RVCQ 2010

new denmark (Rafaël Ouellet) 87
[ I’ve written before about my fascination for the new wave of Quebec filmmakers that includes the likes of Denis Côté, Yves Christian Fournier, Stéphane Lafleur, Maxime Giroux and yes, Rafaël Ouellet. Now, Fournier made the biggest impact on me of them all with his brilliant “Tout est parfait”, but I also have a particular affection for Ouellet, who first came onto the scene with the delightful “Le Cèdre penché”, which he quickly followed with the darker “Derrière Moi” and this here “New Denmark”, easily his most achieved film to date. It had me at hello, literally, right from the opening shot, a striking view of overcast skies looming over a forest that slowly reveals a search party heading into the woods. We then meet our typically Ouelletesque protagonist, a beautiful, sad, quiet girl (Carla Turcotte) who’s going around town putting up posters of her missing sister… The whole film is about Carla’s desperate search for her sister or, at least, closure. With sparse dialogue, lyrical shot composition, well directed non-professional actors, evocative use of sound (and of an intriguingly in situ sound recordist) and outstanding music by Man an Ocean, Rafaël Ouellet has created a true work of art. 4 or 5 times, you fear that a generic plot is gonna kick in, but it never does. This remains a pure dose of great visuals and sound, anchored by just enough emotional heft and thematic depth. An absolute must-see. ]

Grande Ourse – La clé des possibles (Patrice Sauvé) 86
[ At first, the film can be confusing, throwing us right in the midst of an intriguing story involving strange visions and parallel dimensions. But if you’re a fan of genre cinema, you’ll soon be taken by the aura of mystery that surrounds every scene and will have great fun trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle that is the plot. Having never watched the “Grande Ourse” TV series, I wasn’t familiar with the characters played by Marc Messier, Fanny Mallette and Normand Daneault beforehand, but I quickly fell in love with ex-journalist Lapointe and the detective couple formed by Gastonne and Biron. I also enjoyed the new additions to the cast, notably Maude Guérin as a charming bookseller and Monique Mercure as a creepy witch. Screenwriter Frédéric Ouellet clearly has a lot of fun making his characters evolve in this new adventure that blends suspense, humor, mythology, philosophy and emotion in a surprisingly cohesive and winning way. As for Patrice Sauvé, he proves with this second feature (after the underrated “Cheech”) that he’s clearly one of the most gifted contemporary Quebec directors, easily outdoing every other local attempt at genre filmmaking in recent memory (“Sur le seuil”, “Saint-Martyr-des-Damnés”, etc.). Could he be our own David Cronenberg? ]

Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve) 85
[ review ]

La Donation (Bernard Émond) 84
[ This is the final and, in my opinion, best film in Bernard Émond’s trilogy about theological values. Slow, quiet and austere, “La Donation” is a profound yet unpretentious meditation on the meaning of life, filled with muted but acutely felt emotion. Taking place more often than not around hospital rooms and deathbeds, the film also spends a lot of time taking in the transfixing Abitibi scenery. And then there is Jacques Godin as an aging backcountry doctor and Élise Guilbault as his reluctant successor, who both deliver superbly understated performances. ]

De père en flic (Émile Gaudreault) 75
[ review ]

Sans dessein (Steeve Léonard & Caroline Labrèche)
[ I can’t objectively rate this, as a few friends of mine were involved with the production of this low budget independent feature. But I can tell you anyway that I enjoyed it a great deal! The US had Kevin Smith, the UK had Edgar Wright, and now Quebec has Steeve, Caroline and the rest of the Dead Cat Films crew, basically. Here’s a movie that’s both funny and sensitive, clever and juvenile, about a slacker coming into his own. Full of universal geek culture references (“Star Wars”, “Back to the Future”, “Star Trek”, “Transformers”, old kung fu movies, etc.), “Sans Dessein” is nonetheless Québécois to the core, which gives it a special color that’s quite unique. ]

Who Is KK Downey? (Darren Curtis & Pat Kiely) 70
[ Vaguely inspired by the J.T. Leroy scandal, this first feature from Montreal collective Kidnapper Films is an incisive satire of the hipster milieu and of the cult of celebrity. Dynamically shot and cut, the film also benefits from hilarious performances by Darren Curtis, Pat Kiely and Matt Silver. ]

