We’re crazy about C.R.A.Z.Y.

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8 years before he made his debut in Hollywood with Dallas Buyers Club and 12 years before he won an Emmy Award for Big Little Lies, Jean-Marc Vallée released what is, for me, one of the best French-Canadian films ever made: C.R.A.Z.Y. Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria, and Wild were great but, in my opinion, never surpassed the quality of this film I’m going to talk to you about.

Honestly, there are so many great things to say about this film. I wouldn’t know where to start. C.R.A.Z.Y. is that type of film that makes me proud of our French-Canadian movie industry and that gives it a good reputation. You might have heard of it or even saw it as, on its released, it gained not only a national recognition but also an international one. The film represented Canada for the Best Foreign language Film Oscar, but unfortunately wasn’t selected as a finalist for the competition.

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On the right, Vallée witn actors Michel Côté (left) and Marc-André Grondin (centre)

When Vallée’s masterpiece was released in 2005, I was only 9 or 10 so didn’t immediately saw it as it deals with themes you don’t necessarily understand at that age. But I remember my parents seeing it at the movie theatre and saying it was great. So, I eventually see it with them and my sister a few years later and I was in awe. It eventually became my favourite French-language Canadian film and it surely is in my top five movies of the 21st centenary. You see, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a perfect national movie as it deals with our local culture but there’s also something about it that makes it internationally accessible. It’s the kind of story that could happen in many places.

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But what is it about? C.R.A.Z.Y is a coming of age drama telling the story of young Zachary “Zac” Beaulieu (Marc André Grondin), born on Christmas and who has to deal with a sexual identity crisis. The film takes place in Quebec during the 60s, 70s and the beginning of the 80s. Zachary is the 4th one of a family of five children. As a child, he and his father (Michel Côté) share a beautiful complicity. He is his hero. But when Zach starts revealing a non-masculine side and a possible homosexuality, war is declared. His father doesn’t accept it so things between them aren’t the same anymore. However, has Zach wants to get his father’s love back, or, should I say his complicity (because his father doesn’t stop loving him despite everything), he himself has difficulty to accept his sexual orientation. But everyone has a breaking point… Luckily, in times of crisis, Zac’s mother (Danielle Proulx), a wonderful woman, is always here to support him.

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Aside from being a truly “crazy” film (in the good sense of the term), C.R.A.Z.Y., stands for two things: Zac’s father, Gervais, is a fan of Patsy Cline and her song “Crazy”. Also, the letters that form the words are the first letters of Zac and his brother’s names: Christian (Maxime Tremblay), the nerd who reads anything, including ketchup bottles and cereal boxes; Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant), the rebel and junky, Zac’s “worst enemy”; Antoine (Alex Gravel), the athlete; Zachary; and Yvan (Gabriel Lalancette), the youngest one.

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C.R.A.Z.Y. was praised for his realistic representation of a middle-class family of 60s-70s Quebec. The quality of this film also resides in the fact that it is an highly creative movie. After all, Jean-Marc Vallée spent between 5 and 10 years writing it with co-writer François Boulay (who’s personal memories of growing-up inspired the story). So, the result couldn’t be mediocre.

We first have to take a look at the varied characters and their incredible performers.

C.R.A.Z.Y. is the film that put Marc-André Grondin on the map of Quebecois cinema. At the time the film was made, he was 20-21, which is Zac’s age at the end of the film. His portrayal of Zac is one that can allow many viewers to identify with him. The role is complex, so probably wasn’t an easy one to play. It’s a character that constantly changes and tries desperately to find himself in order to “fit” in a particular environment. Zac’s knows moments of joy, anger, sadness, hate, and happiness. A certain versatility for such a role was necessary and Marc-André Grondin did it with brio.

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Michel Côté who plays the boy’s father, Gervais, probably is one of the main reasons why I love this film. I think I can say that he is my favourite Quebecois actor. He is known as one of our best stage and on-screen actors. Playing the role of Gervais Beaulieu implies putting himself in the skin of someone with whom he didn’t necessarily share the ideologies. Côté has an incredible charism which he transmitted perfectly to his character. Because Gervais Beaulieu is the type of man that owns a place when he’s in it. His character knows also different moments of complex emotions and the clash between his and Zac’s ones creates amazing fireworks. What I love about Michel Côté also is his very natural acting game and that’s a quality we can find in many local actors here in Quebec. I work in a movie theatre and Michel Côté sometimes attends special events there such as Q & A for the promotion of his films or, as I’ve been told, sometimes just come to see a movie! I haven’t seen him yet (I started working there in late August) but if I ever do, I will probably faint.

