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Best Quebec movie ever? I'd say so!
To say it bluntly, it is to my advice the best Quebec movie ever made, and from a more global perspective a very good movie no matter what you choose to compare it to.
It is a story about a young homosexual (although it isn't clearly stated in the film, and it probably would be closer to the truth to say he's bisexual), born in the 60's. We see him evolving through the next three decades, with all the difficulties one might see in having troubles with sexual orientation in theses years (among which the perception of other people of his age, questions about himself because of the taboo nature of the topic, problems having it accepted by parents and so on).
There's many things that make me to say it's the best Quebec-made movie ever. First of all, it's actually quite different from anything else to come from Quebec, as far as I can think of it. This is quite surprising, since almost all the action takes place in this province. It's far more dramatic and emotional than anything else before (maybe saved Sur le Seuil which was more tragic). Besides, Quebec has always produced a lot of humor-oriented movies (les Boys, Quebec-Montreal, etc), which do have some charm but also feel like they have all been made out of the same recipe, Quebec humor being one of a kind. It's also successful in not falling into traditional clichés of Quebec society in a given period of time (a thing that Séraphin, for example, failed to do), but at the same time depicting quite accurately what life was like at the time. It's also successful in incorporating a very diversified soundtrack, using both songs from Quebec and American cultures. That lacked in many films, although in reality you actually get both pretty much equally. To be able to recognize this and deal with it is worth being recognized. The casting is also pretty strong, in part because of the performances of the actors but also because there are some new faces in it. Another annoying tendency in movies made in Quebec is that often see the same faces over and over again.
If you put it in a larger frame, it is still a must see that I believe will get it's fair share of attention and prices outside the province. That's a thing that the Invasions Barbares did, but other than that it's hard to think of much more. The song track, besides being very good, is also brilliantly used. For example, the music Zac listens to is very representative of theses decades (you get Pink Floyd, David Bowie) and evolves with the character, and is also used to create some insides between the characters (like Hier encore j'avais 20 ans, that is sung every Christmas). The three main antagonists in the movie (Zac, his brother Raymond and his father) have developed relationships with each other that are by no mean static, and in fact no even always antagonistic. Even though the story is told from Zac's perspective, he's far from flawless, as all the other characters, except maybe for the mother, who's more than often the neutral, moderated one in the many conflicts that arise. Some dialogs are actually quite funny (like the one about sodomy between Zac's father and his wife, in which Michel Côté shows he's a damn good actor).
Finally, I would say that the movie is also successful in not using easy clichés when it comes to homosexuality. Many movies got fucked up when it came to that topic, but this one doesn't. As I said before, Zac is supposedly homosexual, although it's never clearly stated and he might also just be bisexual. You don't get any real dirty stuff. The conservatives point of view on the matter are mentioned (by his fathers, among others), but aren't overwhelmingly present either. The movie is well-balanced.
OK, I might not be totally objective, since right at the start that's a subject that attracts my attention. I would say a movie talking about happiness, or meaning of live that kind of stuff almost has to lose a favorable opinion...
But still, I'm pretty convinced it's a real good movie, kind of in between documentary and some kind of really personal autobiography. It's definitely a fairly sad movie (as the title gives it away), but at the same time at the end you just feel like going outside and doing any of theses crazy ideas of yours that had been asking for your attention all that time. Besides, the story of the girl is fairly uncommon, and if that kind of story isn't narrated the right way you might just dismiss it as unworthy, but that's not the case here. Partly because Ann-Marie succeeds in being mysterious but smart at the same time. And it doesn't pretend it has any definite answer to what happiness, or life, is, which is great.
And, well, makes you wonder what happiness really is, if anything.
On the other hand, Delisle tried to put some special effects to his movie (like when Anne-Marie is wandering out at night), which are fairly efficient, but not really anything new.
No Higher Truth Here....
