Dolan. Wunderkind, genius, prodigy—you name it. Dolan’s 2009 debut I Killed My Mother is a startlingly strong debut for a director of any age—but at age 20—it is almost unthinkable. He’s prolific as well and has backed the debut up with another four arhiveable films (including Mommy– his greatest work to date) by the age of 25. This is unprecedented in cinema history as far as I know. He directs (and directs his heart out), writes and acts. It has been a quieter stretch since Mommy in 2014. The Life & Death of John F. Donovan (2018) is a misfire, it is his English-language debut and it just doesn’t work—though his themes remain consistent and that’s promising. I haven’t been able to get to Matthias & Maxime (2019) or It’s Only the End of the World (2016) yet. Dolan’s themes and motifs are readily apparent- he’s a bold visual stylist who works in melodrama.
Best film: Mommy
- Dolan’s best film to date
- Tour-de-force acting from newcomer (at least to me) Antoine-Olivier Pilon, and the two women that are basically Dolan’s muses at this point- Clement and Dorval (and it’s a little distracting because the two look alike)
- Odd and vibrant film filled with memorable sequences and images that linger for days
- Great scene of the trio dancing in the kitchen
- Many of the scenes are filled with the Cassavetes-like uncomfortableness for the viewer. Von Trier can do this, too- really powerful
- Oddly shot in a 1-1 screen ratio. I get the decision as I think Dolan is saying “it’s about the characters” here. There is a big payoff in the scene in the image here- the entire Oasis “Wonderwall” montage is a stunner and features a very showy reveal changing aspect ratio as the lead actor literally pushes the sides of the screen apart. I adored this sequence
- 7-8 beautiful slow-motion shots
- The montage of the fake future is really worth noting as well
- Features many images of Fincher’s green/yellow lighting
- Remarkable pop soundtrack
- very Oedipal (another Dolan trigger)
- Hard to think of the film without The 400 Blows as well
total archiveable films: 5
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 0
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Mommy)
most overrated: Nothing for Dolan. I don’t quite understand it. I didn’t expect to see him on the TSPDT consensus list as his debut is 2009 and that’s so recent. However, I did expect to see the 21st century list littered with his films and it isn’t- only Mommy lands on the list and that’s vastly underrated as well (it doesn’t land in the top 20 of 2014).
most underrated : Take your pick. I’ll go with his debut- I Killed My Mother
gem I want to spotlight : Tom at the Farm
- Dolan has toned it down a little visually but it’s still a gorgeous film- lush photography and just about every critic, rightly, notes the beautiful Gabriel Yared score
- Oddly enough Yared’s previous best work (arguably because he also did English Patient) was on The Talented Mr. Ripley with Minghella and it also is about repressed homosexuality (on some level) resulting in violence
- Dolan has really made a slow-burn horror or thriller film out of repressed homosexuality embodied (combined with mother issues—of course—because it’s a Dolan film).
- Uneven and imperfect- I don’t truly buy Dolan’s actor Tom’s transformation
- Billboard and signs throughout the film, film form, point and flat out state and talk about “being real” and true to self
- Gorgeous aerial shots of single round among farm landscaped
- Mother issues (often almost seems Oedipal)- he works in melodrama as a genre like Fassbinder, Almodovar,
- Beautiful use of slow-motion photography
- Godard – from the trio dancing in Mommy from Band of Outsiders- hard color tinting like in Pierrot le Fou
- Reoccurring shots from behind
- Cassavetes-like confrontational dialogue exchanges, awkward pauses, holding the camera and lingering beyond comfort
- Teenage angst, delinquency, rage, violence—an entire auteur seemingly from the point of view of James Dean’s Jim Stark character in Rebel Without a Cause
- A playful and inventive cinematic style- partly early Truffaut (the expansion of the screen aspect ratio in Mommy is truly inspired and feels like a trick Truffaut could’ve attempted in Shoot the Piano Player)
- Use of pop music- from Oasis to Adele – characters wearing headphones to escape
- I Killed My Mother
- Tom at the Farm
- Laurence Anyways
By year and grades
|2009- I Killed My Mother||HR|
|2012- Laurence Anyways||R|
|2013- Tom at the Farm||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
I only remembered him for that sequence of changing aspect ratio.
Some other examples of change of aspect ratio?
I can only think in the Grand Budapest Hotel
@Aldo- some are more subtle- GBH is the first one I thought of, too. Here’s a decent list
I just realized you reached number 227 and there’s no Emir Kusturica yet. I don’t have a precise list myself but I imagine he would comfortably be in top 100 so we are in a huge disagreement here. I’m basing it mostly on his best two films. I have Time of the Gypsies as possibly the best film from 1988 (I still haven’t checked some notable ones to be 100% sure) and I have Undergound in top 5 of 1995. His other films are not on that level but he has some solid ones in Do You Remember Dolly Bell?, When Father Was Away On Business, Black Cat White Cat. Also he has a very unique and easily recognizable style, the screen is always saturated, it’s always chaotic and weird, dialogues and music are overlapping, laws of physics don’t really work. He is one of the best at creating his own unique world, although I can see why his style would be off-putting to some. Sometimes it looks like one big circus.
@Chief Keef — thanks for the suggestion. There are directors that I haven’t arrived at yet on the list because I don’t think they’re worthy– and those who I haven’t seen their work (or enough of it) to justify putting them on. That’s the case with Emir Kusturica. I have work yet to do here. He’s in the top 200 for TSPDT. I will add him to the list to study closer. Thanks for the recommendation.
Have you seen his film Arizona Dream(1993) starring Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway?
@Janith – I have not. It has been on my list for some time- but not easy to find (at least for me).
where is charles laughton on the director’s list. he is easy to study because he made only one film but it is among the greatest of all time.
@Bobby- thanks for the comment. Certainly I’ve considered Laughton. Certainly one film makes it tough to compare.
I think you mentioned on the 2014 page that Dolan has not done anything of much consequence since Mommy. Does that mean you’ve gotten around to It’s Only the End of the World and Matthias & Maxine and didn’t archive them?
@Zane- I have seen Matthias & Maxime and The Death & Life of John F. Donovan and did not archive either upon first viewing