Denys Arcand's "Love and Human Remains" is a spirited comedy about a group of urbanites trying to get a grip on their sexuality and place in the world. The Quebecois filmmaker's first English-language feature is a more mainstream affair, and its attempts at serious commentary about the modern world's ills seem jarring in the otherwise vastly entertaining context.

Denys Arcand’s “Love and Human Remains” is a bawdy and spirited comedy about a group of mostly 30ish urbanites trying to get a grip on their sexuality and place in the world. Coming in the wake of his international arthouse hits “The Decline of the American Empire” and “Jesus of Montreal,” the Quebecois filmmaker’s first English-language feature is a more mainstream affair, and its attempts at serious commentary about the modern world’s ills seem jarring in the otherwise vastly entertaining context.

There’s no reason this couldn’t score with hip young audiences, but an enterprising distrib would still have to work hard to help this cross over to wider release.

Based on the hit play “Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love ,” by Canadian playwright Brad Fraser, pic instantly grabs viewer attention because the subject is Sex with a capital S, and in many of its alternative forms.

Lead character is David (Thomas Gibson), a charismatic, devilishly good-looking young Lothario who used to act but now defiantly insists that he’s found his true calling in waiting tables. For David, love doesn’t exist, and he’s made an art form of the casual relationship.

Just returned to an unnamed big city (pic was lensed in Montreal), David attracts nearly everyone whose path he crosses including his male sex partners and the women who bemoan his gay status.

David lives with Candy (Ruth Marshall), a former g.f. whose disenchantment with men makes her susceptible to the avid attentions of cute lesbian Jerri (Joanne Vannicola). Overlapping this tryst is a flirtation with bartender Robert (Rick Roberts), who angers Candy when he doesn’t want to bed her.

David hangs out some with old friend Bernie (Cameron Bancroft), a raging misogynist, but spends more time with admiring 17-year-old busboy Kane (Matthew Ferguson), who wants to be like David so much he considers becoming gay. Another friend is Benita (Mia Kirshner), a young S&M specialist who, in one extreme and hilarious case, calls upon David to help her out.

This roundelay of ambisexual desires and experiments keeps matters almost continuously sparking and libidinous. The specter of AIDS is invoked through recurring references to condoms and the repeated presence of blood, although it doesn’t slow the characters down a whit.

Weighing too heavily on the story is a backdrop of serial murders of young women which may or may not be the work of one of the principal characters. Resolution of this framing device proves overly melodramatic and angst-ridden.

Many of Fraser’s lines possess a pungent humor, and Arcand moves the action through many colorful locations at a propulsive clip.

Unknown cast is excellent. Gibson’s David is knowingly sexy and jaded without being narcissistic, and he looks like a good bet for important film work.

Production looks and sounds sharp, and is enhanced by terrific end titles that move attractively from right to left, rather than up.

Love and Human Remains

Canadian

Production

A Max Films (Canada) release of a Max Films presentation in co-production with Atlantis Films Ltd., produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada/La Societe Generale des Industries Culturelles-Quebec/Ontario Film Development Corp./The Movie Network-First Choice/Foundation to Underwrite New Drama for Pay Television/Super Ecran. (International sales: Max Films Intl.) Produced by Roger Frappier. Executive producers, Frappier, Pierre Latour. Co-producer, Peter Sussman. Line producer, Richard Lalonde. Directed by Denys Arcand. Screenplay, Brad Fraser, based on his play "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love."

Crew

Camera (color), Paul Sarossy; editor, Alain Baril; music, John McCarthy; production design, Francois Seguin; set decoration, Jean Kazemirchuk; costume design, Denis Sperdouklis; assistant director, David Webb; second unit director, Oliver Asselin; casting, Deirdre Bowen (Toronto), Lynn Kressel (N.Y.), Lucie Robitaille (Montreal), Stuart Aikins (Vancouver). Reviewed at Telluride Film Festival, Sept. 5, 1993. (Also in Toronto Film Festival.) Running time: 98 MIN.

With

David - Thomas Gibson
Candy - Ruth Marshall
Bernie - Cameron Bancroft
Benita - Mia Kirshner
Jerri - Joanne Vannicola
Kane - Matthew Ferguson
Robert - Rick Roberts

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more