40 Is the New 20 (Simon Boisvert) 70
[ review ]

Dédé à travers les brumes (Jean-Philippe Duval) 65
[ This biopic of Les Colocs lead singer André Fortin is marred by clichés and uneven performances. Visually, though, it’s involving, particularly during the few animated sequences, that remind alternately of “The Wall”, “Actross the Universe” and the band’s music videos. And then there’s Sébastien Ricard, the one truly extraordinary thing about the film. Both physically and vocally, he’s a dead ringer for Dédé, and he also conveys really effectively the character’s manic-depressive tendencies. Finally, there’s the music which, beyond the tragedy that’s now forever associated with it, survives nonetheless and remains wonderful. ]

Modernaire (Martin Laroche) 63
[ Shot on the fly with a $6,000 budget, this latest feature from Martin Laroche is an intriguing conceptual piece about how a (modern) man’s dull routine is perturbed by his paranoid fixation on a suspicious Arab man he meets on the bus. Even after seeing it twice (I first saw a workprint about a year ago), I still can’t quite put my finger on why this film remains captivating even though it’s so sparse and low-key. Is it the protagonist (played by Laroche himself)’s impenetrable façade? The recurring motifs? The evanescent nature of the narrative? I don’t know, but what’s sure is that Laroche remains a filmmaker to watch. ]

J’ai tué ma mère (Xavier Dolan) 58
[ review ]

Carcasses (Denis Côté) 55
[ A series of static tableaux showing an old man working/screwing around in a car cemetery out in the sticks, where he’s eventually joined by a bunch of intruders with Down syndrome, this fourth feature by Québec iconoclast Denis Côté is certainly his most radical film to date. A stark, wilfully uneventful quasi-documentary, “Carcasses” is quite interesting conceptually, and there are certainly some arresting visuals and amusing bits… But even at less than 70 minutes, it feels needlessly stretched out. Still worth seeing as a curiosity. ]

mille neuf cent quatre-vingt-un (Ricardo Trogi) 51
[ 75% autobiographical according to the filmmaker, the movie’s story must seem crucial and fascinating to him… But truth be told, Trogi’s childhood seems to have been desperately ordinary, boring even. All young Ricardo cares about is for his parents to buy him some crap (a K-Way, a Walkman, a calculator watch, etc.) so he can supposedly fit in better at school. He also has a silly kid’s crush on a pretty classmate, which he never really does anything about. And that’s about it. Now, despite the utter lack of story tension, dramatic weight and character development, “1981” could still have been a fun slice-of-life comedy. Alas, the humor is mostly limited to the retro-kitsch flourishes, Trogi’s wisecracking voice-over narration and fantasy sequences involving a B&W Nazi, which all outstay their welcome. I liked Jean-Carl Bérubé, Sandrine Bisson and Claudio Colangello’s performances quite a lot, which went a long way in keeping me moderately invested in the film. Otherwise, I felt this was rather forgettable. ]

La Dernière Fugue (Léa Pool) 48
[ Dedicated to her filmmaker friend (and mentor) Georges Dufaux, who died in 2008 after a long illness, Léa Pool’s latest is, at its core, about the right to retain one’s dignity, in death like in life. The first half of the film, which takes place during a tense Christmas eve amongst a dysfunctional family where the patriarch (Jacques Godin) is deeply weakened by Parkinson, is pretty rough. We’re in straight melodrama territory, with a large group of mostly unlikable characters we never really get to know properly constantly getting into arguments, which are punctuated by angry yet feeble outbursts by the pathetic old man and clumsily inserted flashbacks. The film gets a lot better, though, when it starts focusing on only a few key characters: Godin’s, his devoted wife (Andrée Lachapelle), as well as his oldest son (Yves Jacques) and one of his grandchildren (Aliocha Schneider), who share an endearing complicity. Unfortunately, the movie stumbles again towards the end and closes on an utterly befuddling note. ]

