Also with: Elyse Guilbault, Mimi D’Estee, Nadia Paradis, Yvon Roy, Michael Rudder, Jean Marchand, Sheena Larkin, Jacques Girard, Sylvie Legault, Serge Christiansens, Doru Bandol
Selected to open this year’s Rendez-Vous du Cinema Quebecois fest, veteran helmer Lea Pool’s “Mouvements du desir” is an ultra-steamy up-date of the classic romance-on-a-train theme that adds new zing to the storyline with the help of some hot train-car sex scenes and Pool’s hyperactive visual imagination.
The pic will likely do well with adult audiences in French Canada, where it opened Feb. 4. It could also generate serious arthouse action in Europe, where the Swiss-born, Montreal-based Pool is well-respected, and could have a shot in the U.S. The presence of Euro siren Valerie Kaprisky (“Breathless,””La Femme publique”) in the lead role won’t hurt the film’s commercial prospects either.
Pool — whose previous pix include 1984’s “La Femme de l’hotel” and 1988’s “A Corps perdu”– is known for a moody, introspective style of filmmaking that frequently employs innovative formal flourishes. All those qualities are still to be found in “Mouvements du desir,” but it is easily her most accessible, viewer-friendly outing to date.
The story couldn’t be more straightforward. Catherine (Kaprisky), with her spunky 7-year-old daughter, Charlotte (Jolianne L’Allier-Matteau), is taking the cross-Canada train from Montreal to Vancouver in an attempt to forget about a failed relationship. Vincent (Jean-Francois Pichette) is also on the train, on his way to meet up with the woman he loves.
The melancholic Catherine and the shy, unassuming Vincent don’t hit it off at first, but the sensual sparks begin to fly somewhere west of Toronto, and by the time the train hits the Rockies, they’re steaming up the windows with lusty abandon.
The sultry Kaprisky shows impressive range in her portrayal of this complex character who is swept up in an almost magnetic attraction. Pichette also deserves top marks for his perf, though the real scene stealer is L’Allier-Matteau as the little girl who’s not amused by her mother’s torrid railway romance.
Pool is still fond of throwing in funky, avant-garde twists, and she spices up this meditation on love and desire with a series of surrealistic, Fellini-esque dream sequences, which ensure that this won’t be mistaken for a standard romantic drama. She also adds to the quirky atmosphere by populating the train with eccentric characters, including a thief who steals cameras and Walkmans and then redistributes them among the passengers.
Cinematographer Pierre Mignot, who’s worked extensively with Robert Altman, nicely juxtaposes hand-held shots of the tight, claustrophobic interiors with broad outdoor vistas, and the images of the Canuck landscape haunt this intimate love story. Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner provides a subtle, eclectic score. All other tech credits are first-rate.