Xavier Dolan’s “J’ai tué ma mère” (I Killed My Mother) – which I might as well obsessively follow on here for the long haul – opened in Quebec this past weekend, managing some glowing reviews and an impressive $87,000 box office haul. Playing on 10 screens – 8 in Montreal, 1 in Sherbrooke and 1 in Gatineau – the film averaged $8,700 per theatre, and its total gross was enough to make it a somewhat rare Canadian entry into the country’s own box office top 20 (which usually looks pretty identical to the U.S.).
But not all Quebecois are praising Dolan. Entirely by, um, accident, I managed to stumble across some Facebook groups centered around the 20-year old director. And there seems to be something of a divide:
Even before the film opened, Dolan was the subject of an “anti-fan” group:
Roughly translated through my – despite 10 years of forced French classes – poor skills: “Because Quebec deserves to be better represented than by this kid. Because of him, only one film had any coverage at Cannes this year, as all our journalists were busy with this glorious local kid.”
But if you check out some of the rather vicious wall posts (with many supportive arguments against them), all in French, it gets more complicated. One of he strangest, by group creator Alexandre Nadeau (who seriously wrote like 20 posts), I think is roughly translated as something like this:
“To the students of the University of Quebec at Montreal, greenpeace, hippies, effeminates, granolas, Quebec-interdependent and other unimportant of the kind: Dolan RECEIVED a SUBSIDY Of the SODEQ [which is Quebec’s main gov’t film funder] to finish making its film. That made of him a beggar like all the others, incompetent to make a sufficiently good film to be a profitable investment. All the students in cinema, I hope that you are constrained. To depend on the money of others, as one depends on the money of our parents when one is to buy candies. To obstruct that the single-parent mother who has misery with her ends of the month and who misses money to register his/her children with hockey must be deprived of 20%, 30%, 40% of its wages in taxes to make poor wretches as you who live on another planet.”
So single mothers wasted money on taxes that went toward the film, that could have been spent on registering their children in hockey? Alright, so I might have seriously fucked up that translation, but you get the gist. Reading further, while there are some vague points of frustration that Dolan’s garnering so much attention when more prolific performers, cultural phenomena, political issues aren’t, it appears overall that the group is just using Dolan as a entry point for their pent-up anger about how the Quebec government subsidizes the film industry. It’s all pretty unfair and ridiculous, but an interesting window into the cultural politics of Quebec…
At this point there’s not much I can really say in its artistic defense, I haven’t seen it. But that will change this weekend, so I will finally be able to put some sort of credibility to my preoccupation with it. But some like-minded friends I have in Montreal, who saw it this weekend, all raved.