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.

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Bro and Tell

BFFs And Night Court For Sports

Bromance and Comeuppance On Two New Comedy Crib Series

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“Silicon Valley meets Girls meets black male educators with lots of unrealized potential.”

That’s how Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins categorize their new series Frank and Lamar which joins Joe Schiappa’s Sport Court in the latest wave of new series available now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. To better acquaint you with the newbies, we went right to the creators for their candid POVs. And they did not disappoint. Here are snippets of their interviews:

Frank and Lamar


IFC: How would you describe Frank and Lamar to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Carl: Best bros from college live and work together teaching at a fancy Manhattan private school, valiantly trying to transition into a more mature phase of personal and professional life while clinging to their boyish ways.

IFC: And to a friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Carl: The same way, slightly less coherent.

Anthony: I’d probably speak about it with much louder volume, due to the bar which would probably be playing the new Kendrick Lamar album. I might also include additional jokes about Carl, or unrelated political tangents.

Carl: He really delights in randomly slandering me for no reason. I get him back though. Our rapport on the page, screen, and in real life, comes out of a lot of that back and forth.

IFC: In what way is Frank and Lamar a poignant series for this moment in time?
Carl: It tells a story I feel most people aren’t familiar with, having young black males teach in a very affluent white world, while never making it expressly about that either. Then in tackling their personal lives, we see these three-dimensional guys navigate a pivotal moment in time from a perspective I feel mainstream audiences tend not to see portrayed.

Anthony: I feel like Frank and Lamar continues to push the envelope within the genre by presenting interesting and non stereotypical content about people of color. The fact that this show brought together so many talented creative people, from the cast and crew to the producers, who believe in the project, makes the work that much more intentional and truthful. I also think it’s pretty incredible that we got to employ many of our friends!

Sport Court

Sport Court gavel

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?
Joe: SPORT COURT follows Judge David Linda, a circuit court judge assigned to handle an ad hoc courtroom put together to prosecute rowdy fan behavior in the basement of the Hartford Ultradome. Think an updated Night Court.

IFC: How would you describe Sport Court to drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?
Joe: Remember when you put those firecrackers down that guy’s pants at the baseball game? It’s about a judge who works in a court in the stadium that puts you in jail right then and there. I know, you actually did spend the night in jail, but imagine you went to court right that second and didn’t have to get your brother to take off work from GameStop to take you to your hearing.

IFC: Is there a method to your madness when coming up with sports fan faux pas?
Joe: I just think of the worst things that would ruin a sporting event for everyone. Peeing in the slushy machine in open view of a crowd seemed like a good one.

IFC: Honestly now, how many of the fan transgressions are things you’ve done or thought about doing?
Joe: I’ve thought about ripping out a whole row of chairs at a theater or stadium, so I would have my own private space. I like to think of that really whenever I have to sit crammed next to lots of people. Imagine the leg room!

Check out the full seasons of Frank and Lamar and Sport Court now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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