Ziad Touma’s first feature film is a visual and aural delight that admirably demonstrates both craft and style. All that remains for greatness is the so-rare ability of finding a
satisfying ending to its far-reaching script (co-written with Brian C. Warren,
who, as Sheena, gets the added delight of delivering many of his/her own
lines). The current version seems trite and out of step with its universal
theme of establishing identity through self-discovery.
After a funky opening sequence, it’s clear that
Montréal’s hedonistic Village and 24/7 nightlife will be the ideal backdrop
for this wonderfully costumed romp through the caverns, ships, clubs, bath
houses and beds of Canada’s liveliest city.
Initially, “Chris” (début film for Steven Turpin) named
by his guardian sisters (Warren and Karen Simpson who simply dazzles as
Scarlet) steals our hearts as the total-amnesia sufferer whose only
distinguishing mark was self-inflicted during a disastrous youthful encounter
with his own zipper. Worse still, it can only be “appreciated” when his most
private limb is in full bloom, providing a plot point that every audience will
hope to see unravelled. But Turpin (cheekily draped in navy rigs that must
have been rented from the wardrobe department of Pierre et Gilles) fades with
the script and leaves it to his new family to carry the scenes.
Playing herself (and occasionally with herself) gender
illusionist Miss Sheena Hershey is nothing short of brilliant in her “act,”
her dialogue (“I don’t like doctors unless they’re paying for dinner”; the
send-up of black, New York drag queens of the past is side-splitting), and her
emotional range—particularly the inner struggle of shutting Sheena down and
letting Brian emerge) and comedic timing—you have to be there. Simpson
plays the sarcastic, lonely fag hag compellingly; the duo’s snappy one-upping
jabs ring with truth.
The sub-plot of club owner Doug (Don Diamond with just
the right touch of lechery) and his mistress adds
another dimension of fucked-up relationships but isn’t nearly as useful as the
talk show conceit. The Our Miss Brooks-era tell-all show (Tarah Schwartz
as Sharon Topper, oversees the sorry proceedings with insincerity, aplomb and a
swell do!)—shamelessly exploits
Chris’ personal tragedy (“I have no idea who I am. Nobody’s even trying to
look for me!”) to boost ratings and—simultaneously—confirms the shallowness
of its producers and host.
But even as the characters stumble into or are forced to discover themselves, it’s the music (with virtually a cast of thousands including Mark Anthony, Alain Vinet and the pulsating One-976) that provides the glue to this Paul Morrissey-influenced tour of self; the photography and art design also give this kaleidoscopic flick an invigorating edge.
François Dutil’s camera (with only the intoxicating
body-painting scene being too filtered for my taste) soars and darts in
perfect complement to the frenzied actions of the troupe. Christian Legaré
has found treats for the eye that range from Zebra’s in love to mesmerizing
floral accents (having the assistance of emerging designers such as Yso, Denis
Gagnon, Kitchen Range and Cosmic Angels further ensures continuous
freshness—they’re dress obsessed!).
With this production, Touma has served notice that he’s a
director of skill and, with a storyline that evolves from logic and depth,
ready to move on to the first rank. JWR