Mars et Avril
Directed by Martin Villeneuve
With his bold, breathtaking big screen debut, Martin Villeneuve has proven himself a vital new voice for intelligent and emotional science fiction. Based on his graphic novels, Mars et Avril is a stunning accomplishment, not just for a first-time filmmaker, but for the genre, and especially for a project with such a modest budget. Its distinct visual grandeur is matched (and surpassed) only by the boundless creativity and thoughtfulness of the story — this is a piece of motion art absolutely brimming with ideas. In a future Montreal, designed to reflect the inevitable evolution of ridiculous fashion among the insecure inhabitants of urban centres (not unlike The Fifth Element, but more naturalistic and wild at the same time), a famous elderly musician and his young instrument designer both develop an infatuation for a pretty photographer named Avril (Caroline Dhavernas, Wonderfalls). Inspired and moved by the unique music of Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand), Avril attempts to arrange a meeting with the enigmatic sound artist, only to be blocked by Arthur (Paul Ahmarani), ostensibly to preserve the jazz icon's mystique, but in actuality to protect his unwavering commitment to his craft from distractions of the flesh. Slyly, Avril convinces Arthur to model for her photography project on vacuums, stripping him naked and having him deliver a monologue to empty himself of pent-up emotions while the camera captures his "truth," in exchange for modeling his next instrument design — each design is based on a human shape and Jacob seems to use a new instrument for every performance. While her camera occupies Arthur, Avril sneaks off to intercept Jacob post-show. An unusual love triangle emerges, addressing the unpredictable forms love and lust take, and how those turbulent emotions influence art. Meanwhile, the first manned expedition to Mars is proceeding in the background and Villeneuve cleverly uses the exploration of uncharted territory, through elegant editing and thematic juxtaposition, to mirror the sexual awakening of Jacob, who, despite his reputation, has only ever explored sensuality through the vibrating frequencies of sound waves prior to encountering Avril. A fascinating subplot involving Arthur's father (Robert Lepage does the talking, Jean Asselin does the walking — you'll understand when you see it), a cosmologist and inventor so afraid of the rapid acceleration of time that he transferred his mind to a virtual construct, deftly ties into the main story, offering heady philosophical postulations on the nature of reality as it pertains to how the external is manifested by the internal. That's still only scratching the surface of a brilliant, beautifully shot story that holds up music and science as practical measures of the sacred and divine. Unfortunately for those of us who let our grasp of the French language lapse post-high school, the special features are only available in Villeneuve's native tongue. "L'Experience Mars et Avril" appears to be a highly detailed look at the film's production, while "Capsules Web" looks like a series of redundant promo segments. "Creation des Effets Visuels" is an entirely visual breakdown of the impressive layering used to create the rich environments and "Images du Futur" is a concept art gallery. Lastly, "Brainstorming Avec Francois Schuiten" is a commentary track with the accomplished Belgian comic artist who contributed to the film's brilliant art design. Regardless of whether or not you're linguistically equipped to absorb the bonus content, Mars et Avril is an absolute must-see for viewers more interested in engaging with thought-provoking concepts than passively watching generic linear action unfold.
March 23, 2013Nicole Dumais17829