After reading a few reviews, there's not so much I feel I have to had about the movie. But one thing that I came across a few times was (as much among the ones who liked it as among the ones who didn't) this tendency to seek for some kind of conclusion, or opinion or answer, given in the movie.
Well, actually, I can say with high chances of being right, there isn't any and shouldn't be any. One of the things that make this movie great is that it's doesn't try to tell you ''life is like this''. There's only two main premises I can think of.
1. Life is unpredictable
2. Everyone is looking for a way to be happy
From that point, there's nothing that the movie states. It just shows different people that think different things would make them happy, or that have to overcome various difficulties in order to be happy, or that had some experiences with happiness. For example, there's Troy. His way to be happy was by professional and social success. He's overwhelmingly self-confident, and in a way ignorant, because all he sees in happiness is his career and his social life, and basically nothing else. But life will prove him there's more than this with the accident when he hits the girl. He won't be able to overcome this, although except in his mind there was no consequences in this (he wasn't caught), and professional as well as social success were still there.
It kinda shows that ignorance isn't happiness. But later on, another stories shows the opposite with Bowman. Who is in his way ignorant too, but probably at the same time the happiest guy in the whole thing. To him, ignorance is happiness. So in the end, ignorance can, or cannot be, happiness. No answers definite provided here....
All there is in the movie are a few possibilities based on the 2 premises. That's all. It doesn't try to convince you to work like crazy or not to do so at all, or doesn't really try to define happiness. It's more like some kind of philosophical reflection about it. No answer provided... And there shouldn't be any. As if every movie had to come up with unexpected punchline or empty-meaning conclusion or supposedly higher truth. This movie doesn't try to do so, and that's perfect. It is to the viewer to take all that is said in the movie, and make the rest of the reflection.
One thing I particularly liked was when Bea tells Dorrie she tried to commit suicide, but that some stranger smiled to her and that convinced her not to do so.... You could bet 5$ that his man was Bowman (shown walking and smiling the very next shot), for whom it is just a normal thing to do, smiling to everyone. But he'll never get to know he saved that girl's life.... And that's ignorance, again.
La face cachée de la lune (2003)
Life of a Dreamer
I finally got to see this movie, and pretty glad I did. I know Lepage a bit because of works he did in theater (and the fact that he usually does plays is pretty obvious in the way the film is made, if you pay attention, specially the way he uses the background in many scenes).
I first have to warn a few people who are thinking about seeing this movie. Although the magic of it, by the way Lepage plays with scenery, background and various imaginative, non-realistic shots, is pretty accessible to everyone (like say Big Fish is), some people might discard the plot as simplistic and unworthy. If it is hard to actually say the opposite, the point is that to make a plot that's original or particularly thrilling wasn't the goal. It's basically just the day to day life of a dreamer who isn't quite successful in any aspect of his life (would it be on a professional or social basis). But the movie wants to show that despite theses lacks, the main character (I forgot the name) is still an original person, with imagination et interesting thoughts. To make that point, I might take the various imaginary scenes where Lepage take us, or simply the video the guy shots fort the SETI program. You'll notice that most of the interesting commentary and clever interventions by the main character are made while shooting this movie, and that he is alone doing so. It just emphasis the fact that he's apparently quite boring, but actually an interesting person.
Another clever idea in the movie is that there actually isn't many differences between the shots taken during the children hood of the guy (in the 70's) and the on taken in 2000, while he's 40. Besides, many transitions take place from 2000 to the 70's or the other way around without any warning. This is to show that the character didn't really evolved much. He was a dreamer when younger, and unlike many he didn't change when he grew up.
About transitions, they all are very very smooth, and you end up at the end of the movie not so sure if it wasn't only one long shot. Any viewer able to appreciate a movie for anything else but it's plot should see this one. The soundtrack, mostly Beethoven songs, is also quite fit.
THX 1138 (1971)
Original, disturbing movie.
