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The French Guy

Storytelling conventions are turned on their bloodied heads in "The French Guy," which starts like a tale of uplift and soon spins into the land of Grand Guignol. Dark farce is not for everyone and will need to be handled carefully to reach like-minded urban auds.

With:
With: Babz Chula, Tygh Runyan, Gary Jones, Carly Pope, Serge Bennathan, Heidi Iro.

Storytelling conventions are turned on their bloodied heads in “The French Guy,” which starts like a tale of uplift and soon spins into the land of Grand Guignol. Dark farce is not for everyone and will need to be handled carefully to reach like-minded urban auds.

Feature outing for Ann Marie Fleming, who normally assays offbeat docus such as “The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam,” toplines Vancouver veteran Babz Chula, going delightfully over the top as Elizabeth, who has just recovered from brain cancer.

As supported by Patric Caird’s ’50s-style orchestral score, her return from the hospital appears to be a journey toward life. Still, since she has a compromised immune system, she completely covers her high-ceilinged apartment in thick, clear plastic — something that comes in handy when she starts killing people.

First up is a despondent young man (Tygh Runyan) whom she saves from what may be a suicide attempt. She takes the soaking-wet fellow and his moist guitar back to her place, where he proceeds to regale her with some of the dumbest songs ever (Runyan wrote the melodies and Fleming supplied the surpassingly silly lyrics). Their romance goes bad when her lockjaw kicks in, prompting the first of many outrageous bloodlettings.

Meanwhile, the beret-wearing, stripe-shirted guy of the title (Serge Bennathan) toils next door to maintain interest in his mistress(Heidi Iro, dressed as a French maid), but she keeps getting her lines or actions wrong, peeving him while he remains oblivious to the strange sounds coming from Elizabeth’s place, including the cancer patient’s erstwhile lover (a very funny Gary Jones).

Fleming makes no attempt to explain why our shaven-headed antihero goes on a stabbing spree: Was it the meds, the music or society’s unreal expectations? The fun, for those who can stand it, is in the absurdity of funky characters rather mindlessly acting out movie-cliche roles with enough gusto to get the back row laughing.

Tech qualities are peppy and brightly colored enough to justify the trouble, and 85-minute running time is just about right for the pic’s simple jokes.

The French Guy

Canada

Production: A Sleepy Dog Films (Vancouver) production. Produced by Ann Marie Fleming, Adrian Salpeter. Executive producer, Fleming. Directed, written by Ann Marie Fleming.

Crew: A correction was made to this review on Oct. 10, 2005. Camera (color), C. Kim Miles; editor, Ileana Pietrobruno; music, Patric Caird, Tygh Runyan; production designer, Dina Holmes; sound (Dolby), Murray Forward, Dean Giammarco. Reviewed on DVD, Sept. 30, 2005. (In Toronto Film Festival -- In Contemporary World Cinema.) Running time: 85 MIN.

With: With: Babz Chula, Tygh Runyan, Gary Jones, Carly Pope, Serge Bennathan, Heidi Iro.

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