Juste la fin du monde (It’s only the end of the world)

You could say that I’m a Xavier Dolan fan, but Juste la fin du monde is not my favorite of his films. Even so, there are some elements I liked. Dolan adapted the Jean-Luc Lagarce 1990 play. In it Louis (Gaspard Ulliel), a successful writer, pays a visit to his family. He has had almost no contact with them in 12 years. We know from the film’s opening scene that he plans to tell them that he is dying. This is clearly a dysfunctional group of character. Louis has an overbearing, over aggressive (over everything) older brother. Antoine (Vincent Cassel) is loud, interrupts every conversations and bullies the whole family. It soon becomes clear that nothing is going to go smooth. Mother Martine (Nathalie Baye, wearing too much make up and has a Cleopatra haircut) smokes like a chimney and does aerobics in the kitchen. Sister Suzanne (Léa Seydoux) was too young when Louis left. She is a sweet, insecure and sensitive girl. Louis meets Antoine’s wife, Catherine (Marion Cotillard). Catherine has probably been the target of her husband’s aggressiveness. She is so shy that she is unable to carry a full conversation. You can’t fault Dolan or his director of photography, André Turpin, for the beauty of the images and the quality of the directing. They have filmed mostly in close up to accentuate the feeling of claustrophobia. But Juste la fin du monde is hysterical. Not just a bit, all the time. You have every one trying to speak over one another. The worst is Vincent Cassel. I don’t actually (I won‘t because I can‘t) put the blame on Cassel. Antoine is an impossible part to play, and cannot think of an actor who can do it without annoying most people in the cinema. Dolan likes hysteria, but this is too much of it. He wanted to make a film on incommunicability, and boy did he ever. The overbearing Gabriel Yared score is doing all it can to make the dialogue inaudible. I think Dolan is a brilliant director, but not this time. My feeling about Juste la fin du monde can be best describe by that classic retort: “Not tonight, I‘m having a headache!”

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Juste la fin du monde (It’s only the end of the world)

Directed by:
Xavier Dolan

Screenplay by:
Xavier Dolan
Based on the play by Jean-Luc Lagarce

Starring:
Gaspard Ulliel
Nathalie Baye
Marion Cotillard
Vincent Cassel
Léa Seydoux

97 min.

In French with English subtitles.

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Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre (Going to war with Guibord or My internship in Canada)

Just when you thought you had enough of this long election, here comes Philippe Falardeau’s Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre to put a smile on your face. Everything aspects of Canadian political life is parodied. Patrick Huard is Steve Guibord, an independent MP for the Quebec riding of Prescot-Makadewà-Rapides-aux-Outardes. Steve is introduced through the character of Souverain Pascal (Irdens Exantus), a young Haitian student coming to Canada for an internship. Souverain is in awe as he witnesses Guibord trying to navigate between unions demands, local mayors and Aboriginal protests and roadblocks. When the Prime Minister (Paul Doucet) announces that he plans to go to war in a foreign country, Guibord finds out that he holds the balance of power and that his vote will be the deciding one. Guibord is against it and even if the PM is offering him the ministry of Aboriginal affairs, Guibord wants to ask his constituents what they think. This is the kind of guy he is. But it’s not that easy. Even in his household. His wife Suzanne (Suzanne Clément) is for war, while his daughter Lune (Clémence Dufresne-Deslières) is against it. Town hall consultations are held and it soon goes crazy as any nuts in the country are coming to the riding to give their opinions. A mayor claims that war is good because it will bring jobs. Others are pleading Guibord with forced emotions, peppered with ridiculous flowery language, to vote against war. And Souverain’s enthusiasm shines a new light on the cynicism that prevails in among Canadians about politicians. He does video streams with Haitians about his experience with Canadian politics. For the People of Port-au-prince, Steve Guibord is a hero of democracy. Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre is Gatineau born Falardeau’s finest screenplay. Funny and surprising, with great attention to details and a willingness to laugh at ourselves as Canadians. Exantus is Huard’s co-star here, not a mere supporting player. Souverain is the heart of the film and with that smile you can’t help falling in love with him. Paul Doucet’s portrait of a Harper-like Prime Minister is hillarious. He plays the piano and he has a drum set in the living room of 24 Sussex. Only problem with Doucet is that this Anglophone PM speaks English with a French accent. What makes up for it is the fun Doucet is having parodying our Prime Minister. Quebec comedian Patrick Huard sails through the film as if it was the easiest thing. A piece of cake. But it’s far from easy. Beside playing a demanding starring role, hitting every notes correctly without ever overplaying, Huard has to make sure that he always let’s the other actors shine. This is that kind of film. The more effective each actors are in their parts, the better the film will be. And it is among the best film this year. I must not forget masterful composer Martin Léon, who cleverly waves Aboriginal voices throughout his score. It is beautiful. As is Ronald Plante’s photography. What a great country we have. Don’t forget to vote on October 19th.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Guibord s’en va-t-en guerre (Going to war with Guibord or My internship in Canada)

Directed by:
Philippe Falardeau

Screenplay by:
Philippe Falardeau

Starring:
Patrick Huard
Suzanne Clément
Irdens Exantus
Clémence Dufresne-Deslières
Sonia Cordeau
Paul Doucet
Micheline Lanctôt

108 min.

