Four from Vancouver
As exhilarating as The Barbarian Invasions and as audaciously inventive as Léolo, Quebecois director Jean Marc-Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. (a title derived from the initials of five brothers) has a lot going for it, including one of the best rock soundtracks in recent memory. Scheduled for wider distribution in Canada and the U.S., the film has already grossed six million dollars in Quebec since its summer release and is already Canada's nominee for Best Foreign Film at the 2005 Oscars. Although it cannot be considered entertainment for the whole family, it will not offend anyone and just may become the first gay-themed film to attract a mainstream audience.
The film is about an ongoing struggle between Zac, the second youngest son in a family of five boys and his overbearing, homophobic dad (Michel Côté), a blue-collar worker who collects Patsy Cline recordings. C.R.A.Z.Y. covers a period of thirty years in the life of a suburban Catholic family and has a remarkable feeling for the era. Born on Christmas Day, 1960, Zachary Beaulieu is the second youngest of five sons. The adult Zac narrates the film and we see the world through his eyes. He tells us that the reason why he has always hated Christmas is because the holiday always overshadowed his birthday and because the presents he received were not those he really wanted. He recalls how he received a game of table hockey when all he wanted was a toy baby carriage.
Zac at six (Emile Vallée) is a quiet, sensitive boy who loves his parents but does not get along with his brothers who are always teasing him. Zac's mother (Danielle Proulx) is very religious and believes that Zac has special healing powers, partially derived from the fact that he is always able to quiet the youngest boy, an infant who has colic, just by holding him. When his special powers are reinforced by the "Tupperware lady", it becomes apparent that he will never be like everyone else. When his father Gervais catches him dressing in his mother's gown and pearls while watching baby Yvan, the name-calling starts and their relationship is never the same. Zac prays every night that he doesn't turn out to be a "fairy" but with mixed results. The other boys are more acceptable to their father simply because they are more manly but we never really find out much about them other than the roles they played in Zac's life.
The oldest brother Christian (Maxime Tremblay) has an active intelligence and reads a lot, Antoine (Sébastian Blouin) is a sports nut, and Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant) is a rebellious teen who will eventually get into trouble with drugs (more acceptable to dad than being gay). The brothers are stereotypes but the performances are so full of kinetic energy that it doesn't get in the way. When Zac reaches fifteen, Marc-André Grondin assumes the role and turns in a flawless performance, allowing the audience to feel his pain and torment. Awkward in social situations, he stays in his room listening to David Bowie (whom his father calls "that fag singer") and Pink Floyd. When dad thinks he catches Zac making out with another boy, he forces him to go to a shrink to be cured, but the sessions are terminated when Zac tells him that the psychiatrist blames his father.
Disappointingly, the view of gay life is very limited. Zac seems to have no interests outside of the pursuit of pleasure and no real relationships are shown, either male of female. Yet C.R.A.Z.Y. is more about being different in a conformist society and the struggle for self-awareness rather than just about being gay. As Vallée explains it, "the theme of the film is personal acceptance. It's about this struggle to express yourself and being honest in the moment" Winner of the Best Canadian Feature Film Award at the recent Toronto Film Festival "for its standout acting, its incredible emotional resonance and extraordinary visual inventiveness", C.R.A.Z.Y. is one the best films of 2005.
Nominated for the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival, André Téchiné's Changing Times reunites French superstars Catherine Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu for the seventh time. Set in Tangiers, Morocco in the fifties, the film tackles large topics: temporary pleasure versus enduring commitment, the status of women in Morocco, bisexuality, and the economic gap between wealthy European nations and the third world, but none are fully developed. Along the way, we see refugees waiting by the sea hoping for voyage to Europe, Arabs slaughtering sheep in the desert, and women afraid to be seen in public with men. The film has a fragmentary quality and, in spite of some lyrical moments, is mainly a star vehicle that cannot decide whether it wants to be a comedy, a tragedy, or political commentary.
The film begins as a landslide buries Antoine Lavau (Gérard Depardieu), a supervisor inspecting a construction site, and the film proceeds with flashbacks to Antoine's arrival in Tangiers and his subsequent life in Morocco. Lavau has come to Tangiers to expedite the building of an audiovisual center in the Tax Free Zone of Tangiers. Perhaps sexpedite might be more to the point, as he has basically come to rekindle a romance with Cecile (Deneueve), his first love with whom he is still obsessed, even though he has not tried to contact her during the last thirty years out of fear of rejection. Cecile is a radio announcer on a late night music and talk show. Antoine sends her flowers anonymously and spends his nights listening to her voice on the radio. In a scene played for laughs, he even watches a video about voodoo so he can render her powerless to resist his advances. When the two finally meet, it is only after Antoine runs into a glass wall breaking his nose.
Cecile has changed greatly since coming to North
Africa and has neither fond memories of Antoine nor any wish
to rekindle their romance. She is remarried
to Natan (Gilbert Melki), a Jewish doctor and they have one
son, Sami (Malik Zidi), a bisexual, who has been living in
Paris with his Moroccan girl friend Nadia (Lubna Azubal) and
her son Said (Idir Elomri). He is in Tangier visiting his
family for the holidays and renewing acquaintances with his
Moroccan lover Bilal (Idir Rachati) who lives in a country
estate well protected by a pack of none too friendly dogs.
Nadia, who suffers from emotional problems and takes tranquilizers,
wants to visit her twin sister Aicha while in Tangiers whom
she hasn't seen in six years but Aicha refuses to see her,
telling Nadia that it would complicate her life. These episodes
have some tender moments but we do not learn enough about
either sister or for that matter Sami or Bilal to have any
emotional investment in their lives.
©2005 Howard Schumann