Still courtesy of TIFF.
The TIFF programming notes refers to the latest effort by prolific Quebecois director Denis Côté as his “most accessible” film ever. But as someone noted after the screening, statements like that always seem like shallow provocations in Canadian cinema, where even “commercial” films by heavies like Guy Maddin go largely unseen. And anyway, “accessible” is the wrong word to qualify Côté’s Curling, even if its assorted ambiguities and loose ends are a bit easier to digest than something like last year’s Carcasses. “Austere” may be a better word. Or “powerful.” Or even “superb.”
Set in a frostbitten small town just a short drive from Montreal, Curling stars an intense Emmanuel Bilodeau as Jean-François, a tight-lipped, inauspicious handyman who works at a deserted motel, and moonlights at a five-pin bowling alley. Jean-François’s antipathy towards the outside world has been foisted onto his young daughter, the blank-eyed Julyvonne (Philomène Bilodeau, Emmanuel’s own flesh and blood). Julyvonne does not attend school, cannot calculate simple math, and has no real friends. The bulk of her free time seems spent dining silently her father, awkwardly grooving to Tiffany jams, and lying in the woods behind their house in the company of a pile of frozen corpses.
As for Jean-François, the cracks in his unsmiling Gary Cooper–ish persona begin to show, as he fantasizes about winning curling matches and abandons his daughter for a brief soul-searching sojourn. Curling is a major film, its initial abstruseness effaced by Côté’s immaculately precise mise-en-scène. Like so many of Côté’s films, it’s a stirring portrait of life on the margins.
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