When directors watch each other’s work, they notice many of the filmmaking choices, both big and small, that their peers have made, which many of us might not even consider. Yet beyond the appreciation of craft, directors, like all viewers, react to films on very personal level. This was very much the approach Xavier Dolan (“It’s Only the End of the World,” “Mommy”) took when he was one of 42 directors who wrote about their favorite films for IndieWire.
In particular, Dolan was moved by Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name.”
“It hit so close to home that, for a while, it paralyzed me,” wrote Dolan. “I couldn’t really talk about it, even though I wanted to.” Dolan, in analyzing how masterful Guadagnino tells the story of Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), went on to reflect how this great work of art helped him see his previous lovers and relationships in a different light.
“What it did to me, fundamentally, was help me project myself in people I’ve fallen in love with in the past. People I judged as unkind, or selfish,” wrote Dolan. “Through Hammer’s character – that boastful giant who you’d think invincible – I had to, well, rethink my twenties. What I love here is that the rare moments where Hammer’s fragility isn’t concealed are almost only when Chalamet sits with his back to him – because vulnerability equals weakness of course, and from weakness arises pain, which by all means we shun. Not a lot of characters or human beings, in my own culture and experience, are capable of tenderness like Michael Stuhlbarg in this scene where he expounds his theories on our ageless incapabilities as lovers.”
He added, “It is so stirring to see filmmaking at its best, aesthetically, go hand in hand with the cruel truth about our romantic failures. To be able to attain such controlled contrast is just masterful, and something great to aspire to.”
Not everything was contemplative introspection on Dolan’s list, as he celebrated how happy films like “Lady Bird” made him. “Is there anything, on this planet, that makes my heart sing more than Lucas Hedges caught red-handed kissing another guy in a bathroom stall?” wrote Dolan. “Sadly for me, no.”
Dolan’s Top Eight Films for 2017 were:
“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Shape of Water”
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
To read all 900-plus words Dolan wrote about these eight films – including his plea for Sarah Paulson to be in more movies – along with Best of the year lists from Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve, Luca Guadagnino, Pedro Almodovar, and 37 other top directors, click here.