The latest amiable, oddball laffer from helmer Andre Forcier, "Coteau Rouge" elevates Quebecois-style family values to a level of love, acceptance and ferocious working-class solidarity that would seem utopian anywhere else.

The latest amiable, oddball laffer from helmer Andre Forcier, “Coteau Rouge” elevates Quebecois-style family values to a level of love, acceptance and ferocious working-class solidarity that would seem utopian anywhere else. Members of the Blanchard clan effortlessly join forces to resist the underhanded machinations of a slimy real-estate shark that one of them had the stupidity to marry — a villain bent on devouring their shorefront Montreal neighborhood and turning it into soulless condominiums. Brushed with surreal humor and infused with a rare sweetness devoid of schmaltz, this thoroughly engaging item will probably remain a purely local delight.

An Atopia release of a Les Films du Paria production. Produced by Linda Pinet. Executive producer, Andre Forcier.

Every Blanchard revels in some form of oddness or another. Genial-white haired patriarch Honore (Paolo Noel) is a respected retired fisherman who once had a sideline in corpse disposal, the amazing success of which he attributes to his totemic “mother,” a mythical sturgeon (she presumably eats the dumped bodies). His son Fernand (vet Quebecois thesp Gaston Lepage) owns a gas station that includes a small field where he exercises his passion, petanque (a form of boules, similar to bocce), alongside his team of dedicated regulars.

Fernand’s son, Henri (Mario Saint-Amand), an accomplished boxer until he was injured, has dedicated himself to his dying wife, Estelle (a radiantly fading Helene Reeves). Their teenage son, Alexis (Maxime Desjardins-Tremblay), is determined to prove that making money need not involve exploitation, starting an ecological lawn-mowing business that employs his father and most of his friends.

If eccentricity is the luxury of the poor, ridiculousness is reserved for the rich. Fernand’s daughter Helene (Celine Bonnier) and her shady promoter husband Eric (Roy Dupuis), unable to have children, have accepted the generous, if biologically improbable, offer from Helene’s mother Micheline (Louise Lapare) to produce an offspring for them. While Micheline’s pregnancy proceeds apace, Helene imagines herself to be with child — a running gag that Forcier and Bonnier successfully milk for all it’s worth,then cap with a hilarious, out-of-the-blue payoff.

Forcier (with co-scribes Linda Pinet and Georgette Duchaine) has written a far more integrated script than usual, the strands artfully interwoven without sacrificing the sense of a populist fairy tale. Tonally, the pic is all of a piece, easily incorporating wife beating, bankruptcy and death within its overall serenity; no problem here is too great that a bit of comfort, magical realism or body dumping can’t assuage.

Coteau Rouge

Canada

Production

Directed by Andre Forcier. Screenplay, Forcier, Linda Pinet, Georgette Duchaine.

Crew

Camera (color), Daniel Jobin; editor, Linda Pinet; music, Michel Cusson, Kim Gaboury; art director, Patrice Bengle; costume designer, Sophie Lefebvre; sound, Louis Desparois. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (opener, competing), Aug. 18, 2011. Running time: 86 MIN.

Cast

With: Paolo Noel, Gaston Lepage, Celine Bonnier, Roy Dupuis, Mario Saint-Amand, Helene Reeves, Maxime Desjardins-Tremblay, Louise Lapare. (French dialogue)

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