КВА, к тебе взываю!
October 28th, 2004
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Ain't no anamnesis
Dupuis: Mmm, quietly deep
Mémoires affectives remembers just how little we actually know
Francis Leclerc is a courageous man. One of the province's cinematic relève - a prolific wunderkind having solidly established himself as a prize-winning director of music videos and commercial films before winning accolades for his debut feature, Une jeune fille à la fenêtre, all by the age of 30 - he has notable expectations to contend with for his second feature. Not only that, but Mémoires affectives, starring the eminent Roy Dupuis, is a film about amnesia - not exactly the easiest of challenges in moviemaking, in terms of originality of treatment.
As I sat down in a restaurant for an interview with him and Dupuis, I couldn't help but ask what possessed him.
"I was never under the impression that my second film was being awaited," he said. "Because as much as Une jeune fille was warmly received by the media, it wasn't by the public. In the fall of 2001, all people wanted to see was Amélie Poulin."
Also a film about a young girl's love and loss, you could see how his debut might have been overshadowed. But there is no such risk this time. Mémoires affectives is a haunting, heartfelt rumination on memory and the relativity of perspective. Dupuis' Alexandre Tourneur is revived after a decade in a coma when an unknown figure attempts to pull his plug. His unlikely awakening isn't accompanied by memory - he has no recollection of anything about his past at all. So he sets out to get himself a life, to piece himself together thanks to the testimonials of
people he's told he was close to: a wife, a daughter, a best friend and work partner. The only thing is, the versions of him that they offer are as varied as the people themselves, and vacillate from one moment to another, unexpectedly. One second his doe-eyed daughter calls him "mon petit papa," the next she's accusing him of cold-heartedness and absence. He is left to believe he can only trust himself.
"The perception we have of life is often so limited that it can do with some opening up," says Leclerc. "That's what cinema is for. We wanted to take a broad perspective because as precise as memory is, it is also very abstract. We wanted to examine it beyond the character of Alexandre and his own life, and we did in such a way that we talk about... not life after death, but alternate lives, and a space where time doesn't exist, where we sometimes get the impression we've already been there, or we've encountered it in another life. We live in a society where all we talk about is our little everyday reality, but at a certain point I think you need to look at the horizon and think about what we're all doing here."
"For me, the interesting thing is to go beyond fear," Dupuis added. "That's what keeps people stuck at the explicative level - where are we going? When are we coming back? When will we get there? That's fear. And to make a movie like Francis made, you have to go beyond."
It was getting deep, admittedly, for a first-thing-in-the-morning promo tour interview. But the film invites it. Mémoires affectives is so full of pregnant silences and soul-soothing shots of expansive skies and snowfields that introspection is encouraged, necessary even. Dupuis' signature intense-quiet-type style powerfully makes half the movie, and allows him a depth of acting he hasn't encountered in a while - since he "slipped into the bracket of vedette," he lamented. But it also coincides with a subject of particular interest to him. We spoke at length about science and the limited use we make in this day and age of the human brain's capacities. At some point, I asked whether the unknown of Alexandre's situation, and the aforementioned fear intertwined with it, was based in psychology or spirit in his mind.
"For me, spirituality means spirit, the spirit belongs to the mind, and not only the mind, but the body. The body has a memory. Cells, genes, have a memory. It's all one thing. From there comes the idea of archaic memory, the phenomenon that exists when people experience the memory of a prehistoric man who existed two or three thousand years ago, or something. That's where the spirit lies, at the level of nature, nature in the widest sense. We call 'esoteric' things we don't understand."
"And that's scary," concluded Leclerc. "When we're afraid of things, we don't want to talk about them, and then the things that are left aside, we try to explain away. But there are erudite doctors in psychiatry who themselves don't understand some phenomena, some real cases. We shouldn't be afraid of talking about them. Or of making a film about it."