In French, English and Creole with English subtitles

 

Félix et Meira

Montreal director Maxime Giroux’s Félix et Meira is about the troubled love between Meira (Israeli actress Hadas Yaron), a Hasidic Jewish woman, and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a Québécois bachelor. Meira is married to Shulem (excellent Luzer Twersky), and the couple has a young daughter. But Meira is terribly unhappy with the constraint of religion. She likes to draw pictures in little notebooks, and when her husband is away she secretly listens to R&B records. Félix, who just lost his father, meets Meira at a café in their neighbourhood, and he initiates a conversation about her faith and how they deal with grief. She’s reluctant to speak to him until he shows her one of his drawings. This new friendship quickly becomes love. When Shulem finds out, he reacts at first violently towards Félix. But Shulem is no fool, and is very aware that his wife is unhappy. He visits Félix to talk about the situation. They understand each other more than they think. All it takes is to walk in the other person’s shoes. Giroux’s delicate film was beautifully filmed in Montreal during winter. That frames both Félix’s grief and Meira’s discontent. I highly recommend.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Félix et Meira

 

Directed by: 
Maxime Giroux
 
Screenplay by: 
Maxime Giroux
Alexandre Laferrière
 
Starring: 
Martin Dureuil
Hadas Yaron
Luzer Twersky
Anne-Élisabeth Bossé
Benoît Girard
Melissa Weisz
 
105 min.
 
In French, English, and
Yiddish with English subtitles

Mommy

I was so completely flabbergasted by Xavier Dolan’s Mommy that I am at a loss for words. The 25-year-old Québec director’s film was the talk of the Cannes Film Festival last summer, where it won the coveted Jury Prize. We meet Diane «Die» (Anne Dorval), the widowed mother of Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a teenager with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Diane is unable to take care of Steve (heck, she’s barely able to take care of herself), yet unable to find a place that will keep him. He started a fire at the last centre, and caused physical damage to another inmate. Steve is unpredictably violent, and also shows love for his mom with great fanfare and excess. Everything is excessive with Steve. Mommy is a roller coaster of unabashed sentiments that unapologetically assaults us with a constant barrage of screaming, loud music, swearing (a mix of Québécois French (AKA “joual”) and English) and emotions. Mommy is a masterpiece of raw emotions. Diane does not have what it takes to deal with her son’s problems. She sometimes is the victim of his sudden violent outburst. Enter neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément), a stay at home wife and mother with a stuttering problem. Kyla becomes friends with both Diane and Steve, helping Steve with his studies and being a nice, warm, calming presence. They are inseparable. Anne Dorval, one of the best actress in Québec, played the overbearing mother in Dolan’s J’ai tué ma mère. Diane is, like her son, always living on the edge, about to burst anytime with the foul language. In this amazing performance, Dorval plays a mom like I have rarely seen on films. And what can I say about teenage actor Antoine Olivier Pilon (16-year-old while filming) ? Looking like an angel with his beautiful blond hair, he is perfect to play a little demon. If it was only a weird casting choice, it would still be fine. But Pilon has got the acting shops to carry that difficult, demanding part. And then some more. Because of Steve’s mental disorder, it is Pilon’s energy that drives Mommy. And in every scenes, Dorval, Pilon and Clément act in perfect synchronicity. Just as Die and Steve need Kyla, we too need Suzanne Clément (another well-regarded Québec actress). We need respite from all the hysteria. But Clément’s Kyla seems to be more distraught than her two friends, and she too finds a kind of calm and happiness with them. All that great acting, of course the screenplay, the energetic frenzy, the cacophony is all Dolan’s work. And an unusual choice of framing. The 1:1 aspect ratio frame is actually a rectangle screen (almost as if you were looking at a photo on your cell phone or blackberry). With that ratio Dolan focus on what is most important in the film, little things like people, faces and emotions. And with that gutsy choice Xavier Dolan also redefine the way films are made. Did I tell you that Mommy is a masterpiece?

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Mommy

 

Directed by: 
Xavier Dolan
 
Screenplay by: 
Xavier Dolan
 
Starring: 
Anne Dorval
Antoine Olivier Pilon
Suzanne Clément
Patrick Huard
 
139 min.
 
