Xavier Dolan explores his “obsessions” in his series on Canal+

A kind of Six Feet Under with Xavier Dolan sauce. Less than 10 years after adapting to the cinema Tom at the farmbased on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, the Quebec director brilliantly transposes The Night Laurier Gaudreault Woke Upa play by the same playwright, in a series of five one-hour episodes, broadcast this Monday at 9:10 p.m. on Canal+.

“When I saw this piece, it was love at first sight. I immediately knew that I wanted to make a TV series and a thriller. I had dreamed of doing a TV series for a very long time. It was a new challenge for me that transported me throughout the pandemic, ”says the director, who signs his first television work, during a virtual round table organized by the encrypted channel.

The Night Laurier Gaudreault Woke Up follows the return of Mireille Larouche (Julie Le Breton), renowned thanatologist, several years after cutting ties with her family, with her brothers, Julien (Patrick Hivon), Denis (Éric Bruneau) and Elliot (Xavier Dolan), as well as Julien’s wife, Chantal (Magalie Lépine-Blondeau). Following the last wishes of their mother (Anne Dorval), she came to embalm the body of the deceased. “What I liked in the play was everything that we didn’t see and that was evoked: the 1990s, the mother, this antagonist who is Laurier Gaudreault…. What interested me was to take this evocative text and let it materialize on the screen,” he explains.

At the heart of a family trauma

Created in 2019 in Montreal, at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, in a staging by Serge Denoncourt, the family tragedy of Michel Marc Bouchard was behind closed doors in a embalming room. “The play took place in one and the same night, it was a kind of ballet between the different characters of this family who paraded in turn in the embalming room where Mireille embalmed her mother”, summarizes Xavier Dolan.

Like with Tom at the farm and Just the end of the world, based on the play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, Xavier Dolan once again tells the story of a painful return to the past within a dysfunctional family. “This starting situation of the foreigner who returns to his or her home, who returns to his native village to find his family, to face the mistakes of the past, to welcome the resentment of his family, this is for me a beautiful problem, a good starting point”, explains the director.

The question of the gaze of others

The tension between Mireille and her brother Julien is palpable, when in the early 1990s, the teenager (Jasmine Lemée) and her brother (Elijah Patrice) formed an inseparable trio with Laurier Gaudreault (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie). So what happened on that famous night in October 1991 when everything changed? “We feel a lot of ostracism towards the young Mireille child and adult. The judgment of others, the gaze of others, these are themes that can be declined in a thousand and one ways and which are for me bottomless wells of inspiration. You can experience them through the eyes of so many different protagonists, it’s like a subject that constantly renews itself,” he continues.

horror movie codes

In front of the sharp lens of Xavier Dolan who sticks to the gestures of the characters, the play becomes an anxiety-provoking psychological thriller where sometimes the codes of horror films are invited which give access to the intimate psyche of the protagonists. “The horror or more spooky moments, which are manifestations of the characters’ imaginations and anxieties, weren’t in the play. This device is a way of humanizing the protagonists, showing their vulnerability, their anxiety and bringing a slightly more surreal and poetic touch to the series, to give it a texture that corresponds to the psychological thriller genre”, analyzes the director.

The soundtrack, which includes compositions by his new collaborators Hans Zimmer and David Fleming, contributes to this particularly tense atmosphere. “It was a way for me to stretch a sonic, musical thread that would give the different scenes and eras a unity of tone to the series”, underlines the director.

The “obsessions” of Xavier Dolan

Xavier Dolan signs the editing, where the voice occupies a leading role, with his faithful accomplice Stéphane Lafleur. “The series is not built on a temporality that we use as a springboard to flashbacks, but rather built on two continual temporalities between which we constantly come and go,” says Xavier Dolan.

With The Night When Laurier Gaudreault Woke Up, Xavier Dolan fans will find everything they love about his cinema. “With this series which rakes a lot on life, death, mourning, family… I touched a lot of subjects that are dear to me. I have, I think, and finally, it may be logical that it is by making a series that it is done, a little come full circle with all my obsessions, ”confirms Xavier Dolan. With The night Laurier Gaudreault woke up, the filmmaker signs a powerful, breathless and moving, but also demanding author’s series.

A work that concludes a cycle for the artist. “Since the pandemic, I’ve had lots of ideas, but I can’t get to the end of these ideas, these desires, because, yes, there is exhaustion, fatigue… I made a lot of films anyway! I have worked a lot in fourteen years, I need to rebuild my desire for this environment, this profession and all the sacrifices that entails at the end of the project”, concludes Xavier Dolan, who “wants to develop ‘other fields of interest’ such as architecture and interior design and ‘to travel and take time’ for him.

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