Published Feb 29, 2008Many Canadian films strive for the po-mo alienation of European and Asian models, and most of them are so grindingly earnest in their imitations that they fall flat on their faces. But Stephane Lafleurs Continental, A Film Without Guns is that rare home-grown film that can be mentioned in the same breath with its antecedents without stretching the truth.
A sort of cross between Roy Andersson and Tsai Ming-liang, it starts with the disappearance of a middle-aged Montrealer and then leapfrogs from there to his bereft, bewildered wife, an electronics-repair shop owner deep in debt, a lonely hotel concierge without much of a life and a handsome salesman selling bad insurance to people who dont need it.
Lafleurs micro-managed mise-en-scène catches these people in the act of their mundane existence and embarrassment, making them vaguely comical and deeply melancholy at the same time. The tone is certainly sad but gentle and sympathetic enough not to wipe you out with desolation.
Its a sustained aesthetic effort that doesnt cop out or take shortcuts to an effect and best of all, it isnt fronting the petty moralism that mars so many Canadian films. Far from being punished for some kind of real or imagined sin, the hapless losers of Continental are merely victims of modern living, trapped inside their suburban boxes on a planet that doesnt notice them.
Simple in synopsis but hugely intelligent in execution, its a movie that sneaks up on you and by the end, these drolly disaffected people have surprised you with the impact they make just by going about their confused business. This is a solid flick, and not just by CanCon standards. (Christal)