The film’s francophone protagonist (Emmanuel Schwartz) moves into a new apartment in the East end, and almost instantly notices his new neighbour. Jay (Jade HassounÃ©) is a young student completely unlike the lanky Louis. He’s outgoing, seems happy, and he’s anglo.
Louis skirts the edge of madness as his life occasionally brushes with Jay’s, leading to a tragic, messy end.
The directors’ fondness of letting the camera slowly roll forever forces us to witness large swathes of Louis’ life, as awkward and naked as they may be. Audiences at Laurentie‘s world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic are reputed to have laughed at the many strange moments, to the dismay of the filmmakers.
The movie conveys scenes likely familiar to Montrealers: kicking down construction pylons in a fit of drunken anger near Place-des-Arts, trying on ill-fitting clothing in an alien American Apparel outlet, staring into the void while waiting for the metro.
But no matter how much we see, we’re still pretty much shut out from what’s inside Louis’ troubled mind, except for the poems written large on the screen. Louis is reading a collection of Quebecois poetry, and the works of writers like Anne HÃ©bert and Hubert Acquin enlighten us to his despair.
These poems, coupled with the film’s title, speak to Louis’ nationalism. Laurentie was the romantic name nationalists in the ’30s and ’50s hoped to pin on an independent Quebec. And when Louis escapes Montreal, it’s to the green countryside, to visit his pure laine family in a house with the Quebec flag outside, and eat some of his mom’s rhubarb pie.
I’d like to characterize the movie as the province’s cinematic homage to Albert Camus’ existentialist triumph L’Ã‰tranger. But while the film might mirror some themes and the plot, it delves smartly into French Canadians’ fear of the otherâ€”anglophones and allophones.
Beneath the sketchily drawn diversity of our province, there is and probably will always be an anglo-franco divide.
Laurentie is far from digestible, homegrown bilingual films like French Immersion and Bon Cop, Bad Cop: it’s self-loathing, critical art house in all its slow-moving, sweaty, upsetting glory.
Laurentie screens at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema on Oct. 13 at 1 p.m and Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. at CinÃ©ma ParallÃ¨le. The 40th edition of the festival runs Oct. 12-23. For more info, hit up www.nouveaucinema.ca.
Correction: The original version of this article attributed Albert Camus’ L’Etranger to a different author. The Concordian regrets this error.