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Quebec skies turn darker

'Incendies' leads pack of somber pics

There is not a lot of laughter in Quebec films this fall. Au contraire, it might be called the season of film noir chez nous. That would be film noir as in dark, disturbing films rather than old-school detective pics.

The highest-profile of the new crop of somber made-in-Quebec pics is Montreal helmer Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies,” a powerful drama about a pair of adult twins in Montreal who return to an un-named country in the Middle East to unravel the mysteries of their family’s past.

“Incendies,” a major buzz item at the Telluride fest in August, has since been snapped up in the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics and sold well around the globe. It has also rung up $1.9 million at the cash register in Quebec, making it the year’s second highest-grossing local pic, after the biopic “Piche: The Landing of a Man.”

Many of these darker pics are garnering attention beyond Quebec’s borders, notably on the fest circuit. Helmer Denis Cote’s “Curling,” for example, won two prizes at the Locarno fest in August, for best director and best actor (for Emmanuel Bilodeau). “Curling,” a drama about a neurotic father who keeps his young daughter isolated from the world, closed the recent Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema and opens in Quebec cinemas Nov. 12.

Ariane Giroux-Dallaire, head of distribution at Montreal-based Metropole Films, which is releasing “Curling,” says these dark films reflect the mood of folks in Quebec.

“We don’t live in a world where everything is going super-great,” said Giroux-Dallaire. “And auteur filmmakers think about the world around them.”

The opening film of the Festival du Nouveau Cinema — which ran Oct. 13-24 — was just as heavy as the closer. The opener was “10 1/2,” a gritty almost-docu-like drama from Quebec helmer Daniel Grou (aka Podz) that focuses on a messed-up kid stuck in a dead end in the province’s youth-protection system.

“For me, it’s just a question of synchronicity,” says “10 1/2” producer Pierre Gendron. “There’s something in the air.”

No less than three recent Quebec films deal with people coming to grips with the loss of loved ones. In fact, two of these have remarkably similar storylines. Catherine Martin’s “Mourning for Anna” is about a woman whose daughter is murdered and who heads to her family’s ancestral home in the Kamouraska region of Quebec to try to piece her life back together.

Louis Belanger’s “Route 132,” which opened the Montreal World Film Festival, is the story of a father who is devastated by the death of his 5-year-old son. He heads out to, of all places, Kamouraska, to work through his grief.

The third in the ghoulish trilogy is Robin Aubert’s “Crying Out,” which is an intense pic about a man who takes the corpse of his recently-deceased wife on a road trip through rural Quebec.

“But I wonder if these films are really about death or about searching for our roots,” says Belanger. “Take ‘Incendies’ or even Robin’s film. What are the characters searching for? They’re searching to figure out where they fit in a long chain.”

Entertainment One Films Intl. reps several of the new wave of dark Quebec pics, including “Incendies,” “Silence Lies,” and “Jaloux,” and Entertainment One exec veepee Charlotte Mickie says she is not surprised these tougher dramas export better than the light homegrown comedies that traditionally dominate the box office in la belle province.

“Local crowd-pleasers don’t travel,” says Mickie.

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