MONTREAL — There was a real Francophone flavor to this year’s Montreal World Film Festival, with a strong slate of new Quebecois and Gallic pics. It seems natural that a film fest in North America’s largest French-speaking city would be a great showcase for films en francais, but that hasn’t necessarily been the case in recent years.
Filmmakers from France have often preferred the Toronto Film Festival because they are obsessed with snaring the all-important American distribution deal. The irony there is that Montreal is the only city in North America that regularly showcases French cinema all year long.
Quebec’s film industry has kept its distance from the Montreal fest in the past couple of years, with many local bizzers unhappy with fest president Serge Losique’s unique style of running the event.
The result was a shortage of top Quebecois and French films over the past few editions.
But Quebecois and French film was back on the agenda in a big way at the 31st Montreal World Film Festival, which ran Aug. 23-Sept. 3. Critical reaction to the Quebec films was particularly enthusiastic, with a sense that the local pics Losique snared were among the most intriguing of the year in Quebecois film.
Prior to the fest, it had not been a stellar year for Quebecois film. French-Canadian cinema continues to boom at the box office, but the unfortunate side effect is that filmmakers are starting to churn out formulaic pics. Hits from earlier this year like the actioner “Nitro” and the teen romantic drama “A Vos Marques … Party” scored at the box office but failed to wow critics the way Denys Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions” or Jean-Francois Pouliot’s “Seducing Dr. Lewis” did a few years back.
The Montreal film fest scored a trio of critical homeruns with the local pics “Bluff,” “You” and “Surviving My Mother.”
“Bluff,” which opened the fest, is a breath of fresh air with its breezy mix of comedy and drama, making for an accessible auteur film that clicks with critics and regular moviegoers. First-time feature filmmakers Marc-Andre Lavoie and Simon-Olivier Fecteau don’t have anything profound to say, but it’s an entertaining ride all the same.
The filmmakers spent C$250,000 ($235,000) of their own money to make the movie and didn’t even bother to knock on the doors of public funders like Telefilm Canada and Sodec.
Montreal writer-director Francois Delisle’s “You” divided auds but garnered critical praise for its fierce, no-holds-barred, sexually explicit look at one woman in the midst of a complete emotional meltdown. Local thesp Anne-Marie Cadieux delivers a towering perf as this deeply troubled woman.
“Surviving My Mother” looks to be one of the fall’s hotter local releases. It’s from the same team behind the 2003 hit “Mambo Italiano,” and director Emile Gaudreault, writer Steve Galluccio and producer Denise Robert have delivered another crowdpleaser, though this one has a darker edge than the gay-themed comedy “Mambo.”
Losique’s festival has drawn all kinds of fire in recent years for not serving as a good launch pad for films, but most in the
Quebec industry are coming around to the idea that the fest is in fact a great place to kick-start the promotional campaign for Quebec films.
Louis Dussault, president of Montreal distrib K-Films Amerique, notes that the key is to open the film as quickly as possible after the fest screening to cash in on the buzz. His company thus launched “You” in Montreal cinemas on Aug. 31, just days after its world preem at the fest. Seville Pictures will open “Bluff” on some 50 screens across the province on Sept. 7, while Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm is waiting until Oct. to release “Surviving My Mother.”