|Index||8 reviews in total|
As an English speaking Canadian, I have experienced first hand the divide between Anglophone and Francophone Canadians. I understood it as cultural insulation as opposed to the true connection between Quebec and rest of the french speaking world. This delightful tale of a down and out Belgian inventor and quest to find out where he comes from, is a strong allegory for Quebec and the rest of us. The acting is subtle, the characters are rich and interesting and it avoids so many clichés that would be easy to fall into. The main character is so real that his longing and personal angst creates a pervasive melancholy to the film. The pace was a bit slow for my partner and I found that this only added to the movie. What I found most interesting was this search for identify motif that Philippe Falardeau so expertly weaves throughout the film. Whether it is the Congoese, Quebecois, adopted or anyone of us. When Jules, his black son, asks Michel(a dumpy white Belgian) "what did I get from you?", Michel is stuck to respond. Looking at his adoptive father, Michel says they all have the same nose. Don't we all.
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.
My husband and I saw this film at the Cleveland International Film Festival. I originally wanted to see another movie since the description of Congorama didn't interest me. But we ended up compromising on this one and it was a great choice. It really surprised me because it wasn't just about his inventions, but his mid-life identity crisis- due to the fact that he discovers he was adopted. This film is definitely worth the ticket price. I really enjoyed the unique story and the subtle twists in plot. This movie was written well. It left just enough questions for my husband and I to talk about Congorama the whole way home. There are a couple funny points in the film, especially with the main character "stuck in a rut." I believe that Olivier Gourmet did a great job of playing Michel, the inventor/engineer who just can't get a break. Sitting in the theater, I genuinely felt like I knew him from watching his story unfold. His inventions were actually decent... Who wouldn't want a solar-powered "Turtle Trotter" lawn mower? I'd buy it!
Congorama has the charm and right quirk supported by a well-casted lead
(reminiscent of the lead from Canada's Corner Gas sitcom) and
supporting cast of characters. Warm and inviting for the first 75mins,
and the coincidence of things though somewhat contrived could be easily
. then that unnecessary Hollywood twist at that point just
brings the movie down to the land of ordinary badly done contrivance,
wholly unconvincing, implausible and tacky.
What's the twist? Stolen inventions - absurdly at that, diamond in the eye, the nemesis appearing out of the blue, explosion of family secrets, pointless generosity, overly melodramatic birthmark connections (can birthmarks even be inherited over a skipped generation??) . what a letdown!
The director needs to know his movie would have been very much good enough without having to resort to such cheap Hollywood contrivances.
But would still recommend the movie for its first 75mins. Would have given it a 9 if not for that last 30mins of Hollywood a-la crap.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Congorama" a quirky drama from Quebec is of the genre where one story
is told from different points of view so that you the viewer feel
almost violated afterwards but the director gets to feel brilliant.
Woody Allen did pretty well by it in "Melinda and Melinda," but he's
Woody Allen and has nothing to prove. Here Philippe Falardeau, the
director, has laid out his pieces so obviously that I watched the first
segment, which focused on Michel (Olivier Gourmet who was so good in
"The Son"), knowing exactly which scenes would come back to haunt me
later on. Why else would he take time out of his talkative film to show
Michel being run into an airport by a crazed stranger? Well of course
because in about 20 minutes we are going to find out exactly who that
man was and why he was dashing through an airport.
