“Eldorado” is one of the first major French-lingo Quebec films to tackle head-on the angst of the much-gabbed-about Generation X demo, and veteran TV helmer Charles Biname has fashioned an MTV-paced, punk-flavored drama that comes across as an artier, more street-savvy take on the same turf covered by U.S. pix like “Pump Up the Volume” and “Reality Bites.”
Pic opened in Montreal and Quebec City March 3 and will likely spur steady B.O. action in its home territory, with the help of good word of mouth and strong reviews, and could also generate interest on the international fest circuit.
Made for half the cost of the average Quebec pic, “Eldorado” uses natural lighting, shoulder-mounted cameras and improvised scripting to create a rock ‘n’ roll snapshot of life on the streets of inner-city Montreal in the summer of 1994. The six main thesps collaborated with Biname and producer Lorraine Richard on the dialogue, and the improv approach is surprisingly effective, creating all-too-believable twentysomething characters and some genuinely funny slices of dark humor.
What little story there is concerns six mostly unhappy young Montrealers, none of whom seems to be coping very well with life in the ’90s. Rita (Pascale Bussieres), 24, is a bratty street kid who Rollerblades around the city ripping off purses and breaking into cars. She’s squatting in the apartment of Roxan (Isabel Richer), a well-to-do 25-year-old who feels it’s her mission in life to feed and shelter the homeless.
Lloyd (James Hyndman), a tall, ridiculously intense skinhead, is an alternative radio host who provides the aural wallpaper for the pic with his raving on-air rants about everything from masturbation to violence.
Lloyd falls for Loulou (Macha Limonchik), a barmaid at the local punk club who is looking for a little excitement to spice up a dull relationship with Marc (Robert Brouillette), a liquor store clerk.
This dysfunctional ensemble is rounded out by Henriette (Pascale Montpetit), a quirky, neurotic female Woody Allen type who contributes some of the funnier scenes with a series of hopelessly twisted monologues in her psychiatrist’s office.
The lack of a solid script makes its presence felt only in the relatively weak ending, which seems to come out of nowhere, and Biname could have shaved 15 minutes from the running time with little loss. But overall “Eldorado” is a film with more spunk than most recent Quebec pix. It’s a fine showcase for six of the province’s top actors, and Hyndman, in particular, delivers an electrifying perf as the shock-radio jock.
Pierre Gill’s photography provides a barrage of memorable images of the downtown subculture, and the hip feel of the film is nicely complemented by an innovative soundtrack of discordant sounds from avant-garde composer Francis Dhomont and cellist Claude Lamothe, who also appears in the film.