The 46th edition of the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC), the city’s longest running film festival – and there are many here – got underway last week. The last time I attended it was in 2014. It’s been my intermittent Montreal festival. For years, I didn’t miss the earlier in the year Montreal World Film Festival and the autumnal Festival du Nouveau Cinema was optional. Now, with the MWFF pretty well tanked due to lack of funding – and mismanagement? – the FNC is pretty much all I have left in the city where I was born, and love. Without further adieu, here’s two reviews from today’s offerings:
Samui Song (Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, Thailand): This is a wannabee outrageous crime drama. A veteran filmmaker himself, Pen-Ek was obviously influenced by Quentin Tarintino, Brian De Palma, and others of the blood-soaked human – and humor - ilk, but this effort falls flat. Vi (Chermarn “Ploy” Boonyasak) is a bored soap opera actress married to a millionaire potter Frenchman Jerome (Stéphane Sednaoui), caught up in a spiritual Eastern cult. But he abuses her and in fact enables the “Holy One” cult leader (Vithaya Pansringarm) to rape her. She seeks revenge and conveniently meets the would-be assassin Guy Spencer (David Asavanond). He’s blood thirsty, alright, and there are some gruesome beating scenes including a joking one where Jerome is pummeled with one of his phallus sculptures. But the film takes a bizarre turn where a completely different woman (Palika Suwannarak) is raising a young son with her female lover. Guy shows up and tries to force her to eat offal. But he’s offed by a mysterious shooter, with unintentional hilarity – or maybe it isn’t, this film’s humor is so dry - showing just the gun’s muzzle poking through a cracked door. But is the final joke on us? It might be, since the last chase scene is being shot by a film crew. Finally, Vi is back to being her soap opera star self, and leaves the set arm in arm with the hated Holy One cult leader! But the obviously intended humor falls flat, ruined by a lack of script subtlety and on screen devices like an overmodulated menacing soundtrack.
Mon Ange (Harry Clevin, Belgium-France): This is one of the most inventive film stories I’ve seen in a while, and plays with the ideas of perception and reality, and is even philosophical. Beset by a trauma, a mother (Elina Löwensohn) gives birth to an invisible baby boy. The child grows and become infatuated with a little girl (Madeleine) next door, who is blind. She can sense and touch him but never can see him, not that she would be able to anyway. The years go by and she has an operation that allows her to see. Now she hopes to see her boy/friend (first platonic and then romantic) in the flesh. He sets a time to reveal himself but it turns out not to be what it might. The movie seems to be saying several things: would we judge people the same way if we didn’t see them? How important is physical beauty to a relationship? And how we “see” ourselves may be quite different from what we look like. Filmed at times through a foggy prism with a magic realist edge, and with plenty of close-ups of the beautiful Madeleine’s face as a child, teen, and adult (Hannah Boudreau, Maya Dory and Fleur Geffrier respectively), the film seems almost tactile, including with intimate shots of pinpoints on the skin during times of sexual arousal.