Laurence Anyways Blu-ray Review

When a director’s style becomes a brighter beacon than their films’ plots or cast members, it can either lead to a fruitful career where their moniker is synonymous with such a high level of storytelling that it gets top billing even over the film’s title (e.g., Quinten Tarentino), or they can be infamously branded with a self-serving, overly-stylistic approach that arrogantly leaves its viewers in a whirlwind of metaphors and conjecture that play “first fiddle” to little things like story and character development (e.g., Terrence Malick).  There’s no mistaking that Canadian filmmaker and actor Xavier Dolan possesses the seeds of what it takes to grow a successful career in the industry, but with his third film LAURENCE ANYWAYS, he’s bearing more of a TREE OF LIFE than he is PULP FICTION.


Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) is a high school teacher in 1989 who lives with his girlfriend Frederique (Suzanne Clement).  On his 35th birthday Laurence decides to change his external appearance to match how he’s always felt inside … to that of a woman.  Frederique eventually supports Laurence in his decision but convincing Laurence’s mother (Nathalie Baye) takes much more effort.  Expecting to be treated as an outcast, Laurence is fired from his job, takes up writing and struggles for a decade to obtain some sort of acceptance from his parents and a place where Frederique is comfortable in his new world.


Clocking in at almost 3 hours long, LAURENCE ANYWAYS is nothing if not an ambitious piece of storytelling.  However, its phenom 23-year-old writer/director in 2012 is still sorely in need of a basic editing class.  Xavier Dolan can be compared to that of a raw, blue-chip athlete.  He has all the inherent tools needed to separate himself as a master filmmaker but he lacks the perspective to realize not every single idea needs to be fleshed out.  Right now he might be a victim of his own talent, capable of inciting a fanbase as loyal and highbrow as Kubrick’s, but must still be aware that audiences are capable of absorbing complex schemes without being oversaturated in them.


Even with the French language barrier, it’s quite evident the main characters of Laurence and Frederique have very little chemistry with each other.  And since the entire premise of the film is basically centered on just how much friction their love can survive, it was kind of important to get that one right.  Where Dolan is like a magician and able to truly distract an audience away from the mundane and seemingly never-ending “setup” scenarios of this film, is with his flash paper-like scenes that temporarily infuse you with optimism that LAURENCE ANYWAYS might actually be a great film.  Unfortunately, reality then sets in as the film reverts back to silently screaming how unique and sublime you should think it is.


For all the style and “showing off” Dolan exhibits with LAURENCE ANYWAYS, the biggest regret of the film is that you never get a true grip on the daily struggle of a transgender man.  Instead, Laurence’s need to be a woman is used to propel the plot point of an uninteresting romance that would had been best used as a simple preamble to his life changing decision.  As Dolan matures, it will be interesting to see if he chooses to wield his gift for filmmaking into a style that incorporates weighted characters that will enhance his obvious love of the surreal, rather than being hollow vessels for it.


Video:  1080p/AVC MPEG-4, 1.33:1 Widescreen: Taking place in the late ‘80s, the look of the film certainly takes you back to the pre-HD era.  The film still retains the semblance of sharpness and contrast that’s absolutely necessary with any Blu-ray release, no matter what time period the film is depicting, but it also achieves a subliminal nod to the days of VHS for much of the film, occasionally bursting into vivid colors for a scene here and there.

Audio:  French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: An aspect that does not at all match the time period of the film is the quality of the sound.  LAURENCE ANYWAYS sounds like a run-of-the-mill, big budget, Hollywood production.  The dialogue is very clear, just in case you can actually speak French, and the music soundtrack is perfect for the subject matter and pop culture era depicted.

-Museum of Modern Art Department of Film presents:  Modern Monday an Evening with Xavier Dolan (78 min) – Writer/director Xavier Dolan, Rajendra Roy and Peter Knegt from “Indiewire” discuss Dolan’s first three films and how much he’s already accomplished at such a young age.  Probably the most revealing aspect of this feature is how Dolan answered some very straight-forward questions with extremely long-winded answers, paralleling one of the main problems with the film.

Deleted Scenes with Introductions by Xavier Dolan (56 min):  If 3 hours of LAURENCE ANYWAYS just wasn’t enough for you, there’s nearly 60 more minutes available that wasn’t even good enough to make the seemingly broad and final cut.  Actually most of the scenes are just extended or alternate versions of scenes already in the film using a different shooting method.

Photo Gallery:  Production stills


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