Posts Tagged ‘canadian film’

Nulle Trace (No Trace) Slam Dance Festival 2021

Dir.: Simon Lavoie; Cast: Nathalie Doummar, Monique Gosselin; Canada 2020, 103 min.

Canadian writer/director Simon Lavoie borrows heavily from Bergman and Tarkovsky for this sketchy story about civil war in an unknown country. Using odd formats, like a 11:8 ratio, Lavoie’s feature relies on the stunning black-and-white photography of his DoP Simran Dewan – but you cannot rely on images alone to carry a film, however enigmatic.

Filmed in Quebec, Canada No Trace opens with a four-minute close-up of rails, filmed from the moving handcar, which is owned by ‘N’ (Gosselin), who looks like a trapper from a Western. She later emerges a hardened people smuggler who is guiding Awa (Doummar) and her baby daughter. N is afraid the child’s crying might alarm the guards at the border. But all goes well, and Awa will eventually meet up with her husband. But N loses her vehicle – and soon – her way in the forest where she later meets Awa, who has ben raped. N also finds the body of Awa’s husband, and her daughter who has been burned on the sticks.

The two survivors are hostile, with Awa, a Muslim, constantly praying. Lavoie wisely leads leaves the final stretch of his feature open-ended  fitting for a film with such a flimsy narrative.

A heavy, menacing score underlines the tone of gloom and doom and the threatening atmosphere, the screen goes blank for a time without any explanation and sometimes garbled language replaces proper dialogue. Nulle Trace is dressed up as arthouse fare, the title ironically symbolic of the lack of artistic coherence. AS


Ghost Town Anthology (2019) **** Berlinale 2019 | Interview

Dir/Wri: Denis Côté | Fantasy Drama | Canada, 97′

Auteur Denis Côté explores the aftermath of tragedy in remotest Quebec where the supernatural coalesces with the everyday lives of a blighted rural community.

Well known for his off-piste forays into Canadian backwaters Ghost Town most reassembles his Locarno Golden Leopard winner Curling (2010). There are also tonal echoes of his debut Drifting States, and even Xavier Dolan’s Tom a la Ferme, which was visited by a similar existential angst. Cote bases his story on the novel by Laurence Olivier, who also co-wrote the script. Silence reigns throughout the film apart from an occasional droning sound which adds to the doleful sense of gloom.

Ghost Town Anthology is an unremittingly bleak affair scratching at the edges of horror but settling instead for a mournful mood throughout; its dysfunctional characters stuck in the icy grip of inertia. When Simon Dubé drives his car at full throttle into a wall of cement, the entire population clings together, while a vortex of wind and snow rages through their flatlands home of Irénee-les-Neiges, a place of 200 odd people.

And odd is the operative word. After the crash a handful of kids play around the wreckage, wearing masks reminiscent of Edvard Munch’s Scream. They are the recurring human motif throughout the film, their identity revealed in the finale. At the funeral chirpy mayor Diane Smallwood (Diane Lavallée) fronts up vehemently despite the mood of despair, determined to raise the morale of her townsfolk with a firm belief in allegiance. “my door is always open”. But in vain. Angered by an offer of bereavement support from the local council, she reacts with thinly veiled hostility when the Muslim therapist arrives in the shape of Yasmina (Sharon Ibgui).

Simon leaves behind a family of three: his mother Gisele (Josee Deschenes) and father Romuald (Jean-Michel Anctil) are numbed by the grief and gradually go their own separate ways, suffering in silence. Simon’s look-a-like brother Jimmy (Robert Naylor) is left in state of shock. A coy George and Mildred style couple – Louise (Jocelyne Zucco) and Richard (Normand Carriere) – offer tea and sympathy to timid live-alone single Adele (Shelley Duvall lookalike Larissa Corriveau) who Richard describes as “a few lightbulbs short of a chandelier”. But her fears seem valid enough: she heard thuds and whispering voices in their house, and ends up suspended by own disbelief. Pierre (Hubert Proulx) owns the village bar and wants to keep his partner happy by offering to do up a dilapidated house at the end of the street, until they discover it was the scene of a brutal murder years earlier. And soon the regular appearances of random figures in the gloaming seem to point to the existence of ghosts from the past. A handheld camera conveys the unstable nature of the experience, but also the ephemeral quality of life.

Jimmy actually sees Simon at close quarters by the ice hockey pitch. Yet he has visited his embalmed body in its temporary morgue, awaiting burial, come the thaw. Romuald picks up a hitchhiker who bears a striking resemblance to his son. Adele also sees one of the masked children surrounded by static figures in the distance. There’s nothing baleful or malevolent about these people, lending them further credibility in the scheme of things. And their low key presence seems to lend credence to the Christian belief that the dead are always amongst us. Despite the bleakness that’s a comforting takeaway. MT






The Seven Last Words (2019) *** IFFR Rotterdam 2019

Dir.: Kaveh Nabatian, Ariane Lorrain, Sophie Goyette, Juan Andres Arango Garcia, Sophie Deraspe, Karl Lemieux, Caroline Monnert; Canada/Columbia/Haiti/Iran/USA 2018, 73 min.

Canadian filmmaker Kaveh Nabatian has always believed that music and film are inextricably linked: they form a unit, and he illustrates the point with this essay film. The seven chapters are underpinned by the music of The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross (1787) by Joseph Haydn, played by the Callino Quartet. 

Forgiveness; Salvation; Family; Abandonment; Distress; Triumph and Life after Death all relate to Jesus’ words in his last hours. The chapters are aesthetically very different, reaching from Fiction; Documentary; Experimenta; Magic Realism to a matter of fact conventional narrative. Perhaps most impressive is Distress, a mixture of on on-screen writing and theatrical pantomime. The walls are blood red, naked people pose in front of the dripping blood, and furniture is positioned in front of the walls as in an exhibition. Water is an element common to some essays: in the prologue a woman climbs into a plane which then soars into the sky over the ocean. She later opens the cabin door and jumps out, flying over the water like a bird, her white clothes making her look like a dove. In Triumph we see the same configuration: a boy at the sea front, a woman under water with doves flying above them. Haydn’s music carries The Seven Last Words, its dominance is the connection between the very diverse chapters which leave the interpretation to the audience. The remarkable images shock, inspire and amaze. A cinematic and meditative piece of filmmaking.


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