Review: ‘The Sphinx’

Angie Celine Bonnier Carbene Serge Theriault Jo Eric Hoziel Tony Vittorio Rossi Jojo Sylvie Drapeau

Angie Celine Bonnier Carbene Serge Theriault Jo Eric Hoziel Tony Vittorio Rossi Jojo Sylvie Drapeau

There is nothing too mysterious about “The Sphinx.” This Quebec pic packs a heavy dose of none-too-subtle comedy and features several well-known local thesps in lead roles, precisely the formula that usually pulls in major-league crowds in French Canada. Montreal-based CFP Distribution opened the film on 22 screens across Quebec Sept. 22, and pic will do well on its home turf, even it it’s not likely to match the B.O. performance of Quebec smashes like “La Florida” and “Louis 19.”

The Sphinx” attempts to blend the low-brow laughs of those pics with a more serious drama about one suburbanite’s midlife crisis, and, unfortunately, first-time feature writer-director Louis Saia isn’t quite up to the task. Story about a guy who dumps his wife and kids in favor of an erotic dancer delivers loads of yuks and not enough of an emotional wallop, which will limit its appeal outside Canada.

Real (Marc Messier) is an ordinary high-school teacher, with a pretty wife, two kids and a nice suburban home. But his life is turned upside-down one night when he and some pals hit the local strip club, a strange place that features strippers who also happen to be fairly accomplished singers. Real becomes transfixed by Angie (Celine Bonnier), who crawls along the stage in a see-through bodysuit belting out a bluesy rock ‘n’ roll song in a grainy, Joplinesque voice.

Real sticks around after the show to have a drink with Angie, and after a brawl he shares a ride home to her apartment, where they’re soon engaged in a hot, knock-over-the-furniture-style sex scene.

For some reason, Real decides he has to break the news about his affair to his wife, who’s a librarian, at her workplace, and that sets the stage for a screaming match in the middle of the library. Gradually, Real, a mild-mannered guy, is pulled into Angie’s seamy, underground world of small-time mobsters, drugs and latenight partying, none of which is portrayed with any degree of authenticity.

In another implausible plot twist, Real becomes the emcee at the strip club, and quite a bit of time is devoted to his largely unfunny standup routines.

Messier has trouble making the viewer care about Real’s identity crisis, mainly coming across as a wimpy, nerdy fellow who doesn’t elicit much sympathy.

Supporting thesps fare better, notably Montreal playwright Vittorio Rossi, who turns macho club owner Tony into the pic’s most likeable character, and popular comic actor Serge Theriault, who plays a sleazy mobster with [7mpizazz.[22;27m

Bonnier has the requisite sex appeal to play a stripper who knocks a married man off his feet, but she stumbles when it comes to portraying the other aspects of this complex wreck of a coked-out dancer.

Writer-director Saia, who wrote the script with lead thesp Messier, could have easily shaved a half-hour from the overlong pic. The theater and TV vet’s lack of feature film experience shows in the undeveloped characters and inconsistent tone.

The rocking musical numbers, principally penned by Francois Asselin, generally work well, and camera work by Georges Dufaux is fine.

The Sphinx

(CANADIAN)

Production

A CFP Distribution release (in Canada) of a Les Prods. Tele-Action production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada, SOGIC, Quebec Government, Societe Radio-Canada. (International sales: Cinepix Film Properties, Montreal.) Produced by Claudio Luca. Executive producers, Luca, Colin Neale. Directed by Louis Saia. Screenplay, Saia, Mare Messier.

Crew

Camera (color), Georges Dufaux; editor, Andre Corriveau; music, Francois Asselin; art direction, Francois Seguin; costumes, Suzanne Harel; sound, Serge Beauchemin; assistant director, John Fretz. Reviewed at Imperial Cinema, Montreal, Sept. 18, 1995. Running time: 109 MIN.
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