of me. I don't know you, and yet I know you. You don't know me and yet you know me. That's the power of film; the power of your film.
I feel as though you’re my spirit animal.
Watching your talent grow and mature with each passing film is such a remarkably rewarding experience. From your bursting potential in ‘I Killed My Mother’ to your absolutely perfect balance of themes and vision in ‘Mommy’, your career is the most passionate, exciting and inspiring of any of today’s working directors.
And for this, and every other reason I’ve highlighted this week, I thank you. From the bottom of my ‘movie loving’ soul, I thank you.
Andrew ‘Fisti’ Ellington