The stashed secret of a Montreal apartment affects 15 years’ worth of tenants and visitors with issues of their own in the cleverly conceived, fumblingly realized low-budget laffer “Bluff.” Cavalcade of popular local thesps, combined with O. Henry-ish nature of story, ensures local popularity upon Sept. 7 release in Quebec, with more precipitous returns further afield.
While prepping a Montreal house for demolition, an unnamed building inspector (Jean-Philippe Pearson) makes a startling discovery at the bottom of the kitchen trap used to chuck refuse into the shallow, unfinished basement area below. Though auds never see what’s caused the fuss, landlord Edmond (Raymond Bouchard) is promptly summoned and the pair hunker down to wait for the cops.
Meanwhile, pic goes back in time to reveal, via sprightly montage, the flat’s previous tenants. Once established, individual story arcs comprise pic’s interlocking saga of secrets and desires: In this set of rooms, everyone’s bluffing about something.
Insecure Julien (co-helmer/scribe Simon Olivier Fecteau) creates elaborate and increasingly violent excuses for missing an important job interview, much to the consternation of his distressed g.f. (Eve Duranceau). Years later, when mysterious stranger John (Gilbert Sicotte) arrives to tell new residents Michel and Josee (Alexis Martin, Isabelle Blais) that the painting they may have thrown out has immense value, the hunt is on for the canvas.
Subsequently, in an effort to get pregnant, Nicolas and Celine (Emmanuel Bilodeau, Julie Perreault) hire sperm donor Serge (David La Haye), whose house call wreaks havoc on their relationship. The next tenant, former boxer Georges (Remy Girard), finds the years haven’t been so kind to him when he challenges Sebastien (Pierre-Francois Legendre), b.f. of his daughter Julie (Marie-Laurence Moreau), to some friendly fisticuffs.
Pic’s most consistently funny arc concerns vet burglar Patrice (Marc Messier), whose absurdly prescient approach to safe-cracking in the presence of incredulous young thief Chuck (Nicolas Canuel) barely masks his ulterior motive. Even Edmond gets into the act, revealing a touching long-lost secret to the flustered cop.
Though Fecteau & Lavoie, as they’ve billed themselves as helmers, do a fine job of juggling multiple storylines and the interpersonal bluffs within them, they drop the ball in other, not insignificant ways. Fredric Begin’s heavy-handed score disrupts much of the comedic timing, while pic’s big reveal of what’s in that kitchen trap will strike some as anticlimactic given the buildup.
Thesping is consistently fine, with standouts including Martin’s wisecracking Michel, Bilodeau’s awkward Nicolas (whose dogged determination to describe the plot of Tom Hanks starrer “Cast Away” to Serge is very funny) and Canuel’s flustered Chuck.
Tech package is just OK; 35mm blowup on print caught was muddy and somewhat fuzzy, while complex production design makes it difficult to tell what’s where in the apartment from one arc to another.