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Monday, September 19, 2005

La Vie avec mon pere (Life With My Father)

Programme: Contemporary World Cinema
Director: Sebastien Rose
Country: Canada
Year: 2005
Language: French
Time: 110 minutes
Production Company: Max Films
Executive Producer: Eric Brach
Producer: Roger Frappier, Luc Vandal
Screenplay: Sébastien Rose, Stéfanie Lasnier
Cinematography: Nicolas Bolduc
Editor: Dominique Fortin
Production Designer: Serge Bureau
Sound: François Senneville, Marcel Pothier, Michel Descombes, Réjean Juteau
Music: Pierre Desrochers, Nathalie Boileau
Principal Cast: Raymond Bouchard, Paul Ahmarani, David La Haye, Hélène Florent

This drama about two brothers and their errant father is a bittersweet tale of reconciliation that shows it is never too late to make peace with the past. Sébastien Rose’s sophomore film after the award-winning Comment ma mère accoucha de moi durant sa ménopause adeptly straddles the divide between comedy and tragedy. It also builds on strong performances from his entire cast, notably an exemplary Raymond Bouchard as the bohemian, larger-than-life patriarch who suddenly reappears in the lives of his two grown sons.

The pair are polar opposites: Paul (Paul Ahmarani) is a thirty-something writer who cannot seem to succeed and is suffering from a bad case of writer’s block, while Patrick (David La Haye) is a hard-charging business executive who runs a pharmaceutical company. Slick Patrick luxuriates in a sleek, modern home with his wife and children, while Paul lives with his girlfriend in the decrepit family home, where rooms are stacked with junk, things don’t work and dust covers every surface. When their father, François, a renowned writer, suddenly shows up, Paul is forced to take him in. François has seen better days: he is a physically and financially broken man, but he takes no prisoners and it is not long before he casts his spell over all who come his way. When Patrick is ousted by his long-suffering wife and finds himself on his brother’s doorstep, the three men are reunited and forced to come to terms with each other.

Rose keeps his film moving along briskly with a number of finely constructed comic set-pieces, all played with relish and verve. When François moves in, Christmas acquires a certain glow, dull parties take unexpected turns and even his bout of impotence produces comical results. But despite the amusing hijinks of La Vie avec mon père, there is a darker thread running throughout: the old lion is wrestling with his mortality, a transition Rose depicts with fine sensitivity. Absent fathers were commonplace in the Quebec cinema of the sixties and seventies; nowadays they once again seem to be everywhere, as a younger generation struggles with their legacies.

Another exceptional film. Very similar to Denis Arcand’s Les Invasions Barbares (The Barbarian Invasion) in terms of the relationship between father and son. During the Q & A, someone made mention of the similarity and Rose’s comments were simply that within Québec at the moment, there is a crisis in the family identity and he and Arcand each address the issue within the framework of their films. Hmmm…

Anyhow, all similarities aside, La Vie Avec Mon Père is less overtly political than Arcand’s film was – there are no allusions to the domination / invasion of English-speaking North America and Rose’s film does not touch on the decaying health care system in any detail. Rather, the film is exclusively about the relationship between the two men and their father and the journey that all three take during the father’s illness. This was an extremely touching film and showed the light and dark side of terminal illness (although not nearly as light as One Last Thing, earlier in the week). Lighting and symbolism are particularly important in the film, with light and white and water representative of the impeding death. I actually chose this film for the simple reason that Raymond Bouchard of La grande seduction (Seducing Dr. Lewis) was in it and I was absolutely rewarded for my choice. And yes dammit, I cried AGAIN. This really is a must see.

Posted by Brown Eyed Girl :: 3:58 PM :: 0 Comments:

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