Arcand, De père en flic & Fantasia:
Inside Québec – Summer 2017
by Maurie Alioff – Senior Editor, Québec
(August 5, 2017 – Montréal, QC) The summer’s big news is the return of Academy Award-winning writer-director Denys Arcand, who hasn’t made a film since 2014’s Le règne de la beauté. That one was a misfire, nowhere near the sparkling brilliance of Arcand’s Les invasions barbares, the Oscar winner, Le déclin de l’empire américain, and especially the hilarious and sublimely moving Jésus de Montréal.
Produced by his wife, Denise Robert, Arcand’s new project, Triomphe de l’argent, is, he told media at a July press conference in Montreal, “a cop film. That’s what I will keep saying.” The immersive press conference, loaded with emotional subtext, unfolded in an appropriate setting, Montreal’s Olympia Theatre. Early on, Arcand brought the entire cast onto the red-curtained stage. They ranged in age and experience from youthful newcomer Alexandre Landry, the film’s lead, to veterans Remi Girard and Pierre Curzi, who played indelible roles in Arcand’s best-known films.
Arcand’s crime story idea spun off from the real-life 2014 murder of two men in a chic Montreal boutique. It is likely that the real target of the shooting was gangster boss Ducarme Joseph, the boutique’s owner. In Arcand’s script, a philosophy student working as a bike courier (Landry), stumbles across a double murder in a clothing store and finds millions of dollars crammed into a couple of sports bags. What will he do next? He works as a courier because a lecturer’s wages are paltry. The movie is called The Triumph of Money in an era when there really has been a barbarian invasion, the invasion of Agent Orange and the money madness he embodies. Talk about the decline of the American Empire.
Although the new movie sounds like it will dip into satire of current morality (the title plays on Nazi-era pontificating about The Triumph of the Will), Denys Arcand has always resisted going preachy. “My films have no messages,” he told the press conference. “They are stories. Hopefully, they are meaningful. We are not paid for this,” he told the assembly of entertainment reporters and critics. “You are.”
After the formal press conference I asked Arcand, who early in his career wrote and directed a couple of crime stories, about his own taste in the genre. He loves Elmore Leonard’s novels, thinks Breaking Bad has a genius, once-in-a-lifetime premise although it’s not paced fast enough for his taste (narrative speed has long been his priority), and although he admires Tarantino, like many, he thinks Q.T.’s work is too film referential. “Movies about movies,” he says. I didn’t put in my own two cents: Tarantino makes movies about more than just movies. Even when he’s being ironic, Samuel Jackson’s redemption speech in Pulp Fiction, for example, you can feel the emotional current running through the scene.
Triomphe de l’argent, which shoots in the fall, will be distributed by Seville Films/E-One. Victor Reggo, Seville’s director of marketing, used the press conference to reset the widespread view of how Quebec films do at the box office. For years, the storyline has been that after the huge successes of Bon Cop Bad Cop (2011) and other pictures came and went, local releases tanked. But this summer, two sequels, Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, and the more recently released De Père en Flic 2, are doing better business than Spider-Man and other high profile American franchise pictures. Reggo offered renewed hope that the industry can regain the market share it once had, up to 18% at one point.
By late July, De Père en Flic 2 picked up $3,251,576 in Quebec, $21,704 in English-speaking Canada for a total of $3,273,380. A few days later, after only three weeks of release, the movie upped the Quebec returns to over $4 million. Meanwhile, since its May release, Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 has earned $5,305,113 in Quebec, and $1,117,86 among Anglos for a total of $6,422,899
As for Denys Arcand’s take on the subject, the unfailingly calm, rational moviemaker said that despite the quality of Quebec filmmaking, a small industry with not many players can’t sustain record-breaking hit making. “There are good and bad years. But when the films are there, so are the audiences.”
