The Orcas Island Film Festival hosted Emmy award-winning director Jean-Marc Vallée at this year’s festivities, and showed one of his earlier films, “C.R.A.Z.Y.” followed by an audience Q and A.
It tells the story of Zac, a gay man experiencing homophobia in 1960s-70s Quebec while growing up in a large family. After its release in 2005, “C.R.A.Z.Y.” won 11 Genie Awards, was a box office success and catapulted Vallée into a role as a straight spokesperson for gay rights.
With “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” Vallée wanted to create a film that made a difference, which he hadn’t experienced at that time in his career.
“If I’m not touched by it, I won’t do it,” he said.
In 2015, the Toronto International Film Festival critics ranked “C.R.A.Z.Y.” among the Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.
The film also launched Vallée’s career; his work since then has been nominated for several Academy Awards. In the last five years, he directed “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Wild,” “Demolition” and “Big Little Lies.”
At the end of August, he wrapped filming for “Sharp Objects,” based on the Gillian Flynn novel, which will air on HBO in July 2018.
One of Vallée’s signature approaches is to only use source music and not scores. In “C.R.A.Z.Y.” it was the loud, rebellious sound of rock and roll.
“Music makes me dream and press on the accelerator,” he said.
Sounder editor and publisher Colleen Smith Armstrong sat down with Vallée after the screening to discuss films and his lifelong love of soul and rock music.
CA: C.R.A.Z.Y was a significant film for the gay community. How was that for you?
JMV: The film talks to people who feel different – whether it’s sexuality, race, or a handicap. I was hoping it would be well received, and I feel grateful and thankful to be lucky enough to tell this story.
CA: What was your inspiration for choosing the soundtrack of “Big Little Lies”?
JMV: When I read a script, I want to find a way to put music into their lives. I usually used three to four characters to do it. By linking my music choices to the characters, how they use music becomes organic. And music in life is like that. Tell me who you listen to, and I will tell you who you are. The power and magic of music gives me ideas on to how direct scenes, how to cut scenes, etc. … What I love most in life is my special weapon.
CA: Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
JMV: Frank Ocean, Charles Bradley (three of his songs are in “Big Little Lies”), Psychedelicized radio online has old rock and roll from the ’60s and 70s like the Chocolate Watch Band.
Vallée says he swaps music with his two sons, Emile and Alex. He likes “everything with power” and cranks his tunes up loud. Since he was a young teen, Vallée has made mixed tapes and CDs – and now playlists. Music is the backdrop to his life, whether he is cooking, seducing a woman or making a film.
CA: What is the appeal of the Orcas Island Film Festival for you?
JMV: There is no Hollywood on Orcas – which is not like it is at Telluride. The Orcas festival is about the film-makers. I prefer to support an underdog film festival that is truly about a love of films. I come for Donna, Jared and Carl … Orcas Island is one of the best kept secrets.”