humanist vampire seeking consenting suicidal person FNC review

FNC Reviews: Misfit vampires, gourmet food, awkward teens and more

Quebec horror-comedy Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person, Juliette Binoche and Benoît Magimel in The Taste of Us, When Adam Changes and Between Revolutions.

The 52nd edition of Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma runs from Oct. 4 to 15. 

The Taste of Things 

The Taste of Things (directed by Trần Anh Hùng)

In a French countryside kitchen, meats are braised, sauces are prepared and vegetables are chopped. Soft gold light fills the space, and conversation serves food preparation. The Taste of Things, Trần Anh Hùng’s latest film, depicts a season in the lifetime of a gourmet named Dodin (Benoît Magimel) and his long-time chef Eugenie (Juliette Binoche). They have a ritualistic lifestyle built around an enormous kitchen. Flavours and smells envelope the space, their sensuality evoked through careful focus on detail and the tender intersection of movement, tradition and attention. As Eugenie prepares a feast for Dodin and his collective of gourmets, a doctor arrives — late from delivering a baby — and evokes the newborn’s first suckle at the breast as the first meal. It is a poetic bookend to a film where food, love and death intersect in a quiet but no less passionate dance of emotions and sensations.

The Taste of Things might not represent a new kind of cinema, but it is a confident outing that defies the expected ebbs and flows of narrative storytelling. It’s a movie about a deep love between two people with a shared passion for food that draws on the intricate dramas of life and death rather than more intrusive narrative conflict. The chemistry between Magimel and Binoche is palpable; Magimel, always a good actor, has reached new heights in recent years as his boyish prettiness has faded. A lived-in richness to his performance reflects, as one character observes, that one can’t be a true gourmet before the age of 40. Binoche, a scintillating presence, anchors the movie in a carnality that speaks to cinema’s power to suggest the unseen. The Taste of Things evokes a deep romanticism that we rarely see in contemporary cinema, patient and tender, that speaks equally to the beauty and tragedy of the finite. (Justine Smith)

The Taste of Things screens at Cinéma Imperial (1430 Bleury) on Oct. 12, 6 p.m. The film will be released in Montreal theatres on Nov. 10. 

When Adam Changes 

When Adam Changes (Dir. Joel Vaudreuil)

Teenagers often bear the weight of words and the sting of ridicule, but for Adam, it’s a whole new level. Imagine this: your grandma’s parting words centre on your “long torso,” and suddenly, your torso embarks on a spontaneous growth spurt. That’s the reality for Adam. Every time someone makes a negative comment about his body, Adam’s body changes a little bit. However, this isn’t just some bizarre, body-morphing comedy; it’s a wild journey through the wacky, perplexing and uproarious universe of late ’90s Quebec teenage life.

Joël Vaudreuil’s feature debut as a director, When Adam Changes (Adam change lentement), is a quirky gem that navigates the absurdities of adolescence. It’s akin to reliving your own awkward teen years, replete with unattainable crushes, poolside parties and existential dilemmas. Vaudreuil’s astute animation lens captures the cruelty that often accompanies teenage existence, yet beneath it all, there’s a stream of humour that keeps you chuckling. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill coming-of-age tale — it’s a rib-tickling, heartfelt voyage through the eccentric and enchanting realm of adolescence, sprinkled with a touch of visual whimsy. Vaudreuil didn’t just make me watch, he made me genuinely connect with Adam and the characters inhabiting this bizarre yet strangely familiar world, making me feel like part of that universe.

This film about a malleable teenager left an indelible mark on me. The filmmaker adeptly treads the fine line between irony and sincerity. His command of the absurd is commendable, as is the meticulousness and precision of his artistic approach. With authentic, heartfelt humour, When Adam Changes made me cringe, laugh and almost cry, rightfully earning its place in my heart. (Chico Peres Smith)

When Adam Changes screens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) on Oct. 6, 7 p.m. (with the cast and crew in attendance) and again on Oct. 9, 4 p.m.

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

humanist vampire seeking consenting suicidal person
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person

In her feature debut, Quebec filmmaker Ariana Louis-Seize brings a surprisingly fresh take on the vampire mythos to the screen. Sasha (Sara Montpetit), a young vampire, has a traumatic birthday after her family consumes her birthday entertainment, and as a result, she vows never to kill a human. Because she’s daddy’s little girl, Sasha’s father decides to accommodate her strange quirk and supply her with blood bags until her family has had enough. She’s forced to live with her cousin and start hunting. Sasha meets the young, suicidal Paul (Félix-Antoine Bénard) at a depressive/suicidal anonymous meeting and generously offers himself as a victim. Funny and surprisingly tender, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person transcends its one-joke premise by carefully balancing dark comedy and a remarkably tender perspective on depression.

While far from as caustic as Ginger Snaps, the movie reaches for a similar demographic of goth-adjacent teens who feel alienated and isolated from their peers. The film taps into a genuine adolescent angst rooted in an inability and unwillingness to follow social expectations. As its characters search for meaning and hope, they find solidarity through mutual respect and contempt for convention. Set mostly at night, the film glows with soft-focused coloured lights, streets that radiate with fresh rain and a keen musical sensibility. Brimming with larger-than-life characters and exploding with absurdity, the film is endlessly charming and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

While it will likely feel like the film is treading familiar emotional beats for older audiences, overall, Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person feels fresh and exciting. In her third starring role, after Maria Chapdelaine and Falcon Lake, it also feels like Sara Montpetit is destined for stardom — she’s a vibrant and unusual screen presence. As Sasha, she zeroes in on small details and gestures to create a singular and memorable character. (Justine Smith)

Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person screens at Cinéma Imperial (1430 Bleury) on Oct. 10, 7 p.m and (with cast and crew in attendance) at Cinéma Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Oct. 12, 6:30 p.m.

Between Revolutions 

Between Revolutions (directed by Vlad Petri)

Blurring the line between fiction and documentary, Between Revolutions imagines the correspondence between two women, the Romanian Maria and Iranian Zahra, who met in the 1970s at the University of Bucharest. They part ways and begin writing letters to each other about their lives and the conditions of living in different but similarly patriarchal, oppressive regimes. An archival film using documentary footage from respective countries, we witness history through a new, poetic lens. An extraordinary feat of research and editing, director Vlad Petri achieves an almost voyeuristic intimacy as he marries a yearning for freedom and change through the revolutionary images we see onscreen, with the longing expressed in the film’s voice-over. 

Based in part on actual letters and writing from women, Between Revolutions reframes history through a feminine perspective, as it also imagines how age, experience and disappointment shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. The hopeful expectations of youth face off against increasingly frustrating realities that the more things change, the less they do. Yet, despite the carnage of disappointment both women face, their shared love helps push them through. While we often see revolutionary struggles as isolated, the situation in Iran and Romania is so apparently different the film draws them into a collective effort toward liberation. The film works best in broad strokes and relies heavily on the power of its documentary images. Though the narration is sometimes less effective than it ought to be, the overall experience is inspiring and melancholic. (Justine Smith)

Between Revolutions screens at Cinéma Quartier Latin (350 Émery) on Oct. 6, 6:45 p.m and again on Oct. 8, 1 p.m. Director Vlad Petri will be in attendance. 

For the complete Festival du Nouveau Cinéma program, please click here.

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