Monday, April 28, 2014
20-year old gay "teen" in Quebec tells his story in the (metaphorical) "I Killed My Mother"
Fortunately. the film title “I Killed My Mother” (2009, “J’ai tue ma mere”) is a metaphor, and nothing more. The film is a debut by the 20-year old director (then) French Canadian director Xavier Dolan, and the film is an 95-minute autobiographical sketch of his stormy relationship with his single mom (Anne Dorval) as an emerging and rather assertive gay teenager, and his mother’s gradual realization of what that would mean. At one point late in the film she says, “You won’t have any children”. Xavier (naming his doppleganger Hubert) says that gays do have children or often wind up raising them (OPC – other people’s children), but it’s a big deal if he is an only child.
The father (Pierre Chagnon) had split from the family years ago because he couldn’t measure up to fatherhood. (Okay, the Family Research Council is going to have fun with this.) Hubert stirs things up by turning in an essay in language class with the film title, and people becoming concerned that metaphor and thought experiment could become reality. In the mean time, Hubert gets closer to the lanky boyfriend Antonin (Francois Amaud).
Mom and dad meet and decide to put Hubert into a boarding school in the country. Hubert resists, but goes and finds another boyfriend Eric (Niels Schneider). At this point, it’s important to note that all three gay teens are presented as attractive, smart, reasonably clean cut, and even charismatic. Bur Hubert gets beat up (a scene that gets played down), and runs away. When the headmaster calls the mom, she turns about-face and scolds him over the phone and begins to realize she must be there for her son.
Hubert has left a note saying that he will be “in his kingdom”, which sounds ominous of course. The ending of the film, in reduced aspect ratio, shows some nature-centered images, but we are left with some reassurances that even here, “heaven” is just a metaphor, too.
Dolan sprinkles his film with black and white shots of himself talking to provide some narration. Technically, the photography seems a bit diffuse, and could use a little more light, definition and brighter color in some indoor scenes – with one great exception, the painting party scene, where Hubert and Antonin pretend to be “Pollock” (the biography of that painter was a major film from Sony in 2000, starring Ed Harris). The pacing of the script (which he says he wrote at 16), and transitions points could use some work. Possibly the help of an experienced screenwriter could help pull this film off more effectively.
The film can be viewed on Netflix (or DVD rented), distributor was Kino.
Wikipedia attribution link for language map of Quebec; blue is French. (Author Piotron; Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 license) The French in Canada is much harder (and probably more idiomatic) for my ear to follow than it is in films from France. In this film, the characters talk explosively fast; I've gotten spoiled by German and Dutch (and Flemish) where the pronunciation is so slow, deliberate and clear.