Generation Overshare comes to Quebec film

Two Quebec films each feature a young cast in a small-scale story that blends fiction and documentary, but with dramatically different approaches.

Les manèges humains

After two self-financed features, director Martin Laroche steps into the officially funded leagues with this film that still keeps the micro-budget spirit very much alive. Set at a fairground, the film starts off as a nominal documentary on the fairground crew, commissioned by the boss and shot by young midway employee Sophie (Marie-Evelyne Lessard). Sophie soon starts using her camera to ask more and more probing questions to her fellow employees, and eventually to reveal her own secrets.

The spoiler issue is one I keep coming back to again and again. When a film’s own press release gives away the plot’s major revelation, as it does in this case, is it fair game? I prefer to discover a film’s story by watching it, and I just assume that my readers feel the same way. Suffice to say that Laroche throws some major twists — and social issues — into the deceptively simple setup.

The whole “fake documentary” thing has become a bit problematic — done to death in TV comedy, not all that satisfying in and of itself in any genre. And while Laroche’s first twist is effectively dramatic, the second one requires a major leap of faith on the part of the viewer.

Still, the film boasts a brave, convincingly naturalistic cast, with a particularly moving and destabilizing performance from Lessard. And Laroche definitely has the courage of his convictions, pushing viewers into uncomfortable territory and keeping them there.



In an odd coincidence given their shared release date, the latest from Rafaël Ouellet has several points in common with Les manèges humains. Like Laroche, Ouellet also features a young cast in a small-scale story that blends fiction and documentary. But Ouellet’s approach is much more loose, meandering and abstract — and paradoxically, more satisfying.

Like his contemporaries Denis Côté and Stéphane Lafleur, Ouellet makes films that are minimal in style, set in rural or exurban areas and stubbornly resistant to easy interpretation. His characters (some of whom return from his even more abstract 2009 drama New Denmark) have just graduated from high school (the title means “grads”) in a small Quebec town. A couple of them decide to make a documentary about their friends, interviewing them about their plans for the future. The kids hang around, party, wander the town aimlessly.

Plot-wise, that’s about it. Ouellet goes back and forth between the young graduates’ documentary and their own story, often not really making a firm distinction between the two, and boldly disregards story conventions as he lets events unfold.

Whether you prefer Laroche’s take on the oversharing generation or Ouellet’s is really a matter of taste. Les manèges humains, for all its provocative content and style, plays to a contemporary audience’s need for shocking twists and hot-button topics. Finissant(e)s is more of a throwback to an old-fashioned art cinema mentality in which atmosphere matters more than plot. Ouellet’s approach is much harder to grasp, but also much more cinematic. ■

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