(In-flight, August 2010) I want a lot of people to see The Trotsky. It’s pleasant enough to discover a quirky comedy with wit and brainy allusions; but it’s even better when you realize that it has been filmed less than 200km away. So it is that the cheerfully Montréal-based The Trotsky is a comedy starring a young intellectual convinced that he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky, fated to recreate his namesake’s biography. Hailing from the privileged ranks of Montréal Anglophones, our hero tries to organize workers at his father’s factory and ends up at a public school where he eventually leads a student revolution. The film is too long for its own good and takes a while to truly spark up, but when it’s good –it’s great. Jay Baruchel turns in one of his best performances yet as the Trotsky-obsessed hero, but he’s surrounded by capable actors (among them Liane Balaban, Geneviève Bujold, Colm Feore and Saul Rubinek) who each get a shining moment or two. The film is deep in historical allusions, but the script by Jacob Tierney (who also directs) is kind enough to let in most viewers on the jokes. The rest of The Trotsky doesn’t hesitate to tackle subversive issues of popular rights and authoritarian exploitation, making it a crowd favourite for anyone looking for high-school comedies with more ambitious goals than usual. The added bonus as far as I’m concerned is that the film is pure Montréal (down to familiar police cruisers) and highlights why it’s such a great city: The freedom to discuss social issues, the endearing mixture of French and English, the European influences in a North-American urban setting… it’s all there, and it couldn’t have been highlighted in a better showcase.
(Second viewing, on DVD, April 2011) I like the film even more after a second viewing: It’s fresh, funny, clever and endearing at once. The director and editor’s commentary track shows that the filmmakers fully intended the film’s political content (director Tierney has an… interesting background), and their anecdotes about how the film was shot are interesting. The making-of featurette is a bit thin, but the various deleted scenes each get a chuckle or two.