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Bread Pudding

Yo-Yo Chloe Ste-Marie

Yo-Yo Chloe Ste-Marie

Alphonse Louis-Philippe Davignon-Daigneault

Aristide Francois Leveille

Emma France Arbour

Mohammed Michel Laprise

With: Sylvie Potvin, Martine Deslauriers, Claudia Viens, Robert Gravel, Luc Charpentier, Claude Lemieux.

Gilles Carle, one of Quebec’s best-known auteurs, has once again delivered a pic that is unlikely to match the critical and commercial success of his best work from the ’70s and early ’80s. Carle is nothing if not ambitious, and his stab at crafting a Felliniesque satire of a society with its priorities upside-down occasionally hits the mark, but the pic’s approach is too anecdotal and the story too scattershot to keep the viewer intrigued. “Bread Pudding,” which opened across Quebec Sept. 6, will elicit initial interest on its home turf and will likely make the rounds on the fest circuit. Its commercial life outside Quebec, however, will be restricted by pic’s lack of a coherent structure.

“Bread Pudding” is a strange, surrealistic depiction of a worldpopulated by bizarre miracle workers, corrupt cops, virgin strippers and no-future welfare cases. Anarchic tone is set in the first scene, when a bus carrying handicapped kids runs into a truck packed with pigs, sending human limbs flying across the street and pigs running in every direction.

Mohammed (Michel Laprise) loses his hand in the accident, and he is seen running around the town holding his severed body part. He makes his way to an abandoned garage where Yo-Yo (Chloe Ste-Marie) is hosting an odd religious ceremony, and, with Mohammed lying on a table, a little angel-like boy, Alphonse (Louis-Philippe Davignon-Daigneault), comes floating down from the ceiling and miraculously reattaches Mohammed’s hand.

Word soon spreads about the superhuman powers of Alphonse, who was abandoned by his father and who looks like your average kid when he’s not performing miracles.

In one of many scenes that seem to have little to do with the plot, Yo-Yo meets a young, platinum-haired punky guy and they head to an empty gymnasium to engage in some spirited sexual acrobatics involving numerous gym props.

In a more inspired sequence, Alphonse’s dad (Francois Leveille), depressed over his failed relationship with his son, is perched on the railing of Montreal’s Jacques Cartier bridge, ready to jump into the St. Lawrence River. The funny, pointed scene sends up the media and Quebec politics as the would-be jumper talks to a crowd using a microphone. When the crowd is asked to vote on whether he should take the plunge, the confused vote is clearly a dig at the recent Quebec referendum on secession.

Carle rarely hits the right comic buttons after that, and pic becomes increasingly muddled as he cranks up the level of gratuitous violence, sexy imagery and downright peculiar action. The slapstick routines are seldom funny, the political commentary is simplistic, and the characters are little more than tools for Carle to advance his thesis about a community that has abandoned its have-nots.

Ste-Marie, Carle’s offscreen partner, is forced to sport a series of eye-catching wigs and ultra-skimpy outfits that show off her body, but she adds little beyond a sexy presence. Davignon-Daigneault is more endearing as the wonder kid.

Accomplished cinematographer Pierre Letarte has created a striking urban landscape that is a contrasting blend of gaudy, colorful images and gritty, downtrodden settings. Original score by Jean Delorme contains bouncy jazz instrumentals that liven pace, while several rather generic rock numbers do little to enhance pic.

Bread Pudding

(PUDDING CHOMEUR)

Production: (CANADIAN) An Astral Distribution release (in Canada) of an Aska Films production, with the participation of Telefilm Canada, Sodec, Quebec government. (International sales: Astral Distribution, Montreal.) Produced by Claude Gagnon, Yuri Yushimura-Gagnon. Directed, written by Gilles Carle.

Crew: Camera (color), Pierre Letarte; editor, Aube Foglia; music, Jean Delorme; art direction, Raymond Dupuis; costumes, Denis Sperdouklis; line producer, Alain Gagnon; sound, Louis Dupire. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (competing), Aug. 28, 1996. Running time: 100 MIN.

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