I had never heard of this movie before I saw it the other evening at the video club. For some reason, it caught my attention, so I rented it.
I'm not a fan of Indiana Jones or Star Wars at all, but I guess Lucas' name might have played a bit, so did the date of the original version (I thought it would be interesting to see Lucas' early work).
So the movie takes place in this undated, unsettled underground (literaly) society. It is an efficient, well organized world, where productivity is king. Most of the story is related somehow to workers and consumers, although the term consumer doesn't quite fit the modern version of the term. In the movie, a consumer is basically an end to go for the production. Consumption is standardized an uniformity is a necessity. It is not though to be imagined in the 1984 kind of society. People do not live poorly. They have apartments (although they live with roommates they do not apparently choose), have the right to talk, watch holograms TV and of course buy stuff.
One of the strenght of the movie is it's capacity not to tell too much to the viewer. It would most definitely frustrate the average moviegoer, but for more attentive and patient viewer it is very rewarding. Most of the information that is essential to the understanding of the world they live in is actually passed down by speakers, work dialogs (or rather directives, since there is very few dialogs as to speak in the whole movie) or images. Many shots take place in white rooms or hallways, which gives a very distinctive look to the scenes. Or they take place in desk-filled rooms, nuclear plant like command center, the sort of place that add to the coldness of this world.
One thing I found brilliant is the idea to use robots as agents of repression instead of human and the way the did it. If we oppose this to 1984, we get an even colder and almost more brutal justice system. In 1984, repression were probably more cruel, but at the same time maybe not even as fearfull, since in THX no human actually seems to be in charge of any of it. Except, maybe, during a one-minute shot when they set a trial, which is basically made of a pro-lawyer, a con and an judge. All of it is essential argued not on guilt, but on efficiency, as to know which is the best way to punish the wrong at the lower cost possible.
Beside, we never get to know who, if anyone, is in charge. My bet (and your's is probably as good actually since there's no indication) is that there actually isn't any President or whatever deciding whatever. It's more kind of self-guided and self-controlled, which is possibly even more frightening.
One thing that is interesting about that movie is to ask this kind of question, but without having any mean of testing them. People asking who's in charge, or when is it happening (or even when, as the mention ''EB'' at the end of the title stands for Earth Born, but without ever any explanation as to why to they need to mention it at all) are missing the point if they do it in the optics of finding it in the movie. It just doesn't say, and doesn't want to. They just give you a glimpse of it, and the rest is yours to make.
A few other related movies... I would say Cube, because of this spirit of not mentioning really where is everything coming from or when is it taking place or why, both movie will really leave you with this feeling of being lost somewhere. 1984 of course, because of the kind of world that is described (although both society are actually quite different, the dictatorial kinda of world is related). Also Equilibrium. This one is way more action-movie kinda thing, but still the dilemma between efficiency and stability on one hand, and originality and individuality on the other is pretty similar in both.
Koyaanisqatsi,Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi (to which Coppola participated) are also to see if you liked the lack of dialogs. None of them actually have any dialogue. They're kind of the extreme version of this idea not to state things clearly.
Alexandra's Project (2003)
I would say that what makes this movie so interesting to see is the near impossibility to fully agree with Alexandra or with her husband, the best of it being that it is because we'll disagree with what Alexandra says, or with the reactions or murmurs of her husband while watching the video she left him. While on one hand we can understand the boredom she was in, it's still hard to believe that her reaction isn't exaggerated. It would be possible for most people to imagine better ways to shake their incapability to be happy. The fact alone that she choosed to expose all her troubles to her husband on a video reveals much about the state of submission she was in. And this is probably why the movie touches us so strongly: they're just so human, with their rights and their wrongs, their strenghs and weakness. Although on second thought the end of it seems a bite far-fetched to me, it is still surprising and original enough, so it isn't even the kind of excess that bothers the viewers. The way the characters unfold is pretty similar to 21 Grams, as is the way we see them and their doings. A must see.