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Xavier Dolan on Film’s Gay Double Standard: ‘We Never Talk About Heterosexual Films’

The industry has no problem making a genre out of gay romances, and yet you never hear the term "heterosexual romance."

Xavier Dolan poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Oh Mercy' at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes, southern France2019 Oh Mercy Red Carpet, Cannes, France - 22 May 2019

Xavier Dolan

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Xavier Dolan made his long-awaited return to the Cannes Film Festival on May 22 for the world premiere of his latest drama, “Matthias & Maxime.” Critics were favorable to the romance, calling it a return to form for Dolan after back-to-back critical misfires “It’s Only the End of the World” and “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.” Dolan’s latest stars himself and Gabriel D’Almeida Freitas as two friends whose relationship changes after they kiss each other during the making of a student film.

Speaking at the “Matthias & Maxime” press conference, Dolan called out an industry double standard in which films centered around queer characters are almost always labeled “gay films” or “queer films” while movies about relationships between men and women are never defined by their sexuality. While “Matthias & Maxime” deals with a gay storyline, in Dolan’s eyes it’s as much a film and love story as one with heterosexual characters.

“This film is not gay, It’s life,” Dolan told press. “We never talk about heterosexual films. ‘Oh, I saw this great heterosexual love story.’ For me, it’s not a story of homosexuality or gay love. Ultimately, I don’t think that the two protagonists are aware that it is gay love. It’s love.”

IndieWire senior film critic David Ehrlich called “Matthias & Maxime” a touching and tender drama in his Cannes review. “The movie compellingly test the electric fence that runs along the parameters of heteronormative behavior,” he wrote, “and Dolan embraces the full seriousness of its story prompt.”

Earlier in the week at Cannes, Dolan made headlines for writing a rave review of Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.” Like Dolan’s “Matthias & Maxime,” “Lady on Fire” is also competing for the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Sciamma’s historical drama has earned some of the best reviews out of the festival and is a leading contender for Cannes’ top prize. Dolan would most likely be thrilled if that turned out to be the case. The director is no stranger to Cannes victories, as his last two Cannes competition titles (“It’s Only the End of the World” and “Mommy”) went home with awards from the festival, including the Grand Prix and the Jury Prize.

“Matthias & Maxime” is currently seeking U.S. distribution.

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