Sunday, December 23, 2012

12 Favourite Things in 2012 #6 Laurence Anyways

Over my thirty years of attending TIFF, I have developed an odd ritual of belief that the very first film I see turns out to be the most impactful or most memorable film of that year's festival. With this ritual in mind, I often scan the first Thursday of the Sales and Industry Screenings as soon as it comes online, looking to see if any of my heaviest contenders are lined up. Nearly every year at least one of the best films of the season will be in that day. This year, I had a different film slotted into the first spot, but at the last moment had to change my plans and ended up being too late to attend that one. Instead, I slipped into Laurence Anyways, Xavier Dolan's film about a man who wants to continue a life-long committed soulmate relationship to a woman, while embarking on gender reassignment to become a woman also. I surrendered that prized first spot, to a film I had been looking forward to, but didn't expect to love. Almost right away, I was swept in, not just by the unusual narrative or by Dolan's über-florid or lush smokey camera angles, but by the deep love of these two characters for each other. Suzanne Clément's beautiful performance as Fred, the partner who cannot stop loving Laurence in any form, remains perhaps my very favourite film performance of this year. With her dyed-red streaky hair and a wardrobe that undergoes many transformations as the disco era gives way to punk, she laces the film with its innermost heart, while Laurence lives out the exterior revolution that it takes to become who she is. ('Is this revolt?', asks one professor to Laurence, at the college where they both teach when Laurence finally makes her transformed debut at school. 'This is a revolution,' Laurence responds.) The white snowy Trois-Rivières sequence, where the characters are estranged but rediscover each other, is my favourite in the film. Set amid the de rigeur white box suburban houses of that dingy industrial French-Canadian town, it holds one of the best reunion scenes ever put on film. The movie not only reclaimed that 'first is best' ritual spot for me, but it has lived on in my heart ever since. Having recently had the chance to review it again carefully, I am even more amazed. It has one of the finest timings of an emotional line of a film of recent memory. Though that means, of course, that the narrative sometimes lingers and longs, and works inefficiently into diversions. But no matter: it's worth every love-soaked minute to take the full ride. (My previous review of this film, written at the time of seeing it, is here.)

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