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Michel, the Belgian son of a paralyzed writer, husband of a Congolese refugee, and father of a future tennis champion, is an erratic inventor misunderstood by his employer. At age 41, he learns that he was born secretly in a barn in Québec, in the town of Sainte-Cécile, and given up for adoption shortly afterward. In the summer of 2000, Michel goes there and finds a sleepy village that soon makes him want to run back home. There, he meets a man who drives a car with a technologically advanced hybrid engine. On their way back to Montréal, an accident changes their lives forever, and what is uncovered will challenge the very future of the automotive industry. Welcome to "Congorama." Written by
A droll gemütlich comedy of connections, inventions, and origins
Congorama is a complicated, gemütlich comedy by a Canadian filmmaker about an eccentric Belgian engineer. "You're number one when it comes to modernizing facilities," a supervisor tells the film's eccentric protagonist, Michel Roy (Olivier Gourmet), "but inventing isn't your cup of tea." Michel goes in search of his origins. Where does he come from, and where does he belong? One perceptive viewer suggested this is a metaphor for the Quebecois of Canada, who don't resemble the Anglos any more than little Jules resembles Michel.
Michel lives with Jules, his son, a cute little Congolese boy (Arnaud Mouithys), and his Congolese wife, Alice (Claudia Tagbo). He takes his papà, Hervé (the late Jean-Pierre Cassel), paralyzed from a stroke, around with him. From a packet of papers Hervé gives him, Michel learns he isn't Hervé's son and he isn't Belgian. He was adopted in Canada, and his birth parents are unknown. He goes to find them.
In Quebec, an old lady tells him his birth parents were named Legrand, but in the town he finds only Legros. He eats some bad French fries (Belgium is famous for its fries--not Quebec) from a stand, "Legros Hot Dog." Michel spends time with a minister, then gets a ride with a man named Louis Legros (Paul Ahmarani) and dodging an emu they have an accident in Louis' car and Louis ends up in a permanent coma. This begins a flashback about Louis, whose father also turns out to have been an inventor, perhaps a more important one; and there are curious direct, or nearly direct, intersections with Michel's life, including links with the Congo. Events take us back to the Brussels World Fair of 1958. Ir's there that the Congorama was to be found: an exhibition where Louis was born. It's also the name Michel gives to his electric car in honor of his wife. And the name of a book Hervé has written, illustrated by Jules.
Congorama is a droll, offbeat kind of Iñárritu film, jumping back and forth between past and present, slipping by odd moments when lives and paths collide. People think of Iñárritu or Tarantino, because they think only of films. Somehow this seems on the whole a more literary than cinematic narrative; it might work very well as a novel. It takes a while to get going, but it's quite ingenious. Its way of tying things together gives one a feeling of satisfaction at the end, like finishing a puzzle, but a puzzle full of humanity and humor, leaving behind rich material to ponder.
Shown as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival 2007.
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