The emotional life of a Canuck bowling-alley handyman slowly turns to slush in "Curling."

The emotional life of a Canuck bowling-alley handyman slowly turns to slush in “Curling,” the latest slice of arthouse misery from Quebecois director Denis Cote. Though somewhat more accessible than the helmer’s recent efforts (“All That She Wants,” “Our Private Lives”), and shot on 35mm instead of video, this father-daughter drama remains a fest item with little chance of crossover appeal.

Overprotective loner Jean-Francois Sauvageau (Emmanuel Bilodeau, stoic) has never allowed his young teen daughter, Julyvonne (the thesp’s real-life daughter Philomene, adequate), to attend school or have regular medical checkups. Jean-Francois’ world, neatly ordered though infinitely narrow, slowly comes apart as the two encounter possibly related horrors in Canada’s snow-bedecked woodlands (a storytelling sleight-of-hand also used in “Lives”). Desolate winter landscapes and sad-sack characters following their own logic recall “Fargo,” and the bowling-alley location echoes “The Big Lebowski,” but Cote’s no Coen. Pic’s as devoid of humor as it is of music, and the narrative is so loose-limbed that connecting the dots reveals the characters to be mere stick figures. However, the simple final scene of transformation works well. Technically, this is Cote’s most impressive film yet.

Curling

Canada

Production

A Metropole Films release of a Nihilproductions production. (International sales: Doc & Film Intl., Paris.) Produced by Stephanie Morisette, Denis Cote. Directed, written by Denis Cote.

Crew

Camera (color), Josee Deshaies; editor, Nicolas Roy; art director, Marjorie Rheame. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (competing), Aug. 9, 2010. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Emmanuel Bilodeau, Philomene Bilodeau, Roc Lafortune, Sophie Desmarais, Muriel Dutil, Anie Pascale Robitaille, Johanne Haberlin. (French dialogue)

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