Canada’s Xavier Dolan generates buzz at Cannes

Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan, pictured at the Cannes film festival on May 22, 2014. Getty Images

MONTREAL – Quebec director Xavier Dolan is creating a major buzz in Cannes with his latest film.

Dolan’s Mommy is being presented at the Cannes Film Festival, with some critics raising the possibility it could nab the coveted Palme d’Or prize.

The film received several glowing reviews following a Wednesday press screening.

Dolan held a news conference on Thursday and was asked what a victory on Saturday would mean.

“It would just be an extraordinary message to people my age and my generation,” he replied.

While the writer-director is only 25, Mommy is Dolan’s fourth film at the festival, albeit his first in the prestigious competition.

“There might be a proper age to know how to tell stories, but there is no proper age to start telling them,” Dolan said.

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“I’m not thinking of myself as someone young. I feel neither young nor old, I just feel like I’m trying to do the right thing in order to tell a story that haunts me somehow.”

Dolan first appeared at Cannes in 2009 with the parent-son drama I Killed My Mother’ (J’ai tue ma mere), which won three awards.

He said he’s always been interested in strong female characters. The one played by Anne Dorval in I Killed My Mother was inspired by his own mother, while the woman in his latest film, who is also played by Dorval, is the total opposite, he said.

“My relationship with my mother inspired me a lot for my first film, which was autobiographical,” Dolan said.

“After that, it was more the idea of mother per se that inspired me for the other films.

“I don’t know why talking about the place of mothers in society — and the place of women, I imagine — is a theme and a territory that’s so rich and inspiring for me.”

Dolan admits that his own father, actor Manuel Tadros, wasn’t always as present in his life growing up, when he lived with his mother full time. While he has a strong relationship with him now, Dolan said he doesn’t feel the same urge to feature fathers prominently in his films.

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“As a youngster, I didn’t know my father well enough, I didn’t observe him enough, I didn’t admire him or love him or detest him enough,” he said.

“Mommy” tells the story of a widow (Dorval) struggling to raise her son (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a troubled teenager. Together, they try to make ends meet with the unexpected help from a mysterious neighbour (Suzanne Clement).

When Dolan first conceived of the idea for Mommy a few years ago, he envisioned the story being told in English, by American actors.

Eventually, though, he decided he wanted to do it in French — “in my own language, at home, in the streets I know best, in the neighbourhood I know, which inspires me,” he said.

But Dolan is convinced he’ll work in English one day.

He’s already written an English screenplay with Montreal filmmaker Jacob Tierney and is gauging interest in the project. After Cannes, though, Dolan wants to take a break.

“I’m going back to school actually in the fall to… try and have a little bit of a more normal life and beat, and go back to hanging out with people my age, hopefully kissing them a little, you know,” Dolan said with a smile.

Dolan’s Mommy is one of three Canadian films competing for the Palme d’or. David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and Atom Egoyan’s The Captive are also in the running.

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— with files from The Associated Press

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