The story follows two characters who seemingly have no connection to one another, but who are both looking for their father for different reasons. First we meet Michel, a not too successful inventor who has a black wife, a black kid and doubts about his paternal status (especially because he is not black). He comes to find out that he was adopted and sets off to find his real dad. The trip is a disaster on pretty much every front and culminates in a nasty car crash caused by one very peaceful looking emu. From there we move back in time to find out about this Louie character who happens to be in the car with Michel at the time of the wreck. He too is out looking for daddy, though his motivations are much more economically driven. Throughout the film many ideas and pranced across the screen: colonization, electric cars, worlds fairs, etc. But none are ever dwelled upon. This is much more about the characters and the film technique than about anything political. And I don't blame Falardeau for this; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has danced his way all the way to the Academy Awards by juggling with time and serving up scenes that overwhelm the viewer with awesomeness, so why shouldn't this film be eye catching and appealing? I just wish that I didn't see it as nothing more than low rent "Babel." For much of the film I felt as though it was wrongfully up on my screen, squatting as it were, not doing anything to warrant my attention. "Do some tricks" I told it telepathically, and eventually it did, and some that even impressed me. Unfortunately too much was laid on too thick. What causes the central car accident (besides the emu of course)? Why a picture of St. Christopher, the patron saint of travel because it was being fiddled with at the time in question. Oh how ironic!! And there were just too many times these characters crossed paths for no good reason. Why did Michel have to sign the cast directly in the middle of the diamond that Louie had drawn and then left there willy nilly? The director has skills, no doubt about it; he just needs to write himself a better script next time around. I did see this at the New Directors Film Festival after all, and that said Falardeau definitely deserves a chance to continue on. This film is fun, but also lightweight and overstretched. A little stunt that won't stand the test of time. **3/4
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was greatly disappointed with this movie, greatly ! Why ? For many reasons. Having heard so many favorable echoes about it, it did not help at all when I was «confronted» to the «real thing» ! But there is much more than just disappointed expectations. The main Belgian character -- interpreted in a languid manner by Olivier Gourmet -- is so unappealing, so morose, so uninteresting, so humorless, and physically unpleasing (fat, slow moving, with a vague air of not being very quick-witted)... The other, younger, character is, globally, somewhat better. I had immensely liked Paul Ahmarani in Philippe Falardeau's -- the same director -- first and much, much better film «The Left Half of the Fridge»), this time his head seemed even more «special» than ever, with hardly any eyebrows and a more hooked nose ! As for the «story» itself, I found it muddled, confusing, uninteresting, without any emotions, or suspense... and with only a hint of (supposedly ?) humor. All this being stated, the only very brief surprise came from the car accident with the big ostrich-like bird. Finally, I wonder as to how on earth could such a movie be so «successful» ? I know that Gourmet is usually a crowd pleaser, usually in secondary parts of European movies. And so... Apart from having this film dealing (in such an oblique and slow manner) with a person's search for his roots and the fact that, deep down, all origins and races are inter-linked, what's all the positive fuss about ? I can only guess that the many satisfied spectators might have chosen to mainly identify with these aspects -- roots, identity -- «spreading», so to speak, their admiration to the film as a whole. Perhaps this ling -- Mulderville.net (in French) -- found in the External reviews section will help understand what I mean. P.-S.: I might SEEM to be stressing the physical appearances of the two leads. If I do that, it's not to oppose, in a fickle way, «beauty» to «ugliness», not at all, but to oppose likability to its opposite !
A good movie, with a lot of referrals to the the rest of the story, but the first part is too slow. Maybe because too many items have to be brought in scene, maybe on purpose. In fact, the entire movie is a bit slow for the "more experienced" viewer, that I consider myself to be. Some scenes also might be too foreseeable for them. But : the theme is universal and the storyline is great. The director uses a specific movie language. It is somewhat surprising that this is done in Belgium and not the United States. But on the other hand, if this movie is seen by someone from the Hollywood scene, there might be an American remake. Go check out the original I'd say !
I cannot for my life imagine why this movie was made. The story is both improbable and prosaic, as well as confusingly ill-told. The main characters are unappealing, though some of the supporting characters, and their relations to the protagonist, have a life of their own - they appear to be visiting from another and much better movie. The tone is uneasy and inconsistent, varying from slice-of-life to tragedy to melodrama to (very briefly) absurdist farce. The trailer that I saw was as misleading as it could possibly be, promising farce, while the movie is very bland and matter-of-fact. The last scene of the movie (I don't think this is a spoiler) shows the protagonist (there ought to be a short word, when you cannot bring yourself to say 'hero') driving a car in front of the phoniest back-projection landscape I have ever seen. The landscape is Africa - presumably the Congo - dragged in by the heels to justify the title. Are the Belgians still guilty about the Congo?
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