Les Pieds dans le vide (Mariloup Wolfe) 36
[ Imagine a young-adult soap opera overflowing with cheap melodrama (cancer, struggling with homosexuality, unplanned pregnancy, crippling accident, etc.), directed with all the depth and subtlety Tony Scott showed in “Top Gun” and where all the characters are douches, idiots or both. Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge and Éric Bruneau seem to be in a contest about who can overact the most and while Laurence Leboeuf remains an alluring little actress, she’s unfortunately playing a dim-witted slut who alternately has unprotected sex with both male leads then is all shocked when the inevitable happens. The film is mostly being sold with its admittedly spectacular skydiving shots, but we’ve all seen “Point Break” already, right? And that had surfing and bank robberies, too! ]

Cadavres (Erik Canuel) 26
[ Hysterically unfunny, aggressively stupid, grotesquely lowbrow, pointlessly unpleasant and painfully boring… Oh, it’s well crafted enough like every Canuel flick, but it’s nonetheless a thoroughly hollow experience. You can tell that this is supposed to be an oh so provocative black comedy, then again, half the time, it seems to be taking itself seriously. Apparently left on their own, the actors’ performances are all over the place (is Patrick Huard’s character supposed to be retarded or what?), the pacing is generally off and, worse of all, the film makes the age-old mistake of trying to be a cult movie, which never works, of course. Even full frontal Julie LeBreton nudity can’t save this; it didn’t work for “Dans l’oeil du chat” either, so… ]

Les Grandes chaleurs (Sophie Lorain) 22
[ When I see a movie like this, I’m always befuddled by how a filmmaking team’s instincts can be so wrong. I mean, they had millions of dollars and a good enough cast to adapt what was, from what I hear, a solid play by Michel Marc Bouchard, but scene after scene, moment after moment, bad artistic choices are made so that it all feels phony, shallow and dull. It’s in the slick but soulless TV commercial visual look, the overcooked direction, the shaky performances, the dialogue that’s too on the nose, the lame music cues, the dumb gags, the ridiculous depiction of young folks, the unearned sentimentality… Unless you’re a desperately sexless fiftysomething woman who gets all hot and bothered at the sight of a bare-chested young man, there’s no reason to bother seeing this. ]

Détour (Sylvain Guy) 18
[ Léo Huff (an intentionally dull but dull nonetheless Luc Picard) jumps at the chance to leave his obnoxious wife (Suzanne Champagne) and his office work routine, if only for a day, to go present his company’s latest project at an assembly in Le Bic. However, things become more complicated when he crosses paths with a femme fatale (the rather tame Isabelle Guérard) and her violently jealous boyfriend (a cartoonish Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge)… “Détour” is a drab, ill-conceived pseudo-film noir, with a pointless story and characters we never care about. It doesn’t even cut it as an exercise in style (what style?). ]

Suzie (Micheline Lanctôt) 13
[ For the first 5-10 minutes, Lanctôt’s eponymous protagonist never talks, even when directly spoken to. It’s almost as if she’s catatonic or something, even though the big tragedy in her life, we’ll learn later, happened decades ago. That tragedy was the loss of her child and what do you know, the moment she snaps out of her silence is once she finds a kid in the back of her cab. Off to a bad start. Right there, it feels like the movie is a gonna be a chore, and it is. Contrived. Unpleasant. Visually unappealing. Dull, so very dull. The kid can’t act (he mostly screams like an animal), Lanctôt is one-note, and even the usually reliable Pascale Bussières is embarrassingly bad as the kid’s crass, hysterical mother. Or maybe it’s the writing that’s embarrassingly bad? Or the way she’s directed? In any case, the result is the same: a truly lousy picture. And I haven’t even mentioned the ridiculous poker scenes, the preposterous police station climax and the totally WTF? epilogue with the djembe player… ]

À vos marques… Party! 2 (Frédérik D’Amours) 11
[ Wha’ Happened? I mean, the first film wasn’t high art, but I remember liking it well enough. But this sequel, with its cliché-ridden script, utterly generic direction, blatant product placement, lame melodrama, dumb gags, racist stereotypes and ridiculously unconvincing “teens” (most of the actors playing them are pushing 30)? Awful, just awful. ]