It's Not Me I Swear! Philippe Falardeau

It's Not Me I Swear! Philippe Falardeau
It's Me I Swear sits somewhere between Crazy and A No Hit No Run Summer, two other semi-autobiographical French-Canadian films about kids coming of age in the '60s/'70s. What makes this time so nostalgic for Quebecers? It was a golden era for La Belle Province, a time of economic prosperity, cultural and political action, and with Expo '67 and the Olympics, world exposure. Filmmakers in their prime creative years are now at the right age to put these stories to screen. Léon Doré (Antoine L'Écuyer), stepping out of the Antoine Doinel (The 400 Blows) school of youthful malfeasance, is a mother's nightmare, a 12-year-old introduced trying to hang himself from a tree. This will be a hellfire summer for Léon of lying, cheating and shit disturbing just about everyone that comes across his path. When his neighbours leave town for vacation, Léon proceeds to break into their house and leave an impressive warpath of destruction, destroying and defiling everything he can find. What's eating Léon? His mother (Suzanne Clément), after years of bickering, abandons the family for Greece, leaving his father Philippe (Daniel Brière) to reconcile Léon's grief. His anger boils over with more destructive behaviour and suicide attempts. Did I mention this is a comedy? The production is handsome, everything looks and sounds great, and all the performances are believable and fantastic. So why was I left empty and unsatisfied? Celebrated director Philippe Falardeau (Congorama) lets us know he's at the helm of this picture; it has that auteur director's stamp on it, which makes us aware at all times that we're watching a movie. The destructive nihilism and suicide attempts have that familiar funny/shocking tone of other "edgy" independent comedies. Stylistically, Falardeau is kept in check until the third act when Léon breaks the fourth wall and starts talking to the camera. A great, but out of place, Sigur Rós tune, fresh from the filmmaker's iPod, punctuates a beautiful slow-motion shot of a man bowling — another familiar motif of indie-hip cinema. It all adds up to emptiness and detachment. We're constantly looking for some truth, and we're continually distracted with quirky flourishes. There's a wonderful and thoughtful, if not overly romantic, pre-pubescent love story with Léon and his equally displaced and distraught neighbour Lea (Catherine Faucher). It's the most interesting aspect of the film, but it's a relationship handled with more truth and honesty in Ingrid Veninger and Simon Reynolds' no-budgeter Only. In the light of the new trend toward minimalism in indie film, It's Not Me I Swear, like the recent films of Wes Anderson, feels half-a-decade out of date and would have made a great film in 2004. The DVD contains a "making of" doc, original audition tapes of young Mr. L'Ecuyer and a few trailers, all en Français. (E1)