Rated 14A
 
 In French with English subtitles.

Le vrai du faux

Marco Valois (Stéphane Rousseau) is a film maker who specializes in The fast and the furious type action movies.  After the death of a young man who crashed his car (a replica of the car used in Marco’s movies), he decides he needs something drastically different. He wants to do serious movies, films that will make a difference. He meets Eric Lebel (Mathieu Quesnel), a vet who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Eric has numerous psychological scars from his experience in Kandahar. Marco offers Eric the possibility to tell his story on film. Eric is quite reluctant. Marco is quite persistent. The two of them embark in an eventful odyssey. Émile Gaudreault has the ability to talk about serious social subjects. He did it in De père en flic where he took a look at father and son relationship through the scope of group therapy. He does it again this time through the eyes of a director who wants to make a movie on war post-traumatic disorder, one of the most serious social problems for the military. Gaudreault manages to make it entertaining, not heavy, funny but respectful. I say funny because it’s a comedy-drama. It’s in no way a caricature but it has some humoristic overtones. To the credit of Gaudreault, we can praise him for having been able to combine intelligent humour with such a serious subject. It is a buddy-buddy movie that evolves slowly, gradually, that takes its time to tell the story. The clashes are frequent between the two main characters which keeps us amused and entertained.The second part of the film dwells more on its dramatic parts. Mathieu Quesnel is quite credible in the portrait of the macho vet who refuses to talk about his past, who hides behind humour, corny jokes and  machismo. Stéphane Rousseau is also believable as Marco Valois, a filmmaker who  seeks a second chance. Also to mention the performance of Guylaine Tremblay as the mother of Eric. I could see a Jutra (trophy for film recognition in Québec) for supporting actress. Le vrai du faux is an intelligent comedy with a serious subject that should do well in Québec this summer.
 
André St-Jacques
 
 
Le vrai du faux
 
 
Directed by:
Émile Gaudreault
 
Screenplay by:
Émile Gaudreault
Pierre-Michel Tremblay
 
Starring:
Stéphane Rousseau
Mathieu Quesnel
Julie Le Breton
Charles-Alexandre Dubé
Guylaine Tremblay
Marie-Ève Milot
 
105 min.
 
In French

Tom à la ferme (Tom at the farm)

Young Quebec filmmaker Xavier Dolan was a big hit at this summer’s Cannes Film Festival. His film Mommy became the talk of the town. With his previous film, Tom à la ferme, Dolan shows a restraint you could not foresee from his other films. Tom (Xavier Dolan), a young advertiser ,travels to the country for the funeral of his boyfriend Guillaume. Guillaume was not out to his family. His mother Agathe still thinks he had a girlfriend named Sara. Francis, Guillaume’s brother, knows who Tom is, and violently convinces him to shut up. Francis is a violent homophobe, but like his mother, there is also a streak of fragility and vulnerability. After the funeral, when Tom tries to escape he is brought back by Francis. There is a scene in a corn field where Dolan creates (with his acting and his direction), a complete sence of emotional and directional confusion, which is perfect of course because that’s what Tom à la ferme is all about. Tom may try to escape, but is not able to. It becomes impossible when he finds the frame of is car mounted on bricks in the stable. The real question is: Does Tom really want to escape? Tom finds himself sexually attracted by the violence (and by Francis), and at the same time he is repulsed and creeped out by it. With the arrival of Sara, hysteria goes up a few notch, especially from Agathe who seem to suspect the truth about Guillaume. Dolan is a marvelously effective director of psychological thrillers. But his force here is in his cast, and how he directs them. Lise Roy’s Agathe is a woman with in a deceptively fragile physical and emotional state. Francis is played by Pierre-Yves Cardinal, and he shows all the right nuances of violent, aggressive, tenderness and all manners of sexual ambiguities. It so exciting to watch him and Dolan in a sort of cat and mouse emotional chase. But the best moment happens toward the end of Tom à la ferme. In a conversation Tom has with a barman ( Dolan’s father Manuel Tadros) he is told Francis and Guillaume’s terrible secret. In its simplicity and subtle acting, it reveals the greatness of Dolan as a director. Dolan and Michel Marc Bouchard adapted Bouchard’s play. And we should not forget Gabriel Yared’s tense score creating dysfunctional musicality.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Tom à la ferme (Tom at the farm)

 

Directed by: 
Xavier Dolan
 
Screenplay by: 
Xavier Dolan
Michel Marc Bouchard
Based on Bouchard’s play
 
Starring: 
Xavier Dolan
Pierre-Yves Cardinal
Lise Roy
Evelyne Brochu
Manuel Tadros
 
105 min.
 
