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cast: Michel Coté, Emile Vallee, Pierre-Luc Brillant, Marc-André Grondin, and Danielle Proulx

director: Jean-Marc Valleé

127 minutes (15) 2005
widescreen ratio 16:9
Soda Pictures DVD Region 2 retail
[released 21 August]

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Jonathan McCalmont
Set in Quebec in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, C.R.A.Z.Y. is the gentle story of Zac Bealieu's relationship with his father as he struggles to come to terms with his own sexuality. From the beginning of the film it is clear that Zac and Gervais share a strong bond. Gervais is sophisticated and immaculately turned out in his slicked-down hair, fighter-pilot sunglasses and huge American car. Unfortunately, he is also staunchly homophobic and when he uncovers his favourite son wearing his mother's housecoat he struggles to cope. As a teenager, Zac struggles with his desire to be with men and his wish to please his father and not be a fairy, leading him to brutally beat a fellow gay teenager and start a sexual relationship with his best friend that would last him until he turned 20. When Gervais discovers that Zac's tendencies were not a passing fad he turns his back on his son forcing Zac to flee to Jerusalem where he finally embraces his sexuality and the need to make his father accept him for who he really is.

The most striking element of C.R.A.Z.Y. is its design. From the period fashions to the cars and the music, this film paints a real living, breathing picture of Canada during the years of their liberalising and secularising 'Quiet Revolution'. Indeed, director Jean-Marc Valleé is never happier than when he is directing one of Zac's music-fuelled flights of fancy, whether it be rocking out in front of his bedroom mirror to Bowie's Space Oddity - in full view of the entire neighbourhood, or levitating above his fellow parishioners as the hymns sung at a midnight mass turn into the Rolling Stones' Sympathy For The Devil.

The performances are by and large remarkably strong. Emile Vallee is horribly pretty as Zac and he does very well portraying someone who is fundamentally happy so long as he doesn't have to think about his sexuality. Michel Coté is also fantastic as Gervais, his physical presence (surely) intentionally reminiscent of period French star Jean-Paul Belmondo's. Unfortunately though, much of the writing will ultimately be lost on an English speaking audience as the reportedly excellent original script was peppered with French-Canadian slang that has lost much of its sparkle in the unavoidable translation first to classical French and then to English. Despite this, the main characters are engaging, nicely played and the film moves nicely between its dramatic set pieces (though at over two hours, it could arguably have been trimmed back a bit). However, while clearly an entertaining film, C.R.A.Z.Y. fails to completely satisfy.

In his decision to focus on the eccentricities of a normal Canadian family, Valleé creates a film that can't help but remind you of the good-hearted cynicism of American shows such as Malcolm In The Middle, the visual flair of the film and the occasional flights of fancy evoke Amélie and the rather pedestrian sexual politics fail to excite or challenge. In many ways, C.R.A.Z.Y. functions better as a piece of social history than it does as a drama but, even then, the incredibly narrow focus of the film means that if it weren't for the fact they were speaking Quebecois, the film could be taking place anywhere in the world. You don't even get to see a Mountie.

Despite being remarkably well made and entertaining enough, C.R.A.Z.Y. proves to be too light and fluffy to really satisfy, as a piece of drama and it simply isn't funny enough for it to work as a comedy. The result is one of those well meaning but staunchly middlebrow dramatic comedies that many will enjoy but few will truly love.

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