Philly Fest Report: The Far Side of the Moon

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor

Got a little bit of time to fill here between screenings so I figured I'd hop online and throw down a couple words about this morning's screening, Robert Lepage's The Far Side of the Moon. I'm tempted to go off on a rant about the irony of someone from Toronto needing to go to Philadelphia to see a Canadian film but suffice it to say that the Canadian film industry is mighty screwed up when a film this good has virtually no chance of ever being widely screened outside of Quebec ...

The Far Side of the Moon follows Phillipe, a forty year old Quebec man dealing with the recent death of his mother as well as having his doctoral thesis rejected for a second time. He is the classic trod upon man, his mother gone, his brother estranged, his academic work neglected, no close friends, and a a menial job as a telemarketer for a major newspaper. Yep, it's a middle aged ennui film but Lepage elevates it well beyond the norm for this type of thing.

Director / writer / star Lepage has roots in experimental theater and it comes through loud and clear with his inventive staging and his marked preference for making transitions on screen using pans to move between wildly diverse settings and time periods seamlessly rather than using more conventional cutting techniques. He fuses old stock footage - dominantly lifted from the space race broadcasts of the sixties and seventies - effortlessly with his own footage to create a visual map of Phillipe's mind and emotional state. It is a beautiful film on a structural level, filled with all sorts of little visual tricks and fantastic images to keep your eye dancing.

But it is also more than that ... Lepage's performance as both Phillipe and his estranged brother Andre is strong with both characters well written and carrying a good bit of depth. The script deals with loss and hope - that last bit primarily through a video Phillipe shoots hoping that the SETI project will broadcast it into space - and does both remarkably well. While it does dip into the famous French sense of despair and insecurity it is also a remarkably confident film and frequently laugh out loud funny in an absurdist sort of way. Call Lepage a slightly more mainstream version of Winnepeg's Guy Maddin and you're not too far off ...

So, I'm four for four so far. Four screenings, and not a dog amongst them. Three more to go later today ...

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