The 22nd annual Montreal documentary film festival RIDM (Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal) runs through Nov. 24. Here are reviews of three films screening today.
There’s always something a little dicey about reviewing or even having opinions about posthumous film release. Even if the film was completed exactly as the filmmaker intended, is it truly their work? Michka Saäl died in 2017 with her film Les aventuriers, shot in 2013, unfinished. With funding finally in place for completion, the film finally makes it to screens at RIDM this year. Les aventuriers is a portrait of three Montreal-adjacent eccentrics: Michel, a garbage picker and self-described “chinneux” who lives entirely off fixing and selling things he finds in the garbage (you may have stumbled upon his garage sales, in an alley just off of St-Viateur); Daniel Guidi, a French-Italian octogenarian who has always had parallel careers in industrial illustration and painting (his wife Isabelle, who’s just about to turn 100, also features prominently), and Victor Junior Roberge, a barista who moonlights as a drag queen and whose parents have, perhaps, more trouble accepting than they’re willing to admit.
It’s unclear what, if anything, ties these three men together in Saäl’s mind. The film plays out in three distinct chunks, with only the fact that Guidi likes to buy junk from flea markets serving as a bridge between two stories. The lack of a thesis (these men, while eccentric, are pretty massively different) is probably the biggest knock against an otherwise compelling portrait of people who are just slightly marginal, people who don’t seem to exist in their own world or even on the periphery of society, but seem to be forging their own path within it. There’s a great sensitivity and openness to the people interviewed (Guidi’s son, interviewed on-screen, is in fact the project’s cinematographer) that makes Les aventuriers an invaluable document — but of what, exactly, is less clear. (Alex Rose)
Les aventuriers screens at Cinémathèque québécoise (335 de Maisonneuve E.) on Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m. with producer Mark Foss in attendance.
Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema
Throughout the last weekend of RIDM, Mark Cousins’s 14-hour docu-series Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema will be split into numerous screenings. The movie, a reinterpretation of film history using only women directors, is divided into 40 chapters, and there’s little chance of “missing out” by missing a part of watching the sections out of order. Each section works as a standalone and indulges in the cinephilic pleasure of beautiful images and great cinematic discoveries.
More of an indulgence than an in-depth examination, the film isn’t a polemic or particularly political. There’s a dreaminess to the way it passively inquires as to why certain films or filmmakers are forgotten by time but very little in-depth analysis of conditions that might have contributed to the erasure of women’s voices in the retelling of film history. Cousins has an incredibly comprehensive knowledge of world cinema, though, so the scope of his road-trip extends far beyond the reaches of Hollywood and commercial filmmaking. The line-up of films is diverse and unexpected; a significant number have been forgotten by time. For viewers looking for new movies to discover, this is an excellent opportunity to expand your to-watch list. It is a film by cinephiles and for cinephiles and is the cinematic equivalent of a quiet seaside vacation. (Justine Smith)
Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema screens in five parts over the weekend. Visit the RIDM website for more information.
A Place of Tide and Time
Aude Leroux-Lévesque and Sébastien Rist’s A Place of Tide and Time turns its cameras to the ever-dwindling population of the Basse Côte-Nord, a spot on the St. Lawrence River so remote that only boats and planes can get to it. Work is scarce up there, meaning that the adults generally have to hustle or go work out of province, while the few children (the school in the town featured has 37 students) bide their time until they graduate — most will never come back to the Coast. The film centres around Ethan, a teenager whose looming graduation will almost certainly mean parting ways with his girlfriend Brittney and with the only life he’s ever known, and his uncle Garland, who has lived his whole life on the Coast, bouncing around between whatever jobs are available.
It’s no fault of the filmmakers, but a documentary about the same area played RIDM last year, which means that I was automatically less mind-blown by the experiences of the protagonists here. That having been said, A Place of Tide and Time is a pretty different movie from Les Coasters: its focus is tighter as it only follows a handful of characters and generally limits the talking head footage to three or four people throughout, and it’s a more deliberately paced, less densely informational documentary. Leroux-Lévesque and Rist take the time to show long sequences of protagonists fishing or attempting to get a motor back on a boat in the tradition of direct cinema; it’s more down-to-the-ground and molecular than Les Coasters but, like that film, it does the smart thing and leaves us wanting more. (AR)
A Place of Time and Tide screens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on Friday, Nov. 22, 5 p.m. with filmmakers in attendance.
See the complete RIDM program here.