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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Laurence Anyways (review)

Laurence Anyways red light Melvil Poupaud

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

There’s a moment very early on here, in which Montreal teacher Laurence (Melvil Poupaud: Speed Racer), who has finally acknowledged to himself his– er, now her own transsexuality, walks into school for the first time dressed as the woman she has always known herself to be, and her teenaged students stare at her in dumbfoundment. Slowly, uncertainly, after a long painful silence, one student raises her hand to ask a question… and it’s just a query about the assignment they were all supposed to be reading. It’s a lovely moment about acceptance and tolerance and people just not giving a fuck about stuff that simply doesn’t impact them in any meaningful way. It misled me into thinking that Laurence Anyways was going to be something more down-to-earth than it turned out to be: a ridiculously overlong and self-consciously “arty” mishmash of baroque cartoonishness and moments that, to all outward appearances, are determined to be parodies of pretentious filmmaking. A butterfly flies out of Laurence’s mouth! It’s a metaphor for her bodily transformation! *grrrr* Ostensibly framed as an exploration of the long-term relationship between Laurence and the girlfriend (Suzanne Clément) she acquired while she was living as a man, this tedious film offers little in the way of psychological insight into its unusual protagonist, preferring instead to indulge in “funky” 80s nostalgia that 23-year-old Québécois writer-director Xavier Dolan can himself have no firsthand knowledge of, and ignoring potentially intriguing and intimately dramatic ideas — such as that Laurence’s mother (Nathalie Baye: Catch Me If You Can) hated her son but now loves her daughter — in favor of overwrought fantastical imagery of, say, colorful clothing improbably raining down in a monotone snowscape. Because Art. Rarely have I felt a film such a chore to sit through.

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Laurence Anyways (2012)
US/Can release: Jun 28 2013
UK/Ire release: Nov 30 2012

BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong language, once very strong)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • RogerBW

    It don’t matter how pretty it is if it don’t mean anything… ah well.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    That description of the butterfly shot made my jaw drop, in an “Are they serious?” way.  And I’m a Ken Russell fan, so I have a mile-high tolerance for such things usually.

  • RogerBW

    I think that part of the difficulty is that trans people are not intrinsically interesting just because they’re not like the generic white male straight cis audience – any more than women or homosexuals or black people are – but some filmmakers and authors persist in the impression that telling a story about someone Different is sufficient in itself.

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