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A drama that charts ten years in the relationship of a male-to-female transsexual's relationship with her lover.
For more about Laurence Anyways and the Laurence Anyways Blu-ray release, see Laurence Anyways Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on October 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Director: Xavier Dolan
Writer: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Melvil Poupaud, Nathalie Baye
» See full cast & crew
Laurence Anyways Blu-ray Review
Settle in for a long night.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, October 4, 2013
There's a stunning lack of trust running through "Laurence Anyways," and it cripples what should be a searing portrait of self-worth. Writer/director Xavier Dolan doesn't lead the feature through its dramatic entanglements, he pushes it, spending the nearly three-hour run time slapping symbolism and overwrought stylistics on the viewer, eschewing subtlety to beat simple emotional concepts into the ground, unaware that the audience doesn't need much to grasp the primal scream burning within the lead character. "Laurence Anyways" is a beautiful expression of a challenging life mummified by a filmmaker who could learn a thing or two about the editing process, demanding an eternity to articulate universal needs. For every sublime moment the movie has to offer, there's a cinematic dead zone of indulgence that wipes it away, generating a frustrating, occasionally intolerable sit.
The year is 1989, and Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) is a high school teacher living with girlfriend Fred (Suzanne Clement), his passionate soulmate, with the pair experiencing a powerful personal connection. On his 35th birthday, Laurence is ready to make a special change, electing to live life as a woman, altering his exterior appearance to soothe his soul. The makeover initially upsets Fred, but she soon comes around to the importance of such a momentous decision, supporting Laurence as he returns to his job as a lady, also trying to coax his mother (Nathalie Baye) into a dialogue about his newfound sense of freedom, hoping to repair their fractured relationship. Alert for the first time in his life, Laurence eventually receives the blowback he was anticipating, fired from his teaching position after parents object, while feeling discomfort from Fred, who doesn't know how she factors into his transformed world. As the years pass, the problematical interplay between the couple grows inhospitable, with the pair going their separate ways, a divide that comes to inform Laurence's new direction as a writer, while Fred settles into a domestic routine, unable to wash away reminders of her one true love.
For his third film, Dolan scripts a story of confinement. Laurence is trapped in his own skin, feeling isolated from the world despite his committed relationship with Fred. He longs to express himself, to expose the true person bursting inside of him. These moments of revelation, of absolute courage, are the defining scenes that help make "Laurence Anyways" as thrilling as it gets. Drilling to the core of euphoria as the main character gradually works up the nerve to enter school dressed as a woman, Dolan captures the release of repression, hitting a raw nerve of emotional exposure that finds a truly cinematic representation. It's a lovely moment, while the gradual discomfort growing between Fred and Laurence is also treated with a concentrated blast of stunted communication, watching the pair struggle to identify their needs in this new gender identification arrangement. Dolan nails the thin ice tone of these charged scenes, observing two people who love each other immensely fear exclusion from the comfort of their co-dependent relationship.
Although "Laurence Anyways" has moments of magnificence, it's an excessively busy picture, finding Dolan treating the feature as an art installation, gradually stripping the work of its human qualities. Cribbing from Kubrick, the director elects a mannered visual approach that emphasizes cinema over feeling, making the audience aware of the manipulations at hand. It's ambitious, sold with terrific cinematography that's committed to exquisite lighting, but the symbolism is crushing, trying too hard to communicate concepts the viewer already understands. Dolan doesn't trust simplicity, turning "Laurence Always" into a grandiose creation that keeps calling attention to its own artificiality. Instead of a commitment to a heartfelt experience, Dolan labors to invent his grace notes, unsure if outsiders are capable of keeping up with him.
The excessive length of "Laurence Anyways" is a major concern. Three hours is a long time for any picture to work out its conflicts, yet this movie doesn't share anything that couldn't be solved in 90 minutes. There's the passage of time, ending up with a framing device that finds Laurence in 1999 recounting his struggles to an interviewer, and the story eventually follows Fred as she tackles her own instability via marriage and motherhood. However, "Laurence Anyways" is so padded with indulgent filmmaking, it bloats the entire enterprise, making the run time a prison as Dolan labors over obvious turns of fate. Judicious editing might rob the effort of its laborious stylistics, but it certainly wouldn't neuter the narrative.
Laurence Anyways Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.37:1 aspect ratio) presentation does have the appearance of being brightened to a certain degree. Colors are favorable, with satisfactory primaries emerging from costuming and lighting, but the viewing experience looks a tad washed out at times, with diluted, uncommunicative blacks. The image is noisy at times as well, with some minor banding detected. Fine detail is adequate, though this is not a picture of extreme texture, finding facial reactions most expressive in HD, with a pleasing read of aging faces and emotional responses. Decorated interiors also reveal particulars with ease. Skintones are comfortable.
Laurence Anyways Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix benefits from an insistent score, finding a synth-based throb helping to bring a lower end to the track that holds attention. Surrounds perk up with soundtrack cuts and group atmosphere, but there isn't much circular immersion to report, with the primary focus of the mix locked on the front stage. Dialogue exchanges are crisp and clear, without distortion, preserving expressive performance choices. Overall, it's a simple listening experience without much heft, keeping to the basics with care.
Laurence Anyways Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Laurence Anyways Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Laurence Anyways" is a frustrating film, balancing between profound ideas on liberation and insistent directorial flair. I'm sure many will respond to Dolan's imagery and passion for his characters, while performances from Poupaud and Clement are intensely realized, carrying the passions of the material to heights I'm sure surprised even Dolan. It's certainly an interesting effort with a unique perspective on the needs of the heart, but a little of this journey goes a long way, leaving Dolan with a scattered, prolonged viewing experience that robs the story of its lasting power.
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Laurence Anyways Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Laurence Anyways - September 25, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Breaking Glass Pictures are offering three members a chance to win a copy of Laurence Anyways. Set in the 90's, the film tells the story of a man who tries to salvage his relationship with his fiancée after revealing to her his aspirations of becoming ...
• Laurence Anyways Gets U.S. Release Date (Updated) - August 5, 2013
Breaking Glass Pictures has revealed that it plans to bring to Blu-ray director Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways (2012), starring Melvil Poupaud, Suzanne Clement and Nathalie Baye. The preliminary release date set by the studio is October 1.
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