Northern Gothic romance, teen pranks and a fucktopus at the FNC

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mean-dreams

Mean Dreams

The Festival du nouveau cinéma is happening at various Montreal theatres through Oct. 16.

Mean Dreams

Sometimes expectations can get the best of you. Hearing that Nathan Morlando’s Mean Dreams was a rural crime film, I expected a kind of tight, pressure-cooker thriller — the type of film that, you’ll recall, is extremely my shit. That’s not what Mean Dreams actually is — it’s a more delicately paced, less-than-brutal fable, a Northern Gothic love story that perhaps doesn’t satisfy in as primal a way as I’d hoped, but still has a lot to recommend it.

Casey (Sophie Nélisse) moves with her cop father (Bill Paxton) to a remote country home in a small town on the Great Lakes. Her neighbour Jonas (Josh Wiggins) is immediately taken with the new girl next door, but the time he spends with her takes away from the time he spends working on the farm for his overworked father (Joe Cobden). Casey’s father soon reveals himself to be a real corrupt shitstain of a cop and a pretty bad dad, as evidenced both by his beating of Casey and his trigger-happy participation in a drug deal gone bad that results in Jonas covertly getting his hands on a bag containing a little less than $1-million. Convinced he needs to get Casey away from her abusive father, the two hit the road.

I have to say I’m still not entirely convinced by the first half-hour of the film, which speeds through the early friendship/courtship with lots of corny shorthand (Jonas’s dad is literally a disapproving, overall-wearing farmer; the relationship evolves in a quite literal montage of frolicking), but as the film finds its groove, Morlando also finds a peculiar and singular mood for it, hovering optimistic love story and muddy thriller. The script doesn’t take this anywhere we don’t expect it to go, but Mean Dreams remains a satisfying watch.

Mean Dreams screens at Cinéma du Parc (3575 Parc) today, Friday, Oct 14., 3 p.m. Mean Dreams is set for a theatrical release on Oct. 21.

Prank

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It’s a pretty standard filmmaker instinct to reflects their own adolescence in their work, in direct contrast to all of the other films out there that don’t reflect your own experience. The problem is, there are nearly as many films about teenagers as there are specific teenage experiences, and you can’t please all of the people all of the time. I suspect that much of this film’s audience will find the dopey teens in Vincent Biron’s debut insufferable — but I can’t, because I don’t remember a film that so closely mirrored my own experience.

Martin (Alexandre Lavigne) and Jean-Sé (Simon Pigeon) are a couple of lanky, lackadaisical suburban stoners who spend most of their days devising elaborate pranks that they then film and put on YouTube, sometimes accompanied by Martin’s cool-girl girlfriend Léa (Constance Massicotte). When they find themselves without a phone one day, they enlist the help of dorky, friendless Stéfie (Étienne Galloy), who adapts rather harshly to the new social order as the butt of Martin’s jokes and Léa’s moon-eyed not-so-secret admirer.

Biron captures the existential boredom of being forced to fuck around all the time without actually making a slow or ponderous film. Prank is tight and often hilarious, centred around the titular pranks which are the only times the filmmakers escape the central four to give us context on the pranked. At only 78 minutes, one wishes there were a few more of these inspired prank sequences, but the film nevertheless weaves an interesting (if not exactly original) coming-of-age story.

As I mentioned, I see a lot of myself in both the dorky Stéfie and the passionate-but-lazy Jean-Sé — the scene where Jean-Sé “forces” his friends to see a Béla Tarr movie that only he actually wants to see may have given me PTSD. As I said, it’s possible you’ll find this insufferable — it must be nice never to have entertained yourself by egging a dude or shitting on a car. Must. Be. Nice.

Prank screens at the Imperial (1430 Bleury) today, Friday, Oct. 14, 9:30 p.m. Prank is set for a theatrical release on Oct. 28.

The Untamed

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Angel (Jesus Meza) and Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) are a married couple whose love life has seen better days — with two young sons, they’ve essentially become colleagues in the game of life. Angel has taken to an affair with Alejandra’s doctor brother Fabian (Eden Villavicencio), who himself is beginning a friendship with an awkward patient named Veronica (Simone Bucio). Veronica introduces Fabian to a mysterious octopus that lives in a basement out in the country; a space alien designed, apparently, to give ultimate and complete sexual pleasure above all else.

The great thing about The Untamed is that, yes, the fucktopus at its centre is very much a metaphor — a way to explore our relationship to sex and our expectations of a partner — but it’s also very much a literal fucktopus that uses its phallic tentacles to give unbridled pleasure. Director Amat Escalante has taken a hell of a gamble here by centering an otherwise grounded drama against a fantastical concept right out of the murkiest corners of Japanese anime. It pays off, giving a fantastical and disturbing angle to a story that otherwise dips into soap opera periodically. Escalante has drawn comparison to Zulawski (well, specifically to Zulawski’s Possession, which also deals with matters of creature-based sexual antics) but The Untamed is more than just imitation.

(It’s also worth a look simply so you can try to explain it to someone who hasn’t seen it, which has been my favourite pastime this week.)

The Untamed screens at the Imperial (1430 Bleury) tomorrow, Saturday, Oct 15, 1 p.m.

Tickets cost $13/$9 for students, seniors & all afternoon screenings/$11 with Accès Montréal card. For passes and group rates, look here.

See our festival highlights here.

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