CANNES — Despite its mixed reviews, Canadian actor-turned-director Xavier Dolan said “It’s Only the End of the World” is his best film so far, at a press conference Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival.
Based on Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play “Juste la fin du monde,” “It’s Only The End of the World,” which world premieres tonight in competition, stars Gaspard Ulliel as a young writer who visits his family after a 12-year absence to announce that he’s terminally ill with AIDS. Making his first non-Canadian film, Dolan managed to gather a high-powered French cast, including Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassel and Nathalie Baye.
“I’m happy to be in Cannes with these people whom I love and this film, which I considered to be my best,” said Dolan with a genuinely proud smile.
The 27-year old helmer, whose previous film “Mommy” won Cannes’ jury prize in 2014, said everything from the ensemble cast’s performances to the original score was fully realized in “It’s Only the End of the World.”
“It’s my most complete film,” said Dolan.
Dolan also said he wasn’t worried about the reviews because his previous films, notably “Lawrence Anyway” and “How I Killed My Mother,” had also divided critics.
Cotillard, who also stars in Nicole Garcia’s competition entry “From the Land of the Moon,” said she struggled a great deal to learn her text on this dialogue-heavy film.
My character Catherine says very little, but when she talks it’s as if a flood of incoherences came out of her mouth: it’s mostly aborted sentences and redundancies. At first I was terrified by my text and then I understood that her monologues were like the sound of silence,” said Cotillard.
Like Cotillard and Ulliel, Seydoux said Dolan had a singular way of working with actors “He’s very precise and since he’s also an actor himself, the communication between us was very fluid. He makes us want to give everything.”
Ulliel, meanwhile, said Dolan gave the actors non-stop feedback. “At first, it can feel a bit too interventionist, but it becomes very rewarding and passionating. He’s with us every second, capturing our every move.”
Cassel concurred. “Xavier is extremely precise — a year before the shoot, everything was ready, even the lighting. But then during the shoot itself he gave us some freedom.”
Addressing criticism about the abundance of close-ups (which make up 90% of the film) and the profusion of screaming and senseless dialogue in the film, Dolan said the movie was really about the meaningful silences that speak louder than words, the difficulty they experience in expressing their real feelings. “I was drawn to this project because it’s about human imperfections. In real life people cry, people scream,” he said.
Dolan also said he was compelled to shoot the actors in close-ups to capture their emotions which don’t come through in what they say.
“I come from a popular environment. I don’t have a deep knowledge of auteur cinema. My wish as a director has always been to make films that I would like to see in theaters,” said Dolan, who admitted he was nervous during the press conference.