Wednesday, June 21, 2006
#6 [tie] (Film in Review 2005)
Every year, after assembling and putting to rest my top ten for what transpired cinematically during the previous twelve-month calender, I always encounter a film released during that same time-frame that sends me back to the drawing board. Back in March, I knew I would regret counting down my 2005 list without having screened Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. (#6 - tie); clearly, I should have listened to myself and sought out the film immediately. The film, which tracks the highs and (mostly) lows of a Québécois family from 1960 to the early '80s, was the most honoured Canadian film released last year (it won a whopping 11 Genies). Aside from the frustrating task of having to now assign it a placement somewhere on this already jam-packed list, I am quite pleased to have finally encountered and embraced this magical, immensely personal treat. Although I have often stated that Noah Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale hit home harder than any other last year (Ali = Frank), this one is perhaps even more reflective of my life. In fact, watching the opening moments - in which a young, sensitive Zachary is chastised and belittled by his terrified father for behaving like a "fairy" - was akin to watching an eerie recreation of my childhood. It was not altogether a pleasant experience, although C.R.A.Z.Y. is thankfully not all morose and self-pitying as a coming-of-age story. In fact, like Baumbach's film, director Jean-Marc Vallée is always eager to present the flipside of the situation, unearthing macabre hilarity behind the sadness and family breakdown. Furthermore, C.R.A.Z.Y. thankfully foregoes exploring Zachary's formative years exclusively by way of his confused sexual identity, but through various lenses (religion, notions of proper masculine behaviour, nationality, the evolution of music and more).
Aside from the added layers of reading Zachary's relationship with his father in a national context (Quebec in relation to Canada as a whole), the film is just fun overall. Vallée's approach is anything but muted or straightforward; rather, he infuses the frame with a vibrant colour palette, including fantastic fantasy sequences and rich musical numbers. Indeed, the film's soundtrack is one of its many pleasures, presenting Bowie and Pink Floyd in a manner that makes them feel new and alive, as if one was hearing the tracks for the first time. The screenplay, also by Vallée, is inventive and witty (surprising, considering the familiar subject matter); although it occasionally falls back on a contrived moment here or there, such missteps are easily forgivable. Why? Because overall, C.R.A.Z.Y. is such a glorious, superbly-crafted ride. Like the best films about family, there are no attempts to gloss over pain and guilt, or (on the other hand) superficially tackle grief and resentment. It is interesting how my favourite films of 2005 all focus around the family - The Best of Youth, A History of Violence, The Squid and the Whale, Pride and Prejudice - in all their charms and flaws. This film beautifully encapsulates how we all function in relation to our loved ones: family members often drive us a little "crazy", but would we really trade them for anyone else? Because sometimes, they often surprise us with a display of love and acceptance we never thought possible...