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Danielle Proulx who plays Zach’s mother is an actress I first knew thanks to the children television show Cornemuse. Every kid from my generation know this program. Danielle also was part of the distribution of Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar, which was nominated at the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. Laurianne Beaulieu is one of the most beautiful characters of the film. Quebec uses to be a very Catholic place but it began to change precisely in the 60s with the venue of new ideologies and the Quiet Revolution. Mrs. Beaulieu is a strong believer, but her acceptance of her son’s sexual orientation sort of incarnates that clash of culture and ideologies that Quebec knew in the 60s and 70s. The complicity she has with her son is strong and different from the one he has with his father. You see, Zac can never fear to lost his mother’s love. This would simply be impossible. To her, Zach is very special as he was born the same day has Jesus. Danielle Proulx touches our heart infinitely with her protrayal of Mrs. Beaulieu. She shows, yes, a sensibility, but also an incredible strength. She is a woman of the Revolution.

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Of course, all the other actors in this film are incredible as well, but I decided to focus on the three main ones, otherwise, this text would be way too long! Interesting fact: young Zachary Beaulieu was played by Jean-Marc Vallées son, Émile, who showed a great potential as a child actor.

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Jean-Marc and Émile Vallée on the set of the film

Music is one of the most important elements of C.R.A.Z.Y. As a matter of fact, $ 600 000 CAD were invested in the music only as many the music rights had to be obtained. Jean-Marc Vallée even had to cut his own salary for it. The music truly defines the atmosphere of the film and any great music lover would be amazed by the choice of the songs from legendary artists such as David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Pink Floyd, and more.

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Jean-Marc Vallée knew perfectly how to include the songs to the story and really made them “part of” the film. Some of the best scenes are the ones where the music takes a lot of space.

From the first minutes of the film, you know it won’t be an ordinary one. It all starts with Elvis. Images of a baby (Zac) in his mother’s tummy are shown to us. It’s first almost silent and, slowly, we start hearing Elvis’s singing “Santa Claus Is Back in Town”. We then move to the next scene where the Beaulieu’s are celebrating Christmas’s Eve until Mrs. Beaulieu’s waters breaks and the family has to head to the hospital for Zac’s birth.

If Zach and his father share a common interest, it’s certainly is their passion for music. They both have different music tastes (being from different generations), different but all great. Gervais Beaulieu not only his a fan of Patsy Cline but also of French singer Charles Aznavour. Every Christmas, he traditionally to sing his beautiful song “Emmenez-Moi”, which is probably the song we hear the most often in the film.

If I can identify myself to Zac, it’s thanks to his obvious love for David Bowie who also is my idol. We LOVE Zach’s bedroom as it is decorated with posters of the singer and iconic vinyl records such as Space Oddity, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs are part of his music collection. The “Space Oddity” scene is one of the most iconic of the film and is a glorious moment. I’ll let you watch it:

Zach also loves Pink Floyd and, as you saw in the previous video, his bedroom is beautifully decorated with The Dark Side of the Moon colour prism. Zac’s transition from childhood to teenagehood is brilliantly made with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”.

So many great songs are part of this film, but I’ll finish this musical discussion with another of the film’s most glorious moment: the “Sympathy for the Devil”‘s moment. Zac puts The Rolling Stones’ album and we transit to the church where he attends the Midnight Mass with his family. The song continues to play in Zac’s head but, suddenly, everybody starts being part of it, including the priest. This is a very fantasist moment as it surely only happens in Zac’s mine, but we love it.

Here are both “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Sympathy for the Devil” scenes!

So, as you realize, C.R.A.Z.Y. wouldn’t be the same without this impressive soundtrack. The film doesn’t contain any original music, but it honestly doesn’t need any. It’s interesting to know that Zac’s look in the 80s is inspired by Sex Pistols’ singer Sid Vicious, and his brother’s Raymond’s look is somehow inspired by Jim Morrison’s one and… his lifestyle too… for better, but especially for worst.

