Out Filmmaker Xavier Dolan's Film Retirement Comments Strike a Chord
Matthew Creith READ TIME: 4 MIN.
You might not know his name, but his work definitely speaks for itself. Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has delighted audiences for years with independent-minded art dramas like his debut "I Killed My Mother" (in which he also stars), the critically acclaimed "Mommy," and last year's limited thriller series "The Night Logan Woke Up." As an actor, Dolan has shown his face in commercials as well as in popular movies such as the queer conversion therapy drama "Boy Erased" and the horror film "It Chapter Two." Recently, the openly gay artist announced his planned retirement from the filmmaking, which went viral since Dolan is only 34 years old.
Directors stepping away from their chosen professions is something new. Cinema has a history of filmmakers who seem to never fade away, including many American masters like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Clint Eastwood, who all still continue to make movies. But Dolan appears to be an anomaly, possibly setting a trend that is a direct result of the current state of movies. After several years of a stark downturn in audiences not returning to movie theaters for the latest blockbuster, an arthouse phenom like Dolan sees his work disregarded and often not profitable.
"Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny" premiered earlier this summer at the Cannes Film Festival, an event Dolan has attended several times and where he debuted his first film, "I Killed My Mother." The fifth installment of the whip-wielding archeologist's global adventures was poised to lift the box office and set the tone for summer blockbusters in a post-COVID theatrical environment. Yet, to date, the movie has grossed a paltry $160 million against a budget of nearly $300 million. Partly due to mixed reviews, the movie simply isn't breaking box office records, and viewers prefer to wait until it's available on streaming to watch it. This appears to be Dolan's point in why he's retiring from the movie game altogether.
In an interview published by El País, Dolan outlined what he sees going wrong with the film industry at large this week. In a statement that took Film Twitter by storm, Dolan remarked, "I no longer have the desire or strength to commit myself to a project for two years that barely anyone sees." He went on to say, "I put too much passion into it to have so many disappointments. It makes me wonder if my filmmaking is bad, and I know it's not." His words are striking, given that many of his projects tend to have an international appeal that the director seems to believe no longer exists in the current entertainment climate.
For a talented man like Dolan to quit the film business at such a young age is altogether a sad moment. Nevertheless, in a post later shared on Instagram, Dolan stressed that he will continue to be involved in television and other projects. Though he's most known for his movies, Dolan is responsible for the iconic "Hello" music video from Adele that made the British singer explode in popularity in 2015. He collaborated with the star again on the 2021 music video for her hit song "Easy On Me," a powerful rendition from her divorce album, "30." But making movies, music videos, and television is hard work, and Dolan isn't up to the task anymore if he believes the audience just isn't there to care enough about taking in his projects.
A film or a project for TV can take years to get off the ground, and then if not many show up to consume it, it can be frustrating for a creator. Heartbreaking as it is, it seems to be a pattern in modern entertainment that having too many streaming options can water down viewers' choices. Some thrilling works of art can be shuffled to the background, and word of mouth just isn't doing the trick as it once did. But queer filmmakers like Dolan need their art to survive, as they are telling stories that truly matter to a group of people that have been marginalized for a long time.
In his interview for El País, Dolan became quite frank about his future goals: "I want to take time to be with my friends and family. I want to shoot commercials and build myself a house in the country one day when I have enough money saved. I don't say that in a sad way at all. I just want to live something else, other experiences." One can only hope that someone of Dolan's caliber won't completely disappear. His voice and outlook on queer issues are too important not to be heard.
After a few days of going viral for his statements, Dolan explained himself further in an Instagram post, stressing that he isn't fully retiring from the entertainment industry, and took issue with reporting by El País.
Dolan concluded his lengthy post by saying, "I hope I've at least achieved to reassure some of you, and enlighten some others with this post. It all boils down to this: I might direct series. I do not wish to direct films anymore. The world is not in a good place... And I want to help as much as I can. I have, silently, been doing that. But I want to be more vocal about it. My projects, now, are elsewhere, I believe."