Films need pull, cinematic pull. The pull can come from different places but mostly from other pulls, other films. Each film must be rooted in a prior one and to be good, deviate in unexpected ways.
French Canadians have a kind of scattered soul. It is not quite French, it is not quite Canadian (and what is that exactly?), it is almost rootless, it currently is growing roots. But if a case should be made for a French Canadian soul today, it would be rural and all the baggage that comes with that.
Some of that baggage is religion. But unless it can be shaped into a spiritual trascendance above people and above art itself, I usually have no care for it.
So we have a story here, which is about religion and all the soul that it implies. The loss in life that scars souls, those souls as wanderers, and religious spirituality as redemption.
Now I could have some use for this story. After all, it is about pain, and pain is beautiful. But before I get there, there’s a layer of art that I must approve. There’s a craft that I should encounter, there’s the means that went about efforts to deliver substantial value.
I’m unhappy to report that we had some deficiencies there.
-The acting: There is no rooting beyond that one idea, that center: the pain of loss. A film has to breathe–and so do the characters–the air you and I live in, specially with this kind of stuff, the spiritually personal. It has to have enough pull to reach out into the world and within ourselves. None here. (See Kiewsloski for mastering that).
-The editing: If a film has to breathe, an internal rhythm has to be achieved. It is good in some places here, but gets uneven and awkward in obvious ways. I suspect the editing team here was small, so fewer eyes to pick up on disruptions. That’s sour grapes in any cocktail.
-The shape of the thing: Drama can be cinematic. Internal drama can be even more cinematic because the eye (of the camera) is challenged into displaying something rare but familiar, something that we all know but were never told. This demands a sort of interesting dance between mind and eye, something that is scripted in the story. But here we have the simple shortcuts: faces, and locale. I fault this because they are basic notions: reliance on the actor, and environment as a receptacle of the emotional substance (yes, that’s essential, but basic). No effort is made for us to care about the characters. When something hints at depth, it is undermined by the minimal staging. So why should we care about the story?
The answer to that is a mystery. Maybe we have a local audience who has never been fed a rich meal (or even a ‘full’ one to begin with) so is then expected to find satisfaction in a meager one. I don’t know. I think we have a simple man, interested in the depth of large things, but his eye and mind don’t dance. He has some interesting things to say about cinema but none of the imagination to enrich the art.
(Canada is sort of secret ocean precipice for film. It has given us Maddin and Egoyan, two great souls, whose cinema is rooted in the soul of Cinema (for the former), and in a kind of unexplainable Mediterrenean layered soul for the latter. I am not aware of anybody else worth mentionning. (Oh yes, Cronenberg.)