An Eye for Beauty – Review
by Maurie Alioff
(May 1, 2014 – Montréal, QC) Denys Arcand’s Le règne de la beauté (An Eye for Beauty), the writer-director’s first film since 2007, opens wide in Quebec on May 15. Winner of a Best Foreign-language film Oscar for his Les invasions barbares (2003), Arcand’s new picture premiered in Montreal in Place des arts before its scheduled launch in 80 plus theatres.
Originally called Deux nuits, the movie’s new title mirrors its preoccupation with visual splendour, Arcand explained at a press conference following the premiere. In Le règne de la beauté, the principal characters live in beautifully designed houses located in stunning landscapes. On top of that, its thirtysomething professionals look good, dress impeccably, prepare lovely meals, and so on.
When asked to pinpoint the essence of beauty, Arcand said that philosophers have been trying to do that since ancient times, but it is impossible to come up with a strict definition. In his new movie, the people, the home interiors, and the spectacular Charlevoix region radiate a sleek magazine shimmer, whatever the emotions at play in the storyline.
The movie’s protagonist Luc (Éric Bruneau) is a talented, in-demand architect who designs elegant country homes and seems happily married to pretty Stephanie (Mélanie Thierry) and content with their lives dining with close friends, playing tennis, and generally enjoying the blessings of the Charlevoix. For sure, the region’s tourist bureau will love this film.
The plot turns when Luc travels to Toronto for architectural jury duty and hooks up with Lindsay (Melanie Merkosky), a woman more sophisticated than Stephanie in looks and behaviour. This may or not be what leads him to respond to the married woman’s frank invitation to her bedroom. As the mainly long-distance affair heats up, Luc and Stephanie’s lives get rattled by madness and disease although the mise-en-scène never stops being eye-catching.
At the press conference, Arcand also fielded questions about his vaunted cynicism (a word he finds meaningless), his cinematic treatment of illness (he dislikes pictures that get clinical about the subject), and inevitably, the new film’s copious English-language dialogue (the Canadian reality, he said).
As for why he thought Luc should be an architect, Arcand said that he realized “architects were really close to filmmakers.” Both professions involve “working with a team and dealing with all sorts of difficulties” from weather to clients, which moviemakers call producers and distributors. Both jobs are “artistic, and also practical.”
Working with a team, Arcand concluded, is the aspect of filmmaking that gives him “great happiness.” He collaborates exclusively with friends or people who “I would have dinner with” and become friends.
Also see: The cast and crew and trailer for Le règne de la beauté.
Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times.