On The Verge of a Fever (John L'Ecuyer). 88 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (April 29) at Camera Bar. See Indie & Rep film listings, page 117. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Sometimes artifice is the most natural way to solve a narrative problem. For example, when you're making a carefully literary adaptation of a novel in which the protagonist, at the end of his struggles, is rewarded with a sense of irony, it's okay to get a little alienating.
In this case, said protagonist is 15-year-old Fanfan. Kept by his mother under virtual house arrest ever since his father's murder by the Tonton Macoute, he longs for escape but settles for the verse of Haitian poet Magloire Saint-Aude, vicarious thrills courtesy of his streetwise friend Gégé and wistful spying on his neighbour Miki and her gun moll friends. After an accidental run-in with a government thug, a few days of adventure against the backdrop of the Duvalier dictatorship make Fanfan a man.
John L'Ecuyer keeps it all at a cool distance in his version of Dany Laferrière 's novel Le Goût Des Jeunes Filles . Backstory that would make for clunky dialogue is, instead, delivered by secondary characters in dramatic monologue that's half voice-over; Fanfan the adult and Fanfan the child often repeat the same highly metaphorical narration. The story is punctuated by poetry typed across the screen. It's a showy style, but not gratuitously so. All L'Ecuyer's devices ground things in a register of wry reminiscence. Like A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man, with guns.