As I mentioned before, C.R.A.Z.Y. screenplay is the result of many years of work and the result is this breathtaking product that is given to us. The story is, of course, developed on 21 years (with times ellipse) and never a faux-pas is committed. The film, yes, contains a dramatic tone, but you’ll also find many comedic elements. It’s that variety of styles that makes it the type of movie everybody loves. Surely, Zac is at the center of the story, but Vallée and Boulay were brilliant enough to give a complete background and to the secondary characters. Of Zac’s brothers, Raymond probably is the one we know the most about and his presence has an important influence on the course of the story.

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The film also contains some lines that define perfectly its thematic and the relation between the characters, but also between the characters and the society they live in.  The best dialogue probably being:

Zachary Beaulieu: I want to be like everyone else.

Madame Chose: Thank God, you never will.

 

As Ingrid Bergman once said, “Be yourself, the world worship the original.”

C.R.A.Z.Y. was mostly filmed in Montreal and its area, but it’s a film that also makes us travel as Zac’s goes to Jerusalem, which has always been one of his mother’s most cherished dreams. However, for security reasons, the scenes had to be shot in Morroco. This part of the film is quite short but is an important transition in Zac’s life. It allows us to see some beautiful desertic spaces and cities.

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But the film also makes us travel in the Quebec of the 20th century with yes, the music, the way of life, but also the costumes that can make people of this generation say: “Oh, I remember when  I used dressed like that!”

Finally, The film also has to be praised for its effective editing. I always thought the transition between some of the scenes was brilliantly made, as well as the choice of camera shots. There is an appreciated continuity and a visual dynamism that keeps us at the edge of our seats. And the whole thing is beautifully shaped with a top-notch cinematography.

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C.R.A.Z.Y. was THE film of the year here in Quebec in 2005. It won no less than 14 Jutra Awards, plus two special awards for the same ceremony. I sort of feel bad for the other films that were nominated that year haha. But what can I say? Sometimes, you just can’t surpass supreme quality!

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There aren’t enough words to express the excellency of C.R.A.Z.Y., but I hope this review convinced you to see it as soon as possible if you haven’t. Meanwhile, take a look at the entertaining trailer. Not the best visual quality, but there are English subtitles!

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I wrote this article for the always fun O Canada Blogathon hosted by the ever-enthusiastic Ruth from Silver Screenings and Kristina from Speakeasy. I want to thank both ladies for honouring my native country via this great event!

Don’t miss the other entries:

O Canada Day 1

O Canada Day 2

O Canada Day 3

See you!
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Irish Film Studies: Disco Pigs

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This is my journal entry for Disco Pigs (week 12).

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The beginning of Disco Pigs certainly tenderized many people in the class when we watched this film. Indeed,  we could perfectly hear the “aww” (like, “aww it’s so cute”) at the view of the two babies holding each other’s hand. That’s how real friendship should begin, no? When you are born, but not clever enough to be too judgmental. Runt and Pig are, as a matter of fact, almost like brothers and sisters. Well, until Pig becomes clearly interested in Runt in another way than just a friend.

The film first makes us jealous. I mean, does perfect friendship like that can really exist? Sure they do bad things, but their work of solidarity is one to be admired. Disco Pigs is an anti-heroes film just like Badlands or Bonnie & Clyde were. And like many anti-hero films, the spectator will have the tendency to identify more with these particular “villains” more than with the other characters (whom, most of the time, are not portrayed as heroes, so have less chance to gain our sympathy).

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But, at some point, it becomes too much. That concept of doing everything together at the same time surely is a symbolism of “we cannot leave without each other”, but this, to a certain point, almost becomes a dangerous drug. Runt’s parents, who think her relationship with Pig isn’t healthy, send her to a boarding school (where we meet my favourite character of the lot, the daring weird blond girl). And it’s the beginning of a real drama. Sure, they see each other again, but in circumstances that don’t end quite well. Pig takes Runt to a bar and,  furious with jealousy, [spoiler] kills a guy who was dancing with her. The two fellows go on a beach where [spoiler] Pig asks Runt to kill him, to avoid another form of punishment due to what he has done.

