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Life after Cannes: a more normal existence might have to wait for Xavier Dolan

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MONTREAL - Film director Xavier Dolan says he's unsure what will happen to his pursuit of a quieter life now that he's made such a big splash in Cannes.

The Quebec phenom's film "Mommy" won the Jury Prize on the weekend at the Cannes Film Festival, sharing the prestigious honour with French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard.

Dolan, 25, told reporters in Montreal on Monday that he never anticipated such a reception for what was his fifth film in just five years.

His post-Cannes plan had been to continue his studies this fall and hang out with people his own age.

But he said he now has a lot of thinking to do about that goal over the coming weeks.

"It's a desire that I have, a desire to return to school that would realize an even greater desire to rest and to have a life that is a bit more normal, a little more peaceful," Dolan said in response to a question about his future.

"We just experienced an overwhelming week. It's hard to answer your question just like that."

Part of the work that lies ahead for Dolan includes promoting "Mommy," which he said has been picked up by enthusiastic distributors and sold around the world — almost everywhere expect in the United States.

Dolan expects the film to hit the American market and, once it does, he believes the subsequent step could be an eventual push for an Oscar nomination.

"Yes, why not?" a confident Dolan said when asked whether the film could earn an Oscar nod.

The director, writer and actor has had a meteoric rise after exploding onto the scene at Cannes in 2009 with his first project, the parent-son drama "I Killed My Mother" ("J'ai tue ma mere"). The film won three awards.

His other films are "Heartbeats" ("Les amours imaginaires"), 2010; "Laurence Anyways," 2012; and "Tom at the Farm" ("Tom a la ferme"), 2013.

"Mommy" was Dolan's first film in competition at Cannes, where critics gave it glowing reviews and many floated it as a serious contender for the festival's top prize: the Palme d'or.

The film, set in Quebec, is about a widowed single mother raising her violent son alone when a mysterious neighbour appears to offer support.

The mother is played by Anne Dorval, a noted Quebec actress who also played the mom in "I Killed My Mother."

Dorval, who joined Dolan at Monday's news conference, said she is amazed by how much the young Montreal filmmaker has learned over the last six years and how he has used that knowledge to improve.

"He still hasn't learned everything yet," Dorval said of Dolan's evolution. "I always ask myself what's it going to be like in 20 years?"

More and more people have also taken notice of his talent, she added.

Dorval said people shouted his name and tried to touch him as they walked down the street in Cannes — as if he were Mick Jagger.

"I've never seen anything like it," she told the news conference, which was packed with fawning reporters who gave them two rounds of applause.

"I've never been so close to a rock star. It was incredible."

Dorval also recalled what happened when she met jury president Jane Campion at Cannes. She said Campion hugged her and told her: "See you at the Oscars."

Dolan, who was the youngest director at the festival, said he was moved that "Mommy" shared the Jury Prize with Godard's "Goodbye to Language." Godard, 83, was the oldest director featured at Cannes this year.

"You feel that you are writing your name in the book of the Cannes Film Festival and there's something eternal and that's amazing," he said of the Cannes competition.

"Those are the Olympics of cinema."

"Mommy" was one of three Canadian films competing for the Palme d'or, which was captured by the Turkish drama "Winter Sleep." The other Canadian contenders were David Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars" and Atom Egoyan's "The Captive."

Even before "Mommy" debuted at Cannes, Dolan said he had received many "super interesting" offers to work on films.

He said due to a scheduling conflict he even had to turn down a project to appear in a small-budget film produced by James Franco.

Dolan said he was flattered during this year's festival when Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, who starred in "Zero Dark Thirty," was quoted by media as saying she hoped to work with him.

"It tells you that there is a reward (for) hard work," Dolan said of winning the Jury Prize.

"It's just the result — I'm going to say of all those years — but they're just five years.

"But for me they've been long years...I'm young, five years is one-fifth of my life."

Follow @AndyBlatchford on Twitter

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