Laurence Anyways (review)

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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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Fri, Nov 30, 2012 6:52pm

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

Der Bruno Stroszek
Der Bruno Stroszek
Sat, Dec 01, 2012 10:21am

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.

reply to  Der Bruno Stroszek
Sun, Dec 02, 2012 11:05am

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.