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Disco Pigs is an interesting film on the level of insane friendship/relation. It gives you a lesson that, even if you love a person very much, you must learn to be independent (something I understood a long time ago) otherwise you can eventually suffer or be unhappy.

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Where Disco Pigs failed to grab my attention was with the development of the story with many flashbacks weirdly placed. I also had a lot of difficulties with the language. The accents/pronunciations are not obvious and, sometimes, I just couldn’t understand anything that was said. But, luckily, it’s a film where many things are expressed simply by the visual dimension.

At some point, Cillian Murphy seems to actually create a form of language. Oh well, even if we don’t understand everything he has to say, at least we can admire his beautiful blue eyes!

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Words: 455

Images sources

“Cillian Murphy “So New” Disco Pigs soundtrack.” Youtube, Feb. 20, 2013, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu_CJKsOZeU.

“Cillian Murphy images Disco Pigs wallpaper and background photos.” Fan pop, n.d,  http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/cillian-murphy/images/19924627/title/disco-pigs-photo.

Disco Pigs (AV Channel) (2001), n.d, http://www.michaeldvd.com.au/Reviews/Reviews.asp?ID=3958.

Irish Film Studies: 32A

This semester, I’m attending a course on Irish cinema. Each week, we are expected to write a blog-like journal about the film we watched in class and/or our class discussion about the film. I’ve decided to include those entries to my blog, so it would be more agreeable to read than a Word document. This is my journal entry for 32A (week 11).

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Marian Quinn’s 32A was not the only film we saw in class depicting teenagers’ life. It also was the case for Hush-a-Bye Baby and Disco Pigs. However, this one is not as dark as the previous one and is, let’s say, more “ordinary” (not necessarily in a bad way). The fact that the main characters are actually young teenagers (and not almost adults like it is the case for the two other films’ characters) adds a certain aura of innocence and childishness.

Narratively, there’s nothing quite extraordinary about the film. I enjoyed it, but it’s the typical teenager movie story. A young schoolgirl tries to find her place in the social world. She has friends who reject her at one point, but, in the end, they become friends again. There’s the cute rebel boy (but, however, their relationship is abruptly ended). The girls have problems in their family. You know, these are the typical elements someone would expect from a teen movie. What is interesting though, is the fact that this film is not only a teen movie, but it was also made for a young teen audience. Thus, it might be easier for teens to identify with the characters more than it would be the case for Hush-A-Bye Baby for example, which adopts much more mature themes and might be understood better by an older audience.

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It’s interesting how, in her text on the female Bildungsroman (a coming of age story genre), Ellen McWilliams informs us that this literary genre was first not seen well by feminists for “its often unapologetic investment in masculine, bourgeois ideologies.” (1) However, the female Bildungsroman gives a new breath of freshness to the genre as it is explained by McWilliams and became a new form of expression for women. (2) Well, 32A proves it right as the story is seen from a girl’s point of view and, interestingly, it’s the ladies in this film that are the most well developed. There’s nothing very concluding about, let’s say, Jean’s father or her “boyfriend”. However, that’s in a way not so good as it somehow neglects the relationship between the male and female characters in the film or, more precisely, their development.

Aesthetically, the film has some beautiful images that add some visual poetry to it and make it agreeable to watch. The day scenes are very luminous, but not aggressive for our eyes, while the night scenes feature beautiful sky images.

32A is not a revolutionary nor an impressive film, but I enjoyed it and this type of films is sometimes good to see too, to prove us that life, even in movies, can be just normal!

On an aside note, I give this film many bonus points for featuring songs by my musical idols Blondie (Picture This) and David Bowie (Boy Keep Swinging)! These were, for me, the amazing parts of the film.

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Words: 480

Source:

(1) McWilliams, Ellen. “The Coming of Age of the Female Bildungsroman.” Margaret Atwood and the Female Bildungsroman. Farnham: Ashgate, 2009. 0.1-12

(2) Ibid.

Images sources

“A still from Marian Quinn’s Film 32A.” Archives of Irish America, Sep. 30, 2011, https://www.nyu.edu/library/bobst/research/aia/collections/ihoral/quinnm/quinnm.php.

“32A.” Institut Canadien du Film, Nov. 26, 2009, http://www.cfi-icf.ca/index.php?option=com_cfi&task=showscreening&id=248.