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  August 32nd on Earth The Body Clock Is Ticking
Year: 1998
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Stars: Pascale Bussieres, Alexis Martin, Serge Theriault, Ivan Smith, Frederic Desager, Estelle Esse, Joanne Cote, Evelyne Rompre, Emmanuel Bilodeau, R. Craig Costin, Richard S. Hamilton, Lee Fobert, Marc Jeanty, Stephane Lefebvre, Paule Baillargeon
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Simone (Pascale Bussieres) is driving through the Quebec countryside one night when she begins to nod off, and eventually as she is asleep at the wheel, the car veers from the road and ends up upside down by the verge. Unconscious for a few hours, she eventually awakens to find herself suspended by her seatbelt and after some struggling, gets out of the vehicle and onto the road, where she flags down a passing car whose motorist does his best to help out, obviously concerned. Yet after a medical examination, and despite occasional nosebleeds, Simone is actually more or less unscathed which means she can go back home; however, she doesn't want to return to her old job, as the accident has awakened new desires in her...

Simone now wants to be a mother and devote her time to that, but there's one problem with that vocation: she isn't pregnant and she doesn't have a boyfriend or husband, so she opts for the next best thing. Which is a good friend of hers, Philippe (Alexis Martin), who is not in love with her but does like her - as a friend only, leaving him baffled that she would choose him as a potential father for her prospective child. Possibly as a ploy to put her off, he tells her the only way he would agree to impregnate her would be if they had sex in a desert, but she really likes the idea and arranges for them both to fly out to the nearest one, the Salt Plains outside of Salt Lake City in Utah, which you cannot imagine would be too comfortable a prospect for making sweet lurve.

Just as well there's very little sweet about the deed they are planning, this is strictly a social contract, and we're not even very sure whether Simone wants Philippe to stick around to look after the baby and raise it, or if she is obsessed with fulfilling the role of single mother. In fact, we're not very sure if she has thought this through at all, all we know is she has a fixation she will not be talked out of, making her one of those preoccupied characters who populated and often led the films of Denis Villeneuve. This was his first feature, one of two he made which had him pondering whether the movie business was the right profession for him until he got his mojo back a few years later and made real life gunman drama Polytechnique. After that, the world was his oyster, garnering larger and larger budgets and more expansive canvases to paint his visions onto.

Here he made sure he had such a canvas, the salt flats, but he was less certain about what to do with it. Many's the director who has used this location as a picturesque though barren region to sum up all sorts of messages, be they technical or existential or something else, but one thing's for sure, they are extremely difficult to utilise badly, and as we saw here, they could lend all sorts of depth to a picture that might not have been going anywhere in particular (ironic when they were two dimensional as a rule). They were not the only aspect of the film, with its cutesy title and cutesy characters Villeneuve did not appear to be wholly at ease with, but as a road movie it was all very "there and back again" and added a coda to what would have otherwise been inconsequential that either rendered it haunting or was so arbitrary as to be absurd, depending on how you felt about the central couple. It was plainly the work of a talent finding his feet, and the Nouvelle Vague he intermittently alluded to (jump cuts, Jean Seberg posters on the wall) was not really him, as he grew out of his film student phase significantly.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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