Rated 14A
 
In French with English subtitles

La petite reine‏

Julie Arsenault, a star of cycling is two races away from the world cup. She loves her sport, the spotlight and all the hoopla that goes with it. Encouraged by her coach and doctor, she takes performance enhancers from age 14. Since she is a high-profile athlete, the  anti-doping agency keeps an eye on her. After a close call test in Phoenix Arizona where Julie trains, the agency zeroes in on her doctor who, in order to save his hide denounces her. A scandal ensues. A deeply troubled and upset Julie tries to mask the truth along with her unscrupulous coach. This film is based on the life of ex-cyclist Geneviève Jeanson who was implicated in a scandal involving EPO, a performance enhancer, illegal in cycling competitions. Jeanson collaborated as a consultant on the film. Laurence Leboeuf offers a strong performance as Julie, a.k.a. Geneviève who thrives and has to live with a lie in order to keep her place in the sun and the spotlights on her. Patrice Robitaille steals the show as the unscrupulous, manipulative coach who will stop at nothing to brainwash and control Julie just for the sake of winning. The film is an interesting reflection on how far athletes are willing to go to be the best. You can’t watch this film without thinking of Lance Armstrong or Ben Johnson. All athletes who wanted to be the best, who cheated  and who, in the end disgraced themselves. The higher they want to climb, the harder they will fall. A must see movie this summer for sports fans, although it might leave a  sour taste in their mouth. 
 
 
 André St-Jacques
 
 
La petite reine‏
 
 
Directed by: 
Alexis Durand-Brault
 
Screenplay by: 
Sophie Lorain
Catherine Léger
 
Starring:
Laurence Leboeuf 
Patrice Robitaille
Denis Bouchard
Josée Deschênes
Jeff Boudreault
Mélanie Pilon
 
108 Min.
 
In French
 

La garde

Luc can’t see his teenaged son Samuel because of a violent incident that happened years ago when his son was a toddler. Often Luc disobeys the court order regarding his son and has to spend a few days in jail as a result. One day, he kidnaps Samuel and brings him into the woods to hunt. There’s a lot of uneasiness between the two but an accident happens and Luc is seriously wounded and it’s up to Samuel to guide his  father through the woods to safety in order to save his dad’s life. La garde is a well constructed movie that keeps everything simple. The principal theme is a father-son relationship in those difficult circumstances. No over-melodramatic overtones, it is kept real and simple. The story will move and reach the audience, although one might think that the father could cooperate more, find an intelligent solution to his dilemma. Because of the high level of emotions of the story, the film could have turned into a cheap melodrama. But no, Quebec director Sylvain Archambault’s direction is strict, rigourous, credible. The actors are great in this scenario particularly Antoine L’écuyer as the son. In conclusion the film is touching without being weepy which gives us a stronger, realist vision of a complex father and son relationship.
 
André St-Jacques
 
 
La garde
 
 
Directed by: 
Sylvain Archambault
 
Screenplay by: 
Ian Lauzon
Daniel Diaz
Ludovic Huot
 
Starring: 
Paul Doucet
Antoine L’Écuyer
Sandrine Bisson
 
91 min.
 
In French.

 

L’ange gardien

L’ange gardien is a psychological thriller who creates a high level of tensions while at the same time creating a very grim and dark outlook. A strange relationship is establish between Normand, an ex-cop turned security guard and a young woman, Nathalie who commits  break in and entries. While neutralizing the perpetrator, Normand,  suffers a heart attack. Nathalie saves Normand’s life and he let’s her go. Not too long after, Nathalie shows up again and beg for his help. He accepts reluctantly. She needs protection from her ex, a violent delinquent and her accomplice  in the burglary attempt. Guy Nadon is reliable as ever as the night watchman who carries a heavy load, the loss of his son. Nadon is no stranger  playing such characters since he played a father whose son had disappeared in the Quebec TV series Aveux. We definitely understand that Normand and Nathalie need each other. Nathalie needs Normand for protection, and Normand needs her to fill the gap of his son’s death. They are each other’s guardian angel. Marilyn Castonguay is convincing as Nathalie and Patrick Hivon is brutal as the delinquent boyfriend. The strength of this film is the complicity between the characters and the location, a dull,  lifeless industrial complex and the winter scenery. Winter does wonders to create intimacy in cinema. The magic operates once more. The combination of intimacy, solid interpretation and complex human beings will fascinate you as it did for me.
 
André St-Jacques
 
 
L’ange gardien
 
Directed by: 
Jean-Sébastian Lord
 
Screenplay by: 
Jean-Sébastian Lord
 
Starring: 
Marilyn Castonguay
Guy Nadon
Patrick Hivon
Véronique LeFlaguais
Frédéric Pierre
Shanti Corbeil-Gauvreau
  
94 min.
 
In French