A cultural object scrutinized by a free and presumed critique. Today, the first series of Xavier Dolan,
Laurier Gaudreault woke up at nightcurrently airing on Canal+:
This five-episode one-hour miniseries revolves around a night in 1991 – a terrible night, a night of secrecy – that determined and rotted the existence of an entire family. The series works on two temporalities: the first is that, in the present, of a family that gathers around the mother. As is often the case with Dolan, he is a central character, towards whom all the neuroses and traumas converge. It is, as in his first film I killed my mother played by Anne Dorval, and is about to die. She was a woman of power and representation, an aspiring mayor, she led a large apparently united and functional family with an iron fist. At her bedside are her three sons: Julien, the eldest, who seems orderly after a past as a drug addict, Denis, the good boy who is a bit crazy, and the youngest Elliot, played by Dolan, who is coming out of rehabilitation. The arrival of the fourth daughter, Mireille, is uncertain and she, for good reason, she has left the city for decades and she has never spoken to anyone since.
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Dolan was inspired by a play, traces of which can be found in this series very much centered on a place, his mother’s middle-class house and its surroundings in Quebec, and on long, often over-excited dialogues, exacerbated by the curse that seems to have fallen about the family, as in a Greek tragedy. The choice of actors was undoubtedly decisive, and we salute the respective interpretations: that of Patrick Hivon who plays the eldest son, all in contained violence, or Julie Le Breton who plays Mireille, the missing sister. We then find everything that makes Dolan’s cinema, which can be both captivating and terrifying, this kind of emotional overload that, over time, can annoy as much as it depletes. The problem is how Dolan, confronted with the form of the series for the first time, finds himself forced to stretch this excessive speed, at the risk of frankly annoying. The confrontation scenes all end up similar, and show their mechanics: between two brothers, between brother and sister, between mother and brother, between sister and another brother, with everyone on Christmas Eve 91, with everyone on of the funeral, etc. However, and this is quite miraculous, the series keeps up by regularly instilling cruelty and tears with a kind of comedy specific to Dolan, which relaxes relationships and in which the singularity and authenticity of family ties are based. . This moment, for example, in which Mireille, a very gloomy character, tortured by memories and self-destructive impulses, invites the pizza delivery boy to dinner with the family at his brother’s house, the delivery boy with whom she happened to sleep the day before .
Dolan on television
The amazing thing is that this tone sinks into a very old-fashioned form of a classic soap opera, this chorus-like family saga, this secret buried in a metal box at the bottom of the garden, these telephone flashbacks. It’s a bit like grandma’s TV – on the other hand the series opens right in the living room of an elderly lady, surrounded by furniture, wallpaper and old knick-knacks because Dolan loves them so much. We are on the verge of nerd, but he is once again a singular nerd, an alleged kitsch that makes style. The problem, however, is that all this accumulated, exacerbated, almost mystified tension in the tragic form leads to a necessarily disappointing outcome given what is at stake, and which reduces the familiar myth, the legend, to a sort of news, loosely anchored politically. One has to step back to consider it less as an interesting object in itself than as a milestone in the narrative unfolded since its inception by Dolan through his films. It is interesting to note the role he assumes, that of the youngest son, whose body is rendered ungrateful by his use of drugs and his nervousness: greasy hair, skin riddled with red lesions. He’s the one who can’t remember that famous night Laurier Gaudreault woke up, the one who is least able to shape trauma except through nightmares or risk-taking. It is both in and out, in the center and periphery of the drama. In this somewhat unusual posture, on television, he embraces his obsession with cinema. After metaphorically killing her mother in her first film, he literally embalms her, and she comes full circle.
Transcript of column by Lucile Commeaux