Monday, April 27, 2009

it's them... isn't it?

I just saw this amazing film from Quebec at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Here's the write-up from the SFIFF newsletter:

It's Not Him, He Swears
Vandalism. Breaking and entering. Arson. Suicide. Not typically the stuff of a movie centered on a ten-year-old boy, particularly one who plays with kites and has a sweet tooth for Fudgesicles. But Léon, the protagonist of Quebec director Philippe Falardeau's It's Not Me, I Swear!, is one maladjusted mischief-maker, coping with his parents' separation and his mother's abandonment to disastrous effect. Falardeau, who appeared at the Festival in 2007 with the farcical Congorama, was careful to ensure his film would “blend humor and drama simultaneously.” The movie opens with an incident that is both horrific and bizarrely amusing, setting the tone for a comedy wrung from tragic circumstances. “The opening scene, it's absurd,” said Falardeau. “When you look at it, it's funny. But when you actually think about it, the situation is not funny. And life is like that.” When one audience member commented that he was “profoundly disturbed” by the film, Falardeau noted that “about 20 percent of the audience always has that reaction. But oftentimes a viewer's reaction to a film says more about his personal experience rather than the film itself.”

Sometimes, he said, kids are better judges of what's truly unsettling. “In Berlin, this film was shown to a theater of 11-year-olds. I didn't think they should see it. In my mind, this was a film for adults. But, it turns out that the children take it better than we do. They laugh much more. The thing that traumatized them most was the kiss” between the two child stars. When asked how he worked with his exceptional leads—a ten-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl—Falardeau shared a secret. “Candy. We threw candy at them when they were good.” In reality, he rehearsed for weeks with