Spring 2007 Edge series
Sunday, April 22, 2007 at 4:00pm
Directed by Philippe Falardeau and
Starring Olivier Gourmet, Paul Ahmarani, Claudia Tagbo, Jean-Pierre Cassel and
Rated PG ·
Philippe Falardeau’s greatly admired social comedy La Moitié gauche du frigo (which was named best Canadian first feature film at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2000) was one of the smartest debuts this country has seen of late. For his playfully intelligent follow-up he has enlisted the unique talents of award-winning Belgian actor Olivier Gourmet (Le Fils, Rosetta) and the always-inventive cinematographer André Turpin (Maelström, Un Crabe dans la tête). Larger in scope and distinguished by acute observation and awareness of human foibles, the beautifully realized Congorama interweaves families, fathers and sons, secrets and discoveries, World Expos, unknown possibilities–and an emu.
A down-on-his-luck Belgian inventor whose work, including an automated turtle mower, never seems to pan out as expected, Michel (Gourmet) is married to Alice (Claudia Tagbo), a Congolese refugee. At forty-two, he learns from his successful but now paralyzed father (Jean-Pierre Cassel) that he was adopted and was actually born on a farm somewhere in Quebec. After learning his family’s name is Legrand, Michel heads to Quebec in search of his biological parents, claiming he’s going on business. But all he finds in the great Canadian outdoors is bad fries, bad beer and a town full of Legroses. After a few more chance encounters he meets Louis (Paul Ahmarani), only to be involved in an accident that leaves Louis in a coma and Michel in possession of information that could give him the status he has always craved.
Gourmet may be well known for his dramatic work, but here he is a deadpan comedic revelation. His performance is anchored in reality but boasts an astonishing lightness that takes over the screen. Much like Michel and Louis, who were both born during their respective countries’ World Expos, Falardeau explores the world lying just outside everyday experience. Crafted with great skill and humour, Congorama is a joyous adventure and an impressive puzzle that explores the past and the present, with an eye on the future, in its search for identity. It confirms Falardeau’s status as one of Canada’s sharpest young filmmakers.