Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:53 pm 
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Love problems of a Québecis generation

Following up on his autobiographical 2015 debut The Demons (SFIFF 2016), French Canadian auteur Philippe Lesage continues to chronicle the life of young Félix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), now grown from fearful schoolboy to timid teen.

But Félix figures only in a final section. Taking center stage this time are step-siblings Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin) and Charlotte (French actress Noée Abita). Their separate amorous troubles alternate, along with frequent recourse to dance scenes depicting teen revelry. Central are doings at Guillaume's posh all-male boarding school, eventually involving a fourteen-year-old named Alexis (Antoine Marchand-Gagnon), who develops too much of an attraction to Guillaume, just as Guillaume becomes dangerously enamored of his best friend, Nicolas (Jules Roy Sicotte). Some scenes take place at the school dormitory, others at night when drinking has gone on. Charlotte wavers between her steady, Maxime (Pier-Luc Funk from The Demons), and several older guys, who prove untrustworthy, to put it mildly.

There are some arresting classroom scenes at Guillaume's school, mainly involving Guillaume and his homeroom teacher, Perrier (Paul Ahmaranii), who not only talks frankly to the class about sex, but harshly critiques certain of his charges, particularly Guillaume. On one occasion he encourages Guillaume to do a lengthy imitation of himself, on others he abuses the boy.

Lesage is telling stories that evoke the teen years. He's not worried about unity. Perhaps he's a little inspired by Arnaud Desplechin's Golden Days/Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse? An admirable model, if so, but a difficult one, and even Desplechin doesn't fare equally well with all his subplots. At the end of Genesis, we drop Guillaume, Nicolas, Alexis, Charlotte, and Charlotte's boyfriend Maxime, for a final section at traditional adjoining boys and girls summer camps, where The Demons'Félix, who sings now and performs in a sweet guitar duo song for the combined camps, timidly woos Beatrice (Émilie Bierre). They are perhaps the Adam and Eve of Lesage's adolescent Genesis.

If this sounds complicated, it is. While Lesage shows a gift for serious and sometimes arresting depictions of what may seem on the face of them clichéd situations, this film seems at times bewilderingly diffuse, and could obviously have used some trimming and rearranging. It doesn't even try to have narrative drive, and drops some important events (such as a drunken party rape of one of the main characters) without a followup. Perhaps some threads will be picked up in later installments. Anyway Lesage continues to be a remarkably talented chronicler who has enlisted some very engaging young actors to tell his tales, the already experienced Théodore Pellerin being the most vivid one here, worthy of his own separate and exclusive bildingsroman.

Genesis/Genèse, 130 mins., debuted at Locarno Aug. 2018. It was reviewed by Boyd van Hoeij at Locarno for Hollywood Reporter, by Guy Lodge for Variety, and in The Apologist by Sven Papaud. Screened for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center-Museum of Modern Art New Directors/New Films series (Mar. 27-Apr. 7, 2019).

ND/NF Showtimes: March 30, 2:30 PM; March 31,6:00 PM
U.S. Premiere

EXCERPT of the film: Perrier gets tough with Guillaume.


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