Robert Lepage: Possible Worlds

Retrospective displays Robert Lepage's dreamy visions

ROBERT LEPAGE: POSSIBLE WORLDS at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King West), from Thursday (March 27) to Tuesday (April 1). See listing. Rating: NNNN

The cinema of Robert Lepage operates with a magnificent dream logic. Even when he’s making an utterly conventional film (admittedly, not very often), the Quebec filmmaker leaves room for his narratives to shift and evolve into different modalities. People can change. So can their stories.

TIFF Cinematheque’s Robert Lepage: Possible Worlds celebrates the filmmaker with a high-speed retrospective, cramming six features (including his latest, Triptych), a high-definition screening of an opera and a documentary into five days.

The series kicks off tonight (Thursday) at 6:30 pm with Lepage’s 1995 debut, Le Confessionnal, a brilliant and audacious murder mystery starring Lothaire Bluteau and Kristin Scott Thomas that plays out against the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess in 1952 Quebec City. It’s great, and its clever visual palette is sorely underserved by the crappy English-Canadian DVD. I’m hoping tonight’s screening of an archival print starts a push for a 20th-anniversary Blu-ray restoration.

Le Confessionnal also marks a clear declaration of Lepage’s central themes that storytellers are liars and other people are forever unknowable to us. That message stands out in Le Polygraphe (Saturday, 3:45 pm), about a young woman (Marie Brassard) cast in a movie about a murder to which she has a real-life connection, and in The Far Side Of The Moon (Tuesday, 9 pm), a subtle tour de force in which Lepage plays two very different brothers reunited by their mother’s death.

Lepage’s cinematic approach speaks to his background in live theatre, where he marries dramatic stories with highly conceptualized staging in a manner that makes Cirque du Soleil look like pandering circus folk.

And his depiction of Quebec City as the coldest place on earth will be particularly resonant after our own epic winter.

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