Mars et Avril [Mars and April] (2012)

(In French, On Cable TV, December 2013) As a French-Canadian Science-fiction fan, shouldn’t I be thrilled to see a French-Canadian Science-fiction movie for once?  Well, putting aside the fact that there have been French-Canadian SF movies before (from 1989’s Dans le Ventre du Dragon to 2004’s Dans une Galaxie Près de Chez Vous (and sequel) to 2005’s Saints-Martyrs-des-Damnés to 2008’s Hunting Grounds, among others), I’m reminded of the old cynical observation about getting what you’d wished for: While Mars et Avril is, I think, the first decently-budgeted SF film to tackle a future vision of Montreal with the visual polish you’d expect from a modern SF film, it’s hobbled with a number of idiosyncratic ideas that don’t make sense.  It’s deeply weird even by the standards of the genre: whether it’s musicians playing instruments based on body parts, the worst set of teleportation engineering imaginable, musings on whether Mars is real or not, or a climax in which a character may or may not disappear in his own imagination, Mars et Avril benefits and suffers writer/director Martin Villeneuve’s strong artistic passions.  It frequently looks great, to the point where it’s hard to believe it was made with a budget barely above two million dollars, but it also exists in a dreamlike universe where it’s difficult to reconcile the film with reality as we know it.  From a boring hard-SF perspective, Mars et Avril is a string of nonsense loosely connected together, with dumb plot points, a non-cohesive vision of the future and a story that may best be described as fantastical rather than well-plotted.  On the other hand, I’m having a hard time working up more than a slight annoyance at the result.  Noted pop-philosopher Jacques Languirand is an inspired choice as the melancholic protagonist of the film, while there’s some good work by Paul Ahmarani and Robert Lepage in supporting roles.  The star, though, remains Martin Villeneuve: while I may not care for the haziness of his vision, he has managed to do what has eluded many French-Canadian filmmakers so far: he has put it up on-screen in all of its flawed glory, and dared everyone else to do as well as he did.  If nothing else, this makes Mars et Avril a landmark of sorts.  I just wish the next attempt at a big bold French-Canadian SF film will take place into something more closely approximating our own reality.

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