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During an opulent banquet, eleven pampered guests participate in what appears to be a ritualistic gastronomic carnage. In this grotesque universe, an unexpected sequence of events destabilizes the endless symphony of abundance.
On the surface, twenty-five year old Bibiane Champagne has the perfect life. She is the daughter of the famed Flo Fabert. She co-owns a chain of boutiques in Quebec with her brother, Philippe. But Bibi's life is in shambles. She has just had an abortion. And the boutiques are failing because of her incompetence, which is the result of or has led to her substance abuse. It is also the result of the high expectations on her. Bibi's story is told by a fish awaiting decapitation on a butcher's block, the fish as narrator largely because of the singular and accidental encounter she has with fifty-three year old Norwegian fishmonger, Annstein Karlsen. That encounter leads to a further failed decision by Bibi and a meeting with Annstein's son, Evian Karlsen, who does not know the full extent of Bibi and his father's relationship. Bibi's time with Evian may provide some salvation to her crumbling life.Written by
"mælstrom" -- a large, violent whirlpool from which there is no escape
The Chinese consider water as the abode of the dragon and the source of all life. Dennis Villenueve's Maelstrom is filled with multiple levels of water imagery: a fish as narrator, a suicide attempt in a river, the main character falling in love with a frogman, and scenes of repeated cleansing by water. Winner of five major Genie awards in 2001, Maelstrom is a playfully alive but dramatically intense look at the life a pleasure-seeking 25-year old boutique executive of (Marie Josee Croze) who runs into an emotional storm following an abortion and a fatal accident that she does not report. Like many who exist solely for their own pleasure, she manages to avoid responsibility but ends up having to deal with the results and becomes transformed in the process.
Pierre Lebeau narrates the film in a heavy voice as a fish awaiting decapitation. Villenueve says that, "For me, it (the fish) is a kind of metaphor for all the storytellers from the beginning of mankind". It is an odd conceit but strangely effective. The fish tells the story of Bibi and we first meet her at a medical clinic undergoing an abortion. Guilt is written on her face as we witness her descent into alcohol and drugs. She is fired for incompetence by her brother and, after drinking heavily, is involved in a hit and run accident in which a Norwegian fish industry worker is killed. Spiraling downward, she attempts suicide but survives and falls in love with the dead man's son Evian (Jean-Nicholas Verreault) after attending the father's funeral.
Maelstrom does not sound much like a romantic comedy but it is full of off-the-wall humor and suffers from an overabundance of cleverness. The film does not progress in linear fashion and there are several shifts of time and perspective to keep the viewer on edge. One flashback shows the chain of events that follows a complaint about the quality of the octopus in a restaurant and a stranger (Marc Gelinas) who keeps popping up in strange places to offer words of wisdom to the characters. The soundtrack also varies from Tom Waits to Edvard Grieg, even including "Good Morning, Starshine" from "Hair". Philosophical, surreal, absurd, symbolic, all with a creative touch similar to Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amelie, Maelstrom tells us that the secret of life is to be continued.
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