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Cinefranco Film Festival 2004 - UPDATE #5

Dissonances
Directed by Jérôme Cornuau
FRANCE/110 MINUTES

Admittedly, Dissonances gets off to an electrifying start. A man and his two daughters are driving home from a trip to the toy store, singing along to Bobby McFerrin's Don't Worry, Be Happy (the opening is set during the late '80s). Two men in a pickup truck begin tailing the family, and when Dad finally gets out of their way, the passenger opens fire - killing one of the young girls. The film is then divided in to three sections - Nat, Henry, and Margo - signifying the bereaved father, the cop on the case, and the surviving daughter. The first third of Dissonances, following Nat as he essentially goes insane trying to track down the killers, is easily the most effective portion of the film. Jacques Gamblin, who plays Nat, is convincing in his transformation from laid-back father to obsessed detective. And had the focus remained on Nat throughout, there's no doubt that Dissonances would've been far more engaging. But in telling this story through the eyes of two other characters - characters that aren't nearly as intriguing - the film can never quite live up to the opening half hour. It certainly doesn't help that the script - by Jérôme Cornuau and Nicolas Saada, based on the novel by Stephen Dixon - is strangely lacking in the exposition department, leaving far too many questions unanswered (ie why is there only one cop working on this case?) This leads the viewer to assume that the story is also operating on the level of a mystery - there are certain clues planted here and there, including the revelation that the driver seemed to know Nat - but none of those issues are resolved, as the film is clearly far more content to operate as a character study. Finally, after everything is said and done, there are still some elements that just don't make sense (why'd Henry wait so long to investigate such a pivotal piece of evidence?) Having said all that, Dissonances still remains worthwhile if only for the Nat storyline, which is unexpectedly gritty and uncompromising.

out of


Hop
Directed by Dominique Standaert
BELGIUM/104 MINUTES

Hop is half a good movie, and half a silly one - which is a shame, given how effective the first half is. The setup is fairly simple: A young boy named Justin (Kalomba Mboyi) is forced to go on the run after his father is arrested by Belgium police (the two had been living in the country illegally). Justin takes refuge with a kindly old man and his maid, and the three begin hatching a scheme to get his father back. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about Hop; it's just an interesting little story that's told well (initially, at least). Everything that makes the story intriguing - primarily Justin's relationship with the folks that take him in - is abandoned somewhere around the halfway point, and the film turns into a bizarre fantasy that only small kids will be able to appreciate. Not helping matters is the subplot involving a group of cops, seemingly introduced to use up some screentime - as though the screenwriter just plumb ran out of ideas. Newcomer Mboyi is very effective in the central role, while director Dominique Standaert imbues the movie with a distinct sense of style (Hop was filmed using the same sort of digital camera as Attack of the Clones). The film remains worthwhile if only for the early scenes, which feel authentic thanks to Mboyi's remarkably natural performance.

out of


Les immortels
Directed by Paul Thinel
CANADA/99 MINUTES

Les immortels is sort of a French-Canadian variation on films like Brassed Off and The Commitments, in which a group of down-on-their-luck characters attempt to reap success as a band. And though Les immortels never quite makes it up to the level of either of those movies, it's a mildly engaging romp elevated by some admittedly catchy musical numbers. The film kicks off with the titular band winning a contest that purportedly rewards them with a recording contract, which (as it turns out) takes them absolutely nowhere. In-fighting and squabbling ensues, as the group struggles to determine how serious they are about their music. There's also a subplot involving a local factory that's just laid off a bunch of workers, including several members of a marching band. Les immortels makes no bones about the fact that it's trying awfully hard to be a crowd pleaser, along the lines of the aforementioned films, and that desperation to be liked is what ultimately hurts it. Though the various characters are enjoyably quirky, the script (by Marc Bisaillon and director Paul Thinel) doesn't give them enough to do. There are too many sequences in which nothing of consequence happens, as though Bisaillon and Thinel believe that these characters are fascinating enough to sustain our interest merely through their banal conversations. They're not. Still, the movie remains semi-entertaining throughout primarily because of the enthusiastic performances (leading man Guillaume Lemay-Thivierge proves to be a charismatic and likable figure) - though the whole thing never really amounts to much.

out of

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