De père en flic 2, follows up on the orginal film’s adversarial relationship between a father and a son. In that picture, Jacques Laroche (veteran Michel Côté) and his motor-mouthed son Marc (comedian Louis-José Houde) enrol in an explore-your-masculinity-and-resolve-your-issues therapy camp where most of the film’s yuks ensue.
The sequel opens on a Bond-esque action sequence involving Jacques and Marc. Soon they are yammering at each other in speedy dialogue that spins a lot of US street slang: “You chill. You not chill. Chill bro!”
Eventually, the sequel goes back to camp, this one for troubled couples. Why? Because a suspect Mafioso in a case the two cops have been tracking signed up with his beautiful girlfriend to resolve their relationship issues. Somehow our heroes can use couples therapy and their own relationship problems to catch the Mafia guy.
From this point on, the movie’s gags spring from the antics of the various cartoon couples – the horny couple, the earnest lesbian couple – and the often-absurd therapies. In what is essentially a sketch movie, partners “sculpt” each other into idealized poses like “My protectress.” They go bush primitive growling at their mates, reveal their inner selves through dance, and so on. Many scenes in what is at times a Survivor parody end in a fight. There’s plenty of Three Stooging around and lots of cock talk. Some sketches are funny, others less so.
Unlike Bon Cop Bad Cop 2, Émile Gaudreault’s De père en flic 2 mostly loses the cop story although it flips back into view at picture’s end.
From an underground, quasi-outlaw event that since 1996 has been offering bonafide movie thrills, chills, and also lots to think about, the Fantasia International Film Festival has achieved a level of respectability where Japanese Consul General in Montreal Hideaki Kuramitsu (pictured at right) introduced a fest highlight, Takeshi Miike’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. The wildly prolific (100 films at this point), and often wildly imaginative, Miike is a Fantasia god, beloved by fest regulars.
The JoJo opening night screening was typically ultra-hot. The sold-out audience was at full shriek of delight throughout the entirety of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, which Miike adapted from Hirohiko Araki’s crazed manga about teenagers overloaded with supernatural power and festooned with nutball hairdos.
Among the many other highlights, which included thirteen world premieres, my personal favourite was Ryan Prows’ Lowlife, blatantly Tarantino-esque in structure Lowlife, a film veering between hilarity and horror featuring among other vivid characters El Monstruo (Ricardo Adam Zarate), a courtly masked Mexican Luchidor hero reduced to working for a vicious pimp of kidnapped girls and trader of organs removed from bodies.
The instantly acclaimed Ghost and Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets also set off sparks. Fantasiacs rocked with Besson’s first foray into sci-fi since 1997’s The Fifth Element. A Seville Films release in Quebec, the movie bubbles with jukebox colours and striking effects, many of them created in Montreal by Rodeo FX. However, the derivative storyline and the tepid leads burden the picture. Rihanna’s dazzling shape-shifting alien should have been the lead.
A wide selection of Canadian films included a screening of Gilles Carle’s 1960’s era L’Ange et la femme, notorious when it was released because the sexplay between Carle’s former lover, Carole Laure and musician-actor Lewis Furey, who became the real-life man in her life.
Among Fantasia 2017’s special events, the festival honoured legendary indie genre director Larry Cohen, who shot fast, loose, and sometimes dangerously on movies like It’s Alive, about a monster baby and with an evocative score by Bernard Hermann.
At a screening of Steve Mitchell’s doc, King Cohen, Fantasia gave the writer-director-producer its Lifetime Achievement Award. Cohen’s buddy and favourite actor, Michael Moriarty, was onstage reminiscing about Cohen and joking with him. Cohen himself, once an aspiring stand-up comedian, was hilarious.
In another zone, Frontiers, the festival’s business side, which has helped to set up coproduction deals, ran various events and sessions, including “Meet the Sales Agents and Distributors.”
When Fantasia 2017 wrapped at the beginning of August, it had drawn 100,000 spectators to 220 screenings. There’s a special kind of intimacy and excitement to a specialized large-scale festival like Fantasia. There should be more of them.
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.