THE 4TH LIFE (François Miron). 88 minutes. Opens Friday (July 11). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
This 2006 feature debut from Montreal experimental filmmaker François Miron highlights the gorgeous, colour-saturated images for which he became known in his short films. Recalling David Lynch at his least obscure, The 4th Life tells a conventional story – obsessive love gone bad – in unconventional ways, playing with narrative structure, alternating different film stocks and juxtaposing surrealistic images with more straightforward shots.
The film stars Janet Lane as Marie, a woman with an abusive past stalked by a jealous former lover named Caz (Andrea Sheldon). Marie travels to Darckeville, a city decimated by eco-terrorists and apparently lacking in cellphone towers, in search of antiques, with Caz on her trail.
There’s no question Miron’s got a great eye – there’s an explosion near the end, for example, that’s pure visual poetry – but he lacks Lynch’s visual humour or knack for choosing talented actors. Lane, in particular, seems so uncomfortable that she’s rendered nearly catatonic, but both women suffer from a disturbing lack of affect.
Sadly for Miron, the indie surge of the mid-to-late 90s led commercial filmmakers to incorporate experimental techniques, so they’re familiar, if not exactly commonplace, to moviegoers. The 4th Life has many beauties, but it may have come too late to make a real splash.