Xavier Dolan Feels the Pulse of “Heartbeats”

Xavier Dolan Feels the Pulse of “Heartbeats” (photo)

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Xavier Dolan is having a tough time getting into America. The night before we were scheduled to speak, his flight was stuck in Montreal as a result of the snow that’s blanketed New York in recent months and as a result, he missed out on wining and dining the likes of John Cameron Mitchell, amongst others, at the film’s U.S. premiere, though in his apology, he noted not only the circumstances that prevented him from attending the gala, but also the ones that have kept his first film “I Killed My Mother” from reaching the States after causing a sensation at Cannes, where it picked up an unheard of three prizes for the story of a gay teen who routinely clashes with his ma.

Thanks to a “distributor of questionable professionalism,” the French-Canadian director’s neighbors down south have had to wait another two years for Dolanmania to commence, but that will be rectified this week with the release of “Heartbeats,” a coolly seductive love triangle drama between two men (Dolan and Niels Schneider) and a woman (Monia Chokri) that caused a similar frenzy around the filmmaker when it premiered on the Croisette last year and understandably so. At the age of just 21, Dolan has drawn comparisons to Francoises ranging from Truffaut to Ozon, though as he insists below his influences don’t hail from celluloid. That might be considered surprising given Dolan’s ease with cinematic language, but then again, he’s been acting since the age of five and in recent years, writing plum roles for himself in his own films while occasionally doing a voice dub for the likes of Rupert Grint’s Ron Weasley in “Harry Potter,” Taylor Lautner’s Jacob Black in “Twilight” or the titular hero of “Kick-Ass” in their French incarnations, a gig Dolan says “[is] actually very stimulating and interesting as you have to give as much as the actor himself is giving onscreen.”

There’s no question that Dolan is a guy who likes to give his all, particularly to his own films, and he’s already at work on a third, “Laurence Anyways” about a man whose desire to have a sex change operate complicates his relationship with his girlfriend. In the mean time, I recently spoke to the multi-hyphenate about “Heartbeats,” why he turned to directing and not overthinking what he does.

As someone that grew up around the business, has it shaped what you wanted to do with your own films?

Not really, honestly. When I was a kid, I really didn’t think I would become a director and that may seem kind of weird, but I became one to act in “I Killed My Mother” and was afraid that if someone else directed it, they would actually choose a prettier or taller or more famous actor. I thought this is ridiculous because this is my life.

How did this film come together?

[Monia Chokri and Niels Schneider and I] actually did a roadtrip and drove from Montreal to Los Angeles back and forth and we bonded on this trip and thought that we were close enough to now collaborate professionally in the film. And when I got back to Montreal, I actually realized the summer we were supposed to shoot “Laurence Anyways” was postponed for money and time restrictions, so I wrote the script for “Heartbeats” and asked Monia and Niels to join me in the process of doing it.

02222011_Heartbeats2.jpgWas it your intention to do something a little lighter and looser in terms of the rhythm from your first film, “I Killed My Mother”?

It was not intentional, but we shot on film and it’s a different story, it’s a different tone and it’s different characters, so it’s unavoidably different than the first one and that was actually the idea – not doing the same thing over and over again or some kind of sequel. I wanted to surprise people with something lighter and different.

At the same time, one of the really interesting things about it is how fearless it is – capturing these emotions at such a young age, do you worry at all about how is might look from the future?

[laughs] I don’t. I don’t. I do it in the present tense and at this moment in which we’re speaking, it’s already far behind me. It belongs to the past. I’m not thinking about the future at all. And I’m not thinking at all, I think. I do it in a very sincere and free way and then if it pleases people and makes them laugh or makes them cry or interests them or entertain them than so be it, but I don’t really think of anything precise when I direct. I’m young and it may sound naïve to say that, but people come up with analysis and questions and I listen to them and think wow, that’s pretty intelligent, but I did not think of this when I did the film. I wish I had.

I’ve heard you say you’re only influenced by your mistakes as a filmmaker.

All the mistakes in “I Killed My Mother” were pretty influential in the ways I would not repeat them in “Heartbeats.” I’m very critical of my work and I don’t especially love “I Killed My Mother.” It’s a very flawed and pretentious and irritating film in moments. There are good things in it, but I’m not the greatest fan of the film. And what I mean is people think I’ve seen so many films and that I had so many influences, but it’s not the case. Most of my influences are in literature or in painting or visual arts, poems, writers. Not films. I still have a lot of films to see. I’m not the most cultured person.

Are you actually happier that “Heartbeats” appears to be getting a wider release than “I Killed My Mother,” at least in the U.S.?

Well, I’m not happier. They’re quite different films. For me, they are parallel things, but they’re different. So yeah, I’m happy it’s my introduction to the American market, if that’s what you mean, but yeah, I think “Heartbeats” is a more solid film, but at the same time, it’s less intense. “I Killed My Mother” is more raw and more intense.

02222011_Heartbeats3.jpgOne of the things I found most fascinating about “Heartbeats” is how in the film’s introduction, one of the characters is discussing e-mail, which clearly marks it as a contemporary film, but you have many other touches like the music choices that suggest you wanted to make something timeless. How did you reconcile those two things?

You’re absolutely right. It was important to me there was some kind of diversity in the film with the music, the costumes and everything so that we could understand the problem that we’re talking about, which is unrequited love, is timeless and temporal.

I thought having music artists from different periods from Dalida to the Nice, the Swedish band from this century, to France Gall to House of Pain – I had in mind to offer a form of variety in matters of time period and stuff like this and I thought that would portray real well the fact that unrequited love is not something new or exclusive to these years. It’s always been there. I’m not inventing anything.

“Heartbeats” is now available on VOD and opens in New York and Los Angeles on February 25th.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.