Parallel Worlds

in 28th Toronto International Film Festival

by Luc Chaput

2003 has been thus far a banner year for Quebec films especially with the success in Cannes and in Toronto of Denys Arcand’s “Les Invasions Barbares” and with the box office results of “Séraphin”, “La Grande Séduction” and other “Mambo Italiano” which helped the Quebec movies garner 18% of that province’s box office while in the rest of Canada,Canadian movies get only about 2% of those revenues.

One of the Quebec movies which premiered in this festival was “La face cachée de la lune” ( The Far Side of the Moon) by Robert Lepage. In this, his fifth feature as a film drector, this Quebec theatre director, actor, writer and former whiz kid adapts his eponymous one man show/play. As often in his work in theatre or in film, “La face cachée” is about memory, about duality, creating links between different worlds and also revisiting his home town yet again as he did in his first movie “Le Confessional”, Quebec City. Robert Lepage was born there in 1957, the year the space race began with the launch of the first Sputnik. Here Lepage explores the difficult relationship between two brothers (both of whom he plays), one a succesful tv meteorologist, the other a student in his 40s, still writing his philosophy of science doctoral thesis, postulating that space exploration is a form of narcissism. The mirror effect of Lepage playing both main characters parallels the scientific competition during the Cold War between the USA and the USSR. The film succeeds in conveying a lot of information on that rivalry in an imaginative way, in startling images using the similarity of shapes between the round windows of a clothesdryer and of a spacecraft and between a fishbowl and an astronaut’s helmet, paying tribute along the way to the efforts of Alexei Leonov and other unjustly forgotten scientists.

The director also employs friends, members of his usual group of actors like Anne-Marie Cadieux to play important characters succeeding in mixing emotion and laughter in many scenes. The tone is at times sarcastic, in one instance self-ironic about new media considering that the movie was shot in High Definition and produced independently, without government subsidies, by Lepage and Daniel Langlois, the former CGI whizkid.

This film by Robert Lepage is thus an affirmation of the artist as an explorer of possible worlds, past, present and future.