With his series “The night Laurier Gaudreault wakes up”, Xavier Dolan explores all his “obsessions”

Sort of Six Feet Under with Xavier Dolan sauce. Less than 10 years after adapting to cinema Tom at the farmbased on the play by Michel Marc Bouchard, the Quebec director brilliantly transposed the sequence Night Laurier Gaudreault Awakea play by the same playwright, in a series of five one-hour episodes, airs this Monday at 9:10 pm on Canal+.

“When I saw this piece, it was love at first sight. I knew right away that I wanted to do both a TV series and a thriller. I have dreamed of doing a TV series for a very long time. It was a new challenge for me that brought me during the pandemic,” said the director, who signed his first television work, during a virtual roundtable hosted by encrypted channels.

Night Laurier Gaudreault Awake follows the return of Mireille Larouche (Julie Le Breton), a renowned thanatologist, several years after severing 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 their mother’s (Anne Dorval) last wish, she had come to embalm the deceased’s body. “What I love in the play is everything we don’t see and what it evokes: the 1990s, the mother, this antagonist who is Laurier Gaudreault…. What intrigued me was taking this evocative text and letting it appear on the screen,” he explains.

At the heart of family trauma

Set in 2019 in Montreal, at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, staged by Serge Denoncourt, Michel Marc Bouchard’s family tragedy takes place behind closed doors in the embalming room. “The play takes place on the same night, it is a kind of ballet between the various characters of this family paraded in turn in the embalming room where Mireille embalmed her mother”, summarizes Xavier Dolan.

Like with Tom at the farm and Only the end of the world, based on the play by Jean-Luc Lagarce, Xavier Dolan once again tells the story of a painful past returning in a dysfunctional family. “The initial situation of a stranger returning to his home, returning to his native village to find his family, to face past mistakes, to welcome his family’s hatred, this is a beautiful problem for me, a good starting point,” explained the director.

Questions about other people’s gazes

The tension between Mireille and her brother Julien is palpable, when in the early 1990s, a teenager (Jasmine Lemée) and her brother (Elijah Patrice) form an inseparable trio with Laurier Gaudreault (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie). So what happened on that famous October night in 1991 when everything changed? “We feel a lot of exclusion towards Mireille’s youth and adults. Other people’s judgments, other people’s views, this is a theme that can be rejected in a thousand and one ways and which is for me an unfounded source of inspiration. You can experience it from the perspectives of so many different protagonists, it’s like a subject constantly renewing itself.”

horror movie code

In the face of Xavier Dolan’s sharp lens that clings to the gestures of the characters, the play becomes an anxiety-inducing psychological thriller where horror film codes are sometimes invited that give access to the intimate souls of the protagonists. “Moments of horror or more sinister, which are manifestations of the imagination and anxiety of the characters, are not present in the drama. This device is a way to humanize the protagonists, show their vulnerabilities, their anxieties and bring a slightly more real and poetic touch to the series, to give it a texture befitting the psychological thriller genre”, the director analyzes.

The soundtrack, which includes compositions by his new collaborators Hans Zimmer and David Fleming, contributes to this very tense atmosphere. “It was a way for me to stretch the sonic grooves that would diversify the sequence and remove the tonal unity of the series”, underlined the director.

Xavier Dolan’s “obsession”.

Xavier Dolan signed on for the edits, in which voice plays a major role, with his loyal accomplice Stéphane Lafleur. “This series is not built on a temporality that we use as a springboard for flashbacks, rather it is built on two continuous temporalities in which we constantly come and go,” said Xavier Dolan.

With The Night When Laurier Gaudreault Woke Up, Xavier Dolan fans will find everything they love about his cinema. “With this series so much about life, death, grief, family… I touch on a lot of topics that are dear to me. I had, I thought, and finally, it might be logical that by getting the series done, it came full circle a little bit with all my obsessions,” Xavier Dolan confirmed. With The night Laurier Gaudreault wakes up, the filmmakers signed a writer’s series that’s powerful, breathless, and moving, but also demanding.

A work that ends a cycle for the artist. “Since the pandemic, I have a lot of ideas, but I can’t finish these ideas, these desires, because, yes, there is fatigue, fatigue… I make a lot of films! I have worked a lot in fourteen years, I need to rebuild my desire for this environment, this profession and all the sacrifices required at the end of the project”, concludes Xavier Dolan, who “want to develop ‘other areas of interest’ such as architecture and interior design and ‘travel and make time’ for her.

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