Based on an acclaimed graphic novel, Mars & Avril is set in Montreal of the future, at the dawn of the first human landing on Mars, and tells the story of a musician who becomes obsessed with his muse.
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Montreal, the future. Elderly jazz musician Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand) still draws in audiences with his mesmerizing performances, playing instruments based on female models, designed by his much younger pal Arthur (Paul Ahmarani). The latest model, intriguing artist Avril (Caroline Dhavernas), entices both Arthur and Jacob. In the resulting love triangle, the old musician is ultimately victorious and appears to be in love for the first time in his life. But then Avril is accidentally transported to Mars, where the first manned mission just happened to land. Enter Eugène Spaak (Robert Lepage), inventor, cosmologist and Arthur's father, who unveils a new theory about man's desire to reach Mars and helps Jacob find the true meaning of life and love. Written by
Mars et Avril Inc.
In many ways, "Mars et Avril" is a tribute to the French and Belgian comics of the 70's and 80's, both in form and content, especially François Schuiten and his series "Les Cités Obscures". Wanting the source of his inspiration to play a direct role in the creation of the film, rather than trying to mimic his style, Martin Villeneuve invited Schuiten to serve as production designer on "Mars et Avril". Schuiten had already worked on such films as "The Golden Compass" and "Mr. Nobody". Villeneuve went to Brussels in May 2008 to work with Schuiten, then Schuiten came to Montreal twice to follow up: in September 2008 and December 2011. Throughout filming and post-production, the two men touch-based as often as they could through Skype. See more »
Due to abundance of high praises, a bit disappointed. Nice visualization of a possible future society, but waited too long for a story to emerge
I saw this film at the Imagine film festival 2013 in Amsterdam. I was disappointed while watching this movie, probably because of the high praises it received from all sources I consulted beforehand. No one complained that we had to wait at least half an hour before some story made its appearance, leaving us all that time wondering whether some sort of plot would came up, or even some message that the film makers wanted to get across. Even worse, after the plot emerges, the pace is still very slow and developments miss a logical binding element. The impression remains that visualizing a future society proved much more important for the film makers than presenting us a consistent story with characters we could identify ourselves with.
The music is wonderful. The visualizations we see with possible future variations on our society, is very nice indeed. For instance, the interviews with the astronauts before and during their voyage to Mars, are brought in a beautiful and promising format, different from what we see on our TV channels, and still very believable as a future setup. Also, the holographic figure we see giving a lecture and even eating in a restaurant, is also a nice way to liven up the movie, and to provoke ideas about future technical developments. I'm less certain about medical advancements, and certainly not in psychology if we can believe this film.
A definite role in the story has the futuristic public transporter mechanism (variation on the "beam me up" devices from the Star Trek series) shown in the film. Also a nice find is combining these devices with an implicit reference to the still living conspiracy theories about the moon landings we saw from 1969 to 1972, alleging that these were faked, and that the astronauts never left earth but were filmed in a moon-like décor. We see something similar happening here, and is an integral component in the story when Avril gets lost in the transporter while traveling together with aging musician Jacob.
Avril's love for retro devices is remarkable (black box camera, turntable with LP vinyl records, telephone with a dialer). It attracts our attention in this futuristic context. Her hobby forms a stark contrast with all other props in the film, and may be a bit far fetched. I see it as an indication that the film makers exaggerate in their attempts to be different. Avril's methods to make photographs of people who were asked to talk about themselves during the exposure time an old camera needs (as per her explanation), is a needless attempt to be different too.
All in all, I was disappointed in this movie, possibly (as said before) caused by all the positive comments I've read beforehand. Not everything is bad, however. There were nice attempts to picture what a possible future society may look like, places where other social conventions may exist, and of course that yet uninvented devices will be commodities, just as normal as our mobile phones are nowadays. Music will also be different, of course; we can expect different instruments to appear, producing sounds we cannot imagine at this moment.
Given all the above on the positive side, the narrative and the characters that were supposed to carry the story line, were unclear for at least half the running time. Only in hindsight could we construct some logic in what happened. That should not be necessary and better made apparent not after but rather during the movie. For the first half hour I felt a bit lost, and was wondering where all this was heading. When leaving the theater, I scored only a 3 (out of 5) for the audience award, considering too much emphasis on format and appearances, and too little (and too late) clarity about story and characters. Many will disagree, but so be it.
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