Wednesday, January 6, 2010

L’Âge des ténèbres

The latest film by Denis Arcand is a mixed bag, but overall a very interesting piece of cinema. Certianly not as powerful as «L’Invasion barbares» it, nevertheless has some very poignant and funny moments in it.

Marc Labrèche is perfect as a completely stiffled by his marriage , job and life dreamer, living through his fantasyworld to escape it all. ( For an actor known for extreme farce, he’s very appropriately subdued here.) For the most part his fantasies are pretty banal and involve having semi public sex with beautiful women, In all these sex fantasies, the situation, dialogue are pretty much the same without any notable variation, hinting that he might not have have much imagination to draw on. Other imaginations are also quite banl... winning a litrary prize, being a Roman emperor with his boss as slave and such . The opening and closing dream-like sequences, however, are inspired and involve Rufus Wrainwright singing french opera (I will add, very effectively).

The world in this film is bizzare and so Québec-centric I wonder if anyone who doesn’t live here will get many of the jokes. Labrèche’s position as a government worker taking complaints in the Montréal Olympic Staduim, re-purposed as a government building is full of commentary on Québec politics, red tape and such.

The film has touching moments such as the visits to the hospital to be with his alzhiemer’s infected mother and even some scenes with his disconnected family. The successful wife who is literally 24/7 connected to the office and the children who barely notice their father exists despite his half hearted efforts to engage them. When he leaves his wife finally and she chases him down the street telling him what a failure he is and he stops to say (roughly translates) «I never thought there would be a day I would say I could kill you, but now that is not unimaginable» really struck me.

I also like that Arcand does not make the story all one sided. There may be reasons why his life is this way and there are hints that what we are seeing through his perspective maybe be more than a little skewed in his favour. Examples of this are when he has quit his job job and on his way out the door, his uptight boss we have been primed to think of just an evil corporate oppressor is not overjoyed to get rid of him but almost in tears as she must tell him his mother has just died... she really feels for him. At the end of the film when his wife brings his stuff to him at the place he is staying, his family is not so cold and distant. The oldest daughter is quite kind and his wife is not on the phone but sweetly smiling at him and the love she felt/still feels for him comes through.

There is also a strange seemingly off the path segment at the time involving a group that acts out their «Middle Ages» fantasies, dressing as knights and princesses to escape the modern world. (This is actually a big thing here in Montréal - don’t ask me why - I really don’t get it). He has a chance to join them and live out these fantasies with an attractive young women. You’d think this is exactly the life he’s been looking for but he rejects it all and his own fantasy world in order to live and accept life as it really is.

Is this movie for anyone? Certainly not. many critiques hated it in fact. It's not my favourite film, but certainly is worth a look at.

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