CONTINENTAL, A FILM WITHOUT GUNS (Stéphane LaFleur). 105 minutes. Subtitled. Screens Friday to Wednesday (February 29 to March 5) at the Royal. Rating: N
Stories about drab lives drably told rarely make for an interesting movie. You can either call it the depressing product of a depressed mind and walk out or sacrifice pleasure for seriousness of purpose. Continental, A Film Without Guns could elicit either approach.
An ordinary businessman gets off a bus and walks into the woods, never to be seen again. His wife grieves. The guy who gets his job selling life insurance misses his own wife and kids. The young woman who staffs the hotel where the insurance salesman stays is so lonely that she leaves answering machine messages for herself. An old second-hand store owner contemplates dentures. People brush their teeth, make phone calls, step out for a smoke.
Attempts at connection and enjoyment fail. Tedium reigns, broken only by a dropped-baby moment so jarring that it feels like it’s from another mo-vie. It happens offscreen. No liveliness allowed here.
With dreary lighting, images of the old and ill and a squared-off, locked-down camera, first-feature writer/director Stéphane LaFleur presents a vision of life as an empty wait for death. But, no, at the last minute, LaFleur hints at some relief in the form of companionship, or maybe just getting laid. Whatever, it stays offscreen.
Continental won best first Canadian feature at last year’s Toronto Film Fest. One more example of people thinking realism is more than just another form of stylization.