Jean-Marc Vallée

Montréal , QC
Quebec CA
Lives in
Los Angeles; Montréal
United States

Director. An UQAM graduate, queer friendly Jean-Marc Vallée first made a splash on Québec and Canada’s film world with a few successful shorts such as 1991’s Stéréotypes. His first feature length film, Liste Noire, a thriller, won him accolades in 1995, including nine Genie award nominations as well as being Québec’s highest grossing film of that year. Success came fast and Vallée, who always had wanted to work in English, moved to Los Angeles where he was assigned as the director on two independent projects that went unnoticed ( Los Locos and Loser Love). Vallée kept tides with Quebec and directed a few shorts and commercials during that time.

But it is not until 2005’s C.R.A.Z.Y. that Vallée reconnected with Quebec and Canadian audiences. The film, set in the 1960’s, 1970’s and early 1980’s, tells the story of a middle class family going through the Quiet Revolution. Only being able to conceive boys, the mother prays to god to bring her a daughter but gives birth to another boy, Zachary, her fourth. Early on, it is implied that he is special and was granted the gift of healing. Sensitive and artistic, he is different from hi brothers which leads to tensions with his father who constantly keeps trying to butch him him up. As he grows up, it is more and more apparent that he is gay, a situation that the father struggles to accept. This film fell directly into a common quebec film trope of tumultuous father-son relationships. With the use of known actors(Michel Côté and Danielle Proulx as the parents) the film was able to find an audience and became a critical and box office success. Vallée, was able to construct a film that appealed to straight audiences as much as gay audiences. The director’s sensibility and especially his use of period pop songs was applauded by critics.

Moving away from gay themes, his next two films helped establish his name on the international scene. The Young Victoria, released in 2009, lead Vallée to work again in english, this time in an international coproduction It was a mild critical success, being nominated three technical Oscars and winning for Best Achievement in Costume Design. He directed Café de Flore in 2011, a France and Canada coproduction. The film stars French rock star and actress Vanessa Paradis as the mother of a child with Down's Syndrome.

The script for Dallas Buyers Club had been shopped around in Hollywood for close to a decade, yet many production companies seemed not to know what to do with it. . Based on a real story, it tells the tale of a homophobic heterosexual man who, after contracting AIDS, builds an illegal ring selling experimental AIDS medication to people struggling getting medical help, mostly members of the LGBT community. Shot on a very small budget, despite the presence of international movie stars in its cast, such as Matthew McCaunaghey, the film was a critical darling and won McConaghey and Jared Leto acting awards at the 2014 Academy awards. As he did with C.R.A.Z.Y., Vallée was able to transmit LGBT sensibilities to general audiences. However, many critics within the LGBT community raised issues with the film’s take on a period as important as the AIDS pandemic in America. For many, to tell that story from the point of view of an heterosexual white man, having most of its LGBT characters depicted as victims and cast on the sides of the narrative was problematic. For that others took offence that transgender roles, such as Leto’s Rayon, were not played by or offered to transgender actors: “ What the movie does not feel, at all, is somehow problematic with regard to its treatment of queer characters or the larger AIDS crisis; and yet, some strange complaints in that vein have emerged. In a weirdly hostile review in Deadspin, for instance, Will Leitch dismissed DBCas “gay history for straight people,” while referring incorrectly to Jared Leto’s character, Rayon, as Ron’s “best-pal gay” who plays it “three or four octaves too high.” Rayon is a transgender straight woman, of course, and, given the relative nuance of Leto’s portrayal of her, one wonders how “low” a person’s gender performance octave needs to be to garner Leitch’s approval.” J. Bryan Lowder did not stop Vallée to be perceived by the industry as a great actor’s director, multiplying project offers. In 2014 he directedWildstarring Reese Whitherspoon.

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