Wednesday, January 8, 2020

GENÉSE: Philippe Lesage's first-love film makes U.S. home video debut

Were the first hour and a half of Canadian filmmaker Philippe Lesage's movie, GENÉSE, not so very fine, I am not sure we'd forgive or even put up with his near-shocking switch at that point from the story and character's we've been viewing to something completely other. Yes, the theme remains the same: how fraught first-love (hell, any love, really) can be. But the switch baffles us and certainly takes some time to get used to and sort out.

If this is a spoiler, so be it. But I suspect you'll appreciate the warning so that you won't waste much time worrying over this confusing switch. Up until this 90-minutes-or-so point, we've been involved with a group of high-schoolers and their difficult love lives. M. Lesage, shown at right, who both wrote and directed the film, has also cast it quite well.

It's easy to watch and enjoy both the appearances and the performances of the young, attractive cast, each of whom brings something special to his/her role.

And if Lesage is some-times a tad slow-paced, even repetitive, in his visuals, what we're looking at is usually pleasant, while giving us enough to think about, that we go along.

The longer and first-seen tale features a brother Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin, above, left) and sister Charlotte (the beauteous Noée Abita, above, right), each of whom has a first-love problem. His will work itself into being and acceptance as the film moves along; hers stems from the kind of male rejection via boyfriend (Pier-Luc Funk, below), shown early on, that leads to an all too typical and saddening response.

We view and come to feel and empathize with these two characters hugely, thanks to Lesage's own empathy and ability to engage us via fully-rounded characters who open their layers to us in degrees. Charlotte repeats and repeats her negative response, while Guillaume tries to come to terms honestly with his. The result is a declaration of his love, in the classroom, that is the first such I've seen in movies and is so very well done that the scene becomes a kind of instant classic.

When we switch to the second part -- involving even younger children toward the end of their season at a summer camp (above) -- the time spent is shorter and the involvement less. Yet because the theme is the same, there's enough intelligence here to hold the movie together, while performances are again, in this second story, quite good. Lesage always tosses us into the middle of things, using his documentary style, which makes what happens seem real, even "normal" -- including those singular actions on display, together with the enormous emotions aroused in the various characters.

This in media res style forces us to figure things out for ourselves. The result may take some time, but the effort is edifying so that Genèse proves an unusual but worthwhile movie experience. From Film Movement, in French and English with English subtitles, and running 129 minutes, the film hit the street earlier this week on DVD, Blu-ray and digital. (That's Paul Ahmarani, above, center left, who plays Guillaume's very smart, egotistical and nasty instructor.)

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