Xavier Dolan’s new film a hit at Quebec City Film Festival

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Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

Cinephiles enjoy the venue of the sixth Quebec City Film Festival. In Place d’Youville, they could watch movies such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Top Gun or Le Dîner de Cons free of charge on a giant outdoor screen. Other festival movies were presented at the Palais Montcalm, such as Pays, Juste la fin du monde, and the concert film, Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush.

On September 16, a long line of Quebec City Film Festival (QCFF) ticket-holders stood outside the Palais Montcalm under a brilliant full moon waiting for the doors to open. The Salle Raoul-Jobin filled with film-goers eager to view Juste la fin du monde (It’s only the end of the world), the movie that won both the Grand Prix and the Ecumenical Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. It was written and directed by Quebec’s own Xavier Dolan.

 Like many of his films, Dolan portrays the complexity of being human and living through tough situations. In Juste la fin du monde, he presents the difficulty of communicating, especially crucial information. In the opening scene, Louis has decided to tell his family of his situation, yet will he actually be able to tell them in person? Much of the story is told through silent dialogue, tense scenes and flashbacks. Dolan often positions the camera to make the viewer part of the story, in the characters’ shoes or just as observers.  

Dolan selected a cast of French actors for his movie, though it was filmed entirely in the province of Quebec. Gaspard Ulliel portrays the melancholic Louis, trying to communicate with his family. Vincent Cassel plays older brother Antoine, who must control the anger he feels at Louis’ sudden appearance. Marion Cotillard’s Catherine tries to rediscover her brother-in-law, in spite of her controlling husband Antoine. Observant and young Suzanne recites much of her past years to brother Louis. In the meantime, their mother Martine discreetly goes about her business as if nothing is happening, and tries to manage the situation and everyone’s temper. As the film progresses, tensions grow. At the heart of it all, Louis struggles to remain himself.  

After receiving the Grand Prix de Cannes last June, Dolan said, “This is the movie that I am most proud of. Early this year when I said it was the best movie, [...] I see it as my most complete movie. I see that all the elements are in place at the same time.” He continued, “When I watch a movie, I search for all of the elements that make up the movie – music, lighting, dialogue, acting, action – so that there is a sense of unity, which is the case with this film.”  

“I got a true sense of Louis’s melancholy and the gulf he had created 12 years before that now separated him from his family,” said spectator Catherine Lemieux. “Dolan could not have selected a better cast. I love seeing Marion Cotillard and Vincent Cassel.” 

“Dolan always knows which songs and music to chose for his movies,” said Lemieux’s boyfriend Christopher Bilodeau. “Sometimes he plays them in the background, and then brings them forward. It is as if music plays a role just as much as an actor.”

 Juste la fin du monde was released in movie theatres on September 21.