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|CLOSE TO LEO [Tout Contre Léo]
The film is energetic and very honest, with superb performances and a natural sense of brotherly bonding. Centring on Marcel gives the film an engaging tone and a real heart--we feel left out right along with him, and his tentative reconnection with his big brother is gentle, unforced and quite sweet. There are also a few nicely played sequences that shift to Leo's point of view as he interacts with his family members, friends and others--including, finally, a couple of scenes that let us into Leo's love/sex life. We also get genuine reactions from each family member--all of whom treat any illness as a forbidden topic and then struggle with their personal response. Even the doctor over-reacts in a realistic way! In the end it gets a bit corny, as Marcel offers Leo a sort of redemption and it all heads to the inevitable emotional catharsis. But the way Honore keeps the story grounded makes it a film worth looking out for. [15 themes, language, brief nudity] 6.Jul.04
This story is set in 1952 Quebec where Bishop Bilodeau (Sabourin) visits a prison to hear the confession of Simon, a prisoner (Pallascio) he was in school with 40 years earlier. But Simon has enlisted his fellow inmates to re-enact their life story, forcing the Bilodeau to confront the truth ... and admit for the first time what really happened. The play is elaborately staged with an all-male cast (natch!), broadening out to full-on flashbacks from time to time as we meet the young Simon (Cadieux) and Bilodeau (Ferguson), and Simon's lover Vallier (Gilmore).
Obviously, homosexuality is completely forbidden in the time period, and the film is full of the angst of the day. Suppressed longing, attempts to fit in, brutal reactions, confused feelings--all of these things combine in such a way that we know tragedy is looming! Greyson blends his elegant, inventive filmmaking style with flashes of wit and naturalism. While Bouchard's script (based on his play) is both lyrical and rather obtuse. It's not completely clear who's whom and why things happen, but the undercurrent of emotion carries us through to the stark final scene.
This is beautiful filmmaking that actually has a strong message. It does get distracted by a rather half-hearted attempt to skewer aristocratic Canadian society. And perhaps the Saint Sebastian parallels are just a bit obvious! But the central relationships are compelling and intriguing, and Greyson is so good at freshly telling a story that we are pulled right in. [15 adult themes, violence, nudity] 5.Sep.04
Vince and Ralph (Hogan and Caton) are the cinema projectionist and car mechanic, respectively, in the small town of Yackandandah. Both are in trouble with money--Vince due to a messy divorce and the widowed Ralph due to carelessness. So when they hear about new back-dated tax breaks for same-sex couples, they see posing as a gay couple as a solution. Soon rumours are running rampant through their homophobic town; and Vince and Ralph head off to Sydney to learn the ways of appearing gay before the tax man (Postlethwaite) comes to interview them.
OK, the whole training to be gay thing is rather corny and narrow-minded. It's one thing to be open to your feminine side; it's another to become a woman! But just when the film starts going over the top it finds a bit of restraint, and the result is a series of hilarious moments along with some astute insight. And at least the cast and crew have enough nerve to really go for broke. Hogan and Caton are terrific together, with real camaraderie and comic timing. They also hold the emotional moments nicely in check, giving film a warm undercurrent that sneaks up on us at the end. The message isn't terribly revolutionary--don't close your mind to love, wherever you find it. And some scenes are rather farcical. But in the end the cast's charm and a sensitive script win us over. [15 themes, language, innuendo] 15.Mar.05
The film has a real global feel, touching on events through history and mixing musical styles to tell the story. And even though Greyson is extremely inventive, the film is somewhat cheesy and silly ... and outrageously fantastical. Much takes place in a kind of "existential limbo" where bouncy, energetic musical-dance numbers dare us to laugh at (or sing about) some truly outrageous subjects. The elaborate choreography (including quite a bit of water ballet) is clunky but endearing, and some of the songs get dangerously Pythonesque with their absurd sense of humour and take-no-prisoners approach.
But this is a film about something important, really. And as such it's both informative and bewildering, darting all over the topic, filling scenes with quirky references and getting a little too clever and jaunty at times. Fortunately, amid the farce there are moments of lucidity and informative dialog that's both telling and historically important as it touches on issues of denial, abandonment, fear, corporate greed, misinformation and activism. It also takes a well-aimed jab at medical orthodoxy, which was quick to embrace unproven facts. Only Greyson would dare to say something this important through a film that's so profoundly daft. [18 strong themes, language, innuendo, nudity] 9.Aug.04
See also Greyson's 2009 companion film: FIG TREES
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the WallHOME | REVIEWS | NEWS | AWARDS | Q&A | ABOUT | TALKBACK