Thursday, April 9, 2015

A Must-See: Gurov and Anna

The films of Rafaël Ouellet are sad. In them the world is grim and people aren’t happy. This is a given. If the working class characters in Camion were depressed then Gurov and Anna can reassure us that the middle class also has its problems. It’s about an English professor Ben who, obsessed with Chekhov’s The Lady with the Dog, decides to have an affair with one of his students Mercedes. If this story of a perverted old creep trying to get with one of his students sounds familiar it’s since it is. Gurov and Anna especially recalls the chamber dramas of a Bergman or an Allen. Luckily there’s more to it. The filmmaking and its atmosphere are exceptional. Ouellet is able to transcend some of the film’s clichés to get at the heart of things and to the human condition. Seeing Ben slowly loose control of his life and have his wife and lover, who become better writers than he is, leave him touches upon the frailty and vulnerability of modern masculinity. There is a side Winter Sleep to Gurov and Anna. When Ben walks around Montreal in his awkward winter coat and hat, creeping around street corners there is an air of Nosferatu about him. But what's especially noteworthy is Sophie Desmarais as Mercedes. It’s a complex role and Desmarais gives her depth. Her sweet and artistic air within a confusing and troubling modern life in Montreal especially recalls the earlier Carole Laure performances in the films of Gilles Carle. There’s a couple of great scenes of Desmarais on a stage at a café reading some Checkov. She gives the words a whole new meaning through her interpretation and emphasis. If Québécois cinema already has its musicians (Stéphane Lafleur), Hollywood types (Jean-Marc Vallée), and outsiders (Denis Côté) then with Gurov and Anna Rafaël Ouellet places himself as one of its foremost playwright director.

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