Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Greatest Canadian Director

“I really like the film that I made Café de flore.” – Jean-Marc Vallée

The two most important Canadian films are Gilles Carle’s La vie heureuse de Léopold Z and Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. (and, you could probably add to this list, Matt Johnson’s Operation Avalanche once people get a chance to see it). With these films something changed in the national landscape. They’re poetic leaps in the air, with a total disregard for conventions, and they achieve something that is of the highest order.

Vallée is one of the most unique directors in the country. First off, for his use of music. Similar to Martin Scorsese or Cameron Crowe, Vallée’s soundtracks build character depth and organize the movement of the films. The recent CD release of Wild, with its personal liner notes, is a great example of the attention and care that goes into them. As well, in Café de flore, the main character of the film, who plays a surrogate for the director, is a DJ.

Vallée’s is a post-Spielbergian cinema. The economy of tent-pole blockbusters has created an anxiety within the film industry which has fostered the creation of new filmmaking models. Vallée, who shares many themes with Spielberg (the father-son reconciliation at the end of C.R.A.Z.Y., the humanism of Dallas Buyers Club), then has to make these smaller-scale films, that are centered around universal human dramas and which have a sophisticated directorial style. It’s an approach similar to Steven Soderbergh’s in that they create an alternative filming model, while still attracting A-list stars which guarantees them an audience. There’s even a focus on medicine and health-care which connects both these filmmakers. But what makes Vallée even more essential is the heart and personal drive behind each film. Since Les fleurs magiques, C.R.A.Z.Y, Café de flore and all of the way to his most recent American films he’s been telling the same story. They're all about human imperfection, as comically illustrated in Jean-Marc by Annie St. Pierre, but also that of being a scared child who'se dropped into an unwelcoming world. 

In Café de flore, which is his favorite of his films, he tells the same story as in C.R.A.Z.Y. of growing up in Montreal but now without the François Boulay contribution. It’s his most personal and free work. Some of these personal touches include his cameo in the film or the casting of his son Émile as the character's younger self. 

Vallée’s body of work is larger than its different parts. With Demolition, which comes out later this year, the story continues.

No comments: