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  Saint-Narcisse To Love Oneself
Year: 2020
Director: Bruce LaBruce
Stars: Felix-Antoine Duval, Tania Kontoyanni, Alexandra Petrachuk, Angele Coutu, Andreas Apergis, Mimi Cote, Marcel Arroyo, Jillian Harris, Alice Moreault, Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay, Anthony Belsile
Genre: Drama, Sex, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dominic (Felix-Antoine Duval) is sitting in a laundrette watching his clothes being tossed around in the washing machine before him, and it's making him sleepy. There's a young woman sitting next to him, reading, and she strikes up a conversation with him when she notices him taking a bra out of his washing, getting out of him that he lives with his elderly grandmother, and he is performing chores for her. Suddenly, in the heat of the moment, Dominic and this woman collapse in each other's arms and start having sex right there in the laundrette, watched by an audience of passersby outside the window. No, not really, he was having a dream, and as he starts awake, he knows his sexual preferences anyway...

Dominic's sexual preference being for... himself, preferably getting a good look at his naked body in the mirror as he masturbates in director Bruce LaBruce's hymn to self-love. But he did not end with his protagonist getting off on his own image, as there was a twisting plot to follow that in typical fashion from this filmmaker was about as far from conventional as he could make it. But did that mean it was any good? Certainly, there was plenty of novelty value in the storyline he and co-writer Martin Girard wove into the frames, but there was one thing being a provocateur and another not thinking through the consequences of what may have been an elaborate sexual fantasy, but did not wholly avoid the all-important "ick" factor.

Let's explain: early in the film Dominic's grandmother dies, and he goes through her things only to find letters from the mother he believed abandoned him years ago. He hits the road and tracks down the graveyard where his supposed tombstone lies, as the mother believed he had died when he was a baby, so obviously there is unfinished business here, and thanks to a helpful waitress he gets the location of his mother's house in the nearby forest. It turns out his mother (Tania Kontoyanni) lives there with possible girlfriend/possible daughter Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk) who is very hostile towards this newcomer, though Mom invites him to stick around. You're seeing a problem there, aren't you? Is Irene the daughter or the girlfriend or both? That was thanks to the major theme being incest, and how it was fine, really.

Now, it's all very well concocting provocative scenarios, it was LaBruce's stock in trade after all, but when the film goes further and finds a long-lost twin for Dominic called Daniel (also Duval) who is a monk in the local monastery, you wonder if the director had not been better off keeping this narrative for his specialist hardcore porn market, had the special effects been up to it. The first thing, more or less, that the brothers do when they meet is tentatively begin to seduce one another, and though what we were seeing was Duval and his double, face hidden, getting on with it, the implications that this was no big deal, one step up from masturbation in fact, were more difficult to accept. Had there been more of a sense of humour, or more obviously at least, you could get away with calling Saint-Narcisse a comedy, but with its deliberate pace it was not even fleet of foot, and that's without getting into Daniel's abuse by his Father monk (Marcelo Arroyo). Abuse of a sexual kind was normalised in Dominic's family by the end, it got points for going places others wouldn't bother, yet there was good motive for that. Music by Christophe Lamarche Ledoux (lots of chanting).

[THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: 22 APRIL 2022
SCREENING AT ICA LONDON AND SELECTED UK CINEMAS
DVD & DIGITAL RELEASE DATE: 2 MAY 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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