Clash of Cultures: Bon Cop, Bad Cop

When Eva from Coffee, Classics, & Craziness announced her Good Cop, Bad Cop Blogathon, the first film that immediately came to my mind was Érik Canuel’s Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006), the most commercially successful Quebecois films of history… so far.

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“Bon” literary means “good” in French so, basically,  the title of this film is the same as the title of the blogathon. That’s why I immediately thought of it. 😉

This dark comedy-thriller is an opposition between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, between French and English, and between a rule-bending detective from the Sureté du Québec and a by-the-book detective from the Ontario Provincial Police.

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The victim of a murder has been found impaled on the top of a sign demarcating the frontier between Ontario and Quebec. Both the detective from Ontario, Martin Ward (Colm Feore) and the one from Quebec, David Bouchard (Patrick Huard), are called on the scene as the body, well, “touches” both Ontario and Quebec. Therefore, both provinces are “involved” by the situation. Both Ward and Bouchard aren’t interested in the case so they obstinate each other in order to determine who should really take the case. This gives place to a sassy dialogue:

Martin Ward: His heart is in Québec.

David Bouchard: Ya l’Ontario dans l’cul aussi!

Martin Ward: What ?

David Bouchard: But his ass belongs to you.

Ouuuch!

They both decide to take a ladder to see the body closer. As they reach the top, both the ladders fall and they have to choices but to grab the body not to fall. Bouchard grabs the legs and Ward, the arms. Well, what should happen, happens: the body, already damaged by the impalement parts in half and now it’s clear: half of it is in Quebec and half of it is in Ontario.

Re-ouuuch!

So, Martin Ward and David Bouchard don’t have much choice but to join forces in order to solve the murder, for better or but especially for worst since they don’t really like each other. But, they’ll eventually learn to cooperate. All along the investigation, they’ll discover more than one victim and these all have the particularity to have been tattooed by the murderer. These tatoos create connections between each victim and, eventually become clues as for the reason for these murders.

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But now, how are they labeled as the bad cop and the good cop? Obviously, David Bouchard is the “bad cop”, but not in the way you might think. He’s not the sadistic cop like Hume Cronyn in Brute Force or like Clancy Brown in Shawshank Redemption. Ok, these are prisons guards, but you get the point. No, David isn’t a bad person or a sociopath. Let’s just say he has unconventional ways to do his job. For example, when he and Martin manage to catch a suspect, he doesn’t put him in the back seat of his car, but in the trunk. See, the guy just has no pity. It, therefore, creates a very eccentric character and allows some hilarious scenes such as the one I just mentioned. David Bouchard simply doesn’t like to follow rules. He’s a rebel at heart. The fact that he breaks into a house without a warrant is another proof of it. This is also shown in his attitude, his way of talking (with a lot of swearing), the old car he uses for the job, and the way he dresses, which makes him look more like a bum than a detective.

But he remains a “good” cop as he helps to the progress of the investigation with the help of Martin Ward.

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This one is pretty much the opposite of David Bouchard, and not only because he is an English-speaker. This is first shown by his apartment, which is very clean in opposition to David’s one, just like his clothes, which include a well-pressed jacket and a black turtleneck, which David really likes to make fun of. Martin Ward is also a bit snobbish and this is shown in his very by-the-book methods and the pedantic things he can say:

David Bouchard: [surprised] You speak French?

Martin Ward: No, not really. I had a small gadget installed in my brain and I see subtitles under people when they speak.

And then he talks about the fact that he went to French school and spent a year in Paris.

But, even if Martin Ward seems a bit like a “boring” person in opposition to David, he might actually be the most interesting character as he changes a lot during the film. He actually becomes more and more influenced by David and not a so by-the-book detective after all. I was mentioning the suspect being put in David’s car trunk. Well, this is what Martin Ward has to say about it:

Harry Buttman: [the suspect] Don’t you know who I am? We’ll sue your asses. You can’t put me in the trunk of a car.

Martin Ward: Yes we can. It’s Quebec tradition.

[Ward closes the car trunk]

And cases like this happen on several occasions.

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The comedy in Bon Cop, Bad Cop is created by the way the two cops like to tease each other, the opposition between the French and English languages and the references to French-Canadian and English-Canadian culture. By the way, despite being a Quebecois movie, the film is both in French and English. I, however, believe it was more successful in Quebec than in English-Canada. All this creates some delightful situations and that’s why the main force of the film is the screenplay.

If we first look at the opposition between Martin and David, both like to make fun of each other based on their home province, their personality, and habits.

For example:

Iris Ward: What are you doing here?

Johnathan Ward: I just saved my dad.

David Bouchard: From what? Heart attack by watching curling on TV?

Or when Martin says to one of his policemen co-worker “He is from Quebec”, talking about David and trying to justify his manners.

Also, during a fight in the restaurant with the first suspect (the one put in the trunk of the car),  Martin finds himself in a bad position and asks for David for help, but this one only agrees to help him if he asks him in French. Then, the opposite situation happens.

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Talking about language, the film obviously makes a lot of fun of Quebecois trying to speak English. But, luckily, we have a good sense of humour. 😉 While Martin Ward has a subtle English accent when he speaks French, his French is much better than David’s English is. Obviously, the Quebecois in this film don’t care much for the English language. It’s also the case for David’s superior, Captain LeBoeuf (Pierre Lebeau):

David Bouchard: [in French] Chief, it’s okay – I understand English.

Capt. Le Boeuf: [French] Ah, shit.

[to MacDuff, in English]

Capt. Le Boeuf: It’s okay. David… can English.

Brian MacDuff: [doesn’t understand]

Capt. Le Boeuf: He can English. He can…

Brian MacDuff: [gets it] Oh! Okay!

Capt. Le Boeuf: [continues in broken English] So, uh – we thought it would be good, uh – hopititit… it was a good…

Brian MacDuff: Opportunity.

Capt. Le Boeuf: It was a good… hopportunity to…

Martin Ward: [in French] You may speak French, Captain.

Capt. Le Boeuf: [French] Ah, for fuck’s sake…

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Captain LeBoeuf

This is obviously very caricatural. We don’t all speak English like this! Well, I hope I don’t! But it holds a part of truth as some people from Quebec really do.

I also like the various references to Quebecois culture this film presents. There are also some references to Ontarian culture, but I think they are less interesting because I’m not Ontarian and, therefore, don’t necessarily understand them.

Here is one of my favourite examples:

When the suspect Luc Therrien (Sylvain Marcel) hides in a Hockey mascot costume, he stands in front of a bathroom mirror with his gun in his hand and says to his reflection “You talkin’ to me?” This is obviously a reference to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver  (nothing to do with our local culture), but, at one point, he also yells “Ah-Ha!” which is a reference ot the Familiprix television commercials in which the actor Sylvain Marcel plays a pharmacist who witnesses a situation where somebody gets hurt. When it happens, he yells “Ah-Ha! Familiprix!” which is a famous slogan here in Quebec.

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Examples of Familiprix commercials:

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We could talk endlessly about the humour in this film, but it also contains a part of seriousness and more “dramatic” situations such as the climax where [SPOILER] David’s daughter, Gabrielle (Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse), is taken in hostage by the “tattoo killer”.

The actors in this film all give justice to their characters and give very good performances. I’ve always like Patrick Huard who plays David Bouchard and, while I’m less familiar with Colm Feore, his acting as the snobbish Martin Ward is admirable too. Lucie Laurier (sister of Charlotte Laurier, another famous Quebecois actress) and Sarah-Jeanne Labrosse both give performances with a lot of energy and determination as David’s ex-wife and daughter. Humorist Louis-José Houde also plays a small part in the film and his hilarious as always.  Interesting fact: actor Patrick Huard also participated in the writing of the film’s screenplay.

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Bon Cop,  Bad Cop was a commercial film, but also has a lot of qualities and is not only “commercial” in the pejorative sense of the word. Commercial successes in Quebec are actually a good thing. Obviously, our industry isn’t as big as Hollywood one (you don’t say!) and our stars don’t make millions like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie do. So, commercially successful movies are only a sign that our industry is working well and that our small, but strong cinematic culture, is given chances. The film made around 10 million at the box office (which is A LOT for a Quebecois film) making it one of the 10 most successful films at the Quebecois box office among big Hollywood stuff like Titanic, Lord of the Ring and Avatar. The film wasn’t only a huge commercial success, but also received a good critical success, winning a few awards such as the Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Overall Sound and the Golden Reel Award at the Genie Awards (our Canadian Oscars). At the same Awards, it was also nominated for Best Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Direction, Best Achievement in Editing, Best Achievement in Music – Original Song, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (both for Huard and Feore), and Best Achievement in Sound Editing. So yeah, that’s not too bad, right? 😉 It also won and was nominated for Jutra Awards, Canadian Comedy Awards, Director Guild of Canada Awards, and prices at Boulder, Hong Kong, Seattle, and Stockholm film festivals.

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Even if you aren’t Quebecois or Canadian and might not necessarily understand all the cultural jokes in the film, I believe you might enjoy it just the same. It’s a thrilling story that keeps you on the edge of your seat from the beginning until the end!

A film sequel was released in 2017, but I haven’t got the chance to see it yet.

 

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A big thank you to Eva for hosting this great blogathon. Don’t forget to read the other entries here!

See you! 🙂

I’ll leave you with the trailer!

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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.