La fille de Montreal

21 08 2012

Synopsis: a woman, after having lived in her flat in Montreal for the past 25 years, is forced to move out and find a new place.  Packing all her many, many things in her place brings back memories.

Super awesome things:  I like a (good) Canadian film, and La fille de Montreal certainly feels like a Canadian film.  The location for the film is superb — it really did feel like Ariane’s flat (or more likely, Jeanne Crepeau, the writer/director of the film).  The throwback to old technology, like the original Macintosh computer and the montage of Ariane’s favourite old sounds from old machines, is pretty darn cool.  This not only is cool to watch, but reiterates Ariane’s need to hold on to things, and the change from time.  The apartment is almost a character of its own — a crack in the wall next to the portrait of Ariane’s grandmother; the tiny kitchen; the files and folders and boxes upon boxes of things collected over the years in bookcases.  It amounts to so much, and yet nothing.

Although labeled as a comedic film, there are only a few pockets of really humourous scenes in the film.  Instead, the film focuses on the interplay between Ariane and her two friends, Mireille and Charles, as they help her pack her house.  As well, the housing market in Montreal doesn’t seem to be any better than in Vancouver, where a decent place to live for a decent price can be difficult to come by.  This is suggested with Ariane visiting door after door, saying the same thing: “I’m here for the apartment” to places with “For Rent” signs.  An effective way of conveying info, I think.

A cool thing about this film is that even though there are two gay characters including the main character, it is never an issue nor the main point of the film, and I quite like how normal it felt to the story.

Not so awesome things: although the film never states how long Ariane has to leave (or else I missed it), there really doesn’t seem to be any rush at all.  In fact, the biggest thing the film lacks is any sort of conflict.  At first, there seems to be conflict set-up by her landlord casting her out for his son (and Ariane talks to a lawyer about how to handle the situation legally), but this is never brought up again.  And because of the missing deadline, there is no rush, not to mention no one pressuring her to hurry up.  When Ariane’s friends come by to help her throw out and organize all the stuff in her tiny place, there’s potential conflict between friends (since Ariane seems to be a bit of hoarder, though not as bad as those on the reality TV show), but this too isn’t developed.

Instead, this film is about recollections and memories, about the value of a good home and the things that make a home.  It reminds me of an animated short film, made a few years ago that won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film called La maison en petits cubes.  The short, like La fille de Montreal, has no conflict.  It is about a man’s memories of past houses and his family, which is rendered beautifully.  It doesn’t quite work out as well as in Crepeau’s film, or at least I can’t decide if I like it or not.  I think the difference about these two films is that at in La maison en petits cubes, there isn’t a dull moment — every frame means something.  And given that it’s substantially shorter than La fille, it doesn’t drag.  There are moments and times in La fille when it does drag, when we want Ariane to stop dilly-dallying around and just pack her shit up and get on with her life.  This frustration works against the charm of the film, unfortunately.

Good for watching: for a Canadian feature film night.

Overall: a good, decent Canadian film that subtly incorporates queer characters.

Grade: B-