Loose-limbed, quasi-docu style suits "Happiness Is a Sad Song," which gradually accumulates a feeling for its offbeat protag, a woman with a video camera who asks everyone she sees about the nature of happiness. Pic could be remade as an English-lingo star vehicle, but that approach would lose the pic's essential.

Loose-limbed, quasi-docu style suits “Happiness Is a Sad Song,” which gradually accumulates a feeling for its offbeat protag, a woman with a video camera who asks everyone she sees about the nature of happiness. Pic could be remade as an English-lingo star vehicle, but that approach would lose the pic’s essential quality — of anonymity striving for something more — that makes this such a fest-ready charmer.

During a Montreal heat wave, thirtysomething Ann-Marie (Anne-Marie Cadieux), an ad exec on sabbatical, finds a camera, and spontaneously begins querying strangers about their most basic philosophies. Along the way, she runs into an open-hearted African musician, a conflicted junkie and lots of sweating, angry people who complain it’s too darn hot to answer questions. Chris Marker-inspired pic ambles narratively, but it’s always going somewhere. Less-than-realistic payoff — with a rock-video-like performance of one of composer Eve Courneyor’s poppier songs — is curiously uplifting. Pic leans on Cadieux’s unusually sculpted features, and the veteran Quebec star (Robert LePage’s “Far Side of the Moon”) responds with a compelling perf avoids being overly ingratiating. The typically unseen sidestreets and back alleys of Montreal make that city a palpable character.

Happiness Is A Sad Song

Canada

Production

A Cinema Libre presentation of a Films 53/12 production (International sales: Cinema Libre, Montreal). Produced, directed, written by Francois Delisle.

Crew

Camera (color) Delisle, Edith Labbe; production designer, Eric Bernard; editor, Pascale Paroissien; music, Eve Cournoyer. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Canadian Images), Oct. 7, 2004. French dialogue. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Anne-Marie Cadieux, Miro, Frederick De Grandpere, Kent McQuaid, Boucar Diouf, Luc Proulx, Micheline Lanctot.
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