Culture & Conversation

High Voltage Blue Chip Laughs

A SURREALIST BRECHTIAN musical satire with an intelligent, whimsical script kicks off the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma tonight. A Sentimental Capitalism makes a memorable impression – in three languages. Directed by Olivier Asselin who co-wrote the script with his lead actress, Lucille Fluet, this comic salute to the Marx Brothers and other filmmakers is about art, desire, love, loyalty, promotion, value and the volatility of the New York Stock Exchange, described as the capitalist “heart of the world.” Pure kitsch, and not unlike that which it mocks, this film seems bound for cult status. Buy your stocks now.

The power of imagination propels A Sentimental Capitalism into a sphere of cinematic endeavor occupied by such films as Jacques Tati’s Playtime and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, although it does not sit pretentiously alongside such heavyweights, and is not a silent film. A Sentimental Capitalism succeeds, ultimately, in entertaining, rather like Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. It somehow achieves more with a timely topic and characters who prove either so loveable or laughable that they indelibly grip our imagination as prototypes. Bold satiric theatrical talent transforms a concept that might otherwise have fallen into mere comedic camp. Nonetheless, camp and kitsch are the twin backdrops to this twisted romp of a tale. The music has its own distinct appeal, adding joie de vivre voltage to the camp. You’ll be singing these tunes in the shower.

The opening scene sets the tone: Fernande Bouvier (Lucille Fluet) introduces herself as she floats, like so much flotsam and jetsam, through space in some outer galaxy, already an afterthought to history. She is, she insists, “a woman without qualities,” and so begins to tell the story of her life, from this dream state. Fernande aspires to live as an artiste, making her way via hot air balloon to Paris, the artistic capital of the world in the late 1920s, rather than wed a barbarian in a remote wilderness of what looks like the Quebec Laurentians. (Fernande claims it’s the Algerian desert!)

From this enigmatic opening, we follow her farcical journey and transformation into art itself, from penniless, naive, ingénue into a craven sexual object of desire. Her value seems limitless, at least as perceived by investors who are being exploited by her promoters, Max Bauer (Paul Ahmarani), Victor Feldman (Alex Bisping), Charles Wilson (Frank Fontaine), and George Buchanan (Harry Standjofski), and eventually by a shameless Fernande herself. Until in the end, everyone desires Fernande Bouvier, and her stock value rockets through the exchange ceiling. Until she discovers a hard truth. Until the world stops. Until the infinite circus circle of exchange whirls to a dead stop.

A tantalizing fable of love and infamy, fame and fortune. Not to be missed.

Cinema Imperiale, 1430 de Bleury Street, at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 8th

Also showing Thursday, October 9th, 3:00 p.m. & Sunday, October 19th 7:15 p.m. at the Ex-Centris, 3536 blvd. Saint-Laurent.

Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, through October 19. Info: 514.844.2172

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