Cannes wunderkind blows off boos for new all-star drama

19th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

Canadian director Xavier Dolan, a freakishly successful 27-year-old presenting his fifth film at Cannes, shrugged off a critical mauling for his new all-star drama Thursday.

"It's Only the End of the World" features an A-list French cast including Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, Bond girl Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassel of "Black Swan", and Gaspard Ulliel, who starred in "Saint Laurent" about the legendary designer.

The film, based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, tells the story of Louis, a successful gay writer who returns to his hometown after 12 years to tell his estranged family he is dying of an unspecified illness.

Seydoux plays his rebellious little sister, Cassel his bullying big brother Antoine and Cotillard is Antoine's meek, long-suffering wife.

They gather at the house of the family matriarch, a flamboyant harpy known simply as The Mother (Nathalie Baye) who still resents her son leaving home.

The reunion quickly turns into a hysterical melee, with scenery-chewing performances by Cassel and Seydoux shot in extreme close-ups, in a raw, relentless portrait of a dysfunctional family.

The film met with boos at a press preview and a clutch of rough reviews ahead of its red-carpet premiere, with Britain's Daily Telegraph calling it a "perfectly hellish shouting match" and French movie magazine Premiere blasting it as "stifling and boring".

- 'My best film' -

It did find its defenders, however, and Dolan insisted it was his finest work to date.

"Some films are warmly received, others less so," Dolan told reporters.

"I'm not particularly concerned -- it is my best film. Of course this is something you should always think, you move forward in your career and why invest so much time and energy if you don't think that you're always getting better?"

Dolan has been a fixture at the world's biggest film festival since his 2009 debut "I Killed My Mother", which he also starred in.

He drew tears and cheers with his last Cannes outing, "Mommy", a 2014 drama about a troubled teen and his force-of-nature mother and shared the third-place Jury Prize with French veteran Jean-Luc Godard.

Seydoux, who won Cannes' Palme d'Or top prize for "Blue is the Warmest Colour" in 2013 and co-starred in the latest James Bond movie "Spectre", said she had long hoped to work with Dolan.

"He's a rare director. He has his own way of working with actors. He's extremely precise, probably because he's an actor himself," she said.

Cotillard, who won an Academy Award for the Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie En Rose", said her hyper-verbal role, in which her painfully shy character stammers and repeatedly puts her foot in her mouth, had been difficult to play.

"I really struggled with the text. In the beginning she doesn't really say a lot but then it becomes a cascade," she said.

"What's interesting with famous authors is you need to wait for the penny to drop in terms of learning their vernacular."

"It's Only the End of the World" is one of 21 pictures vying for the Palme d'Or to be awarded Sunday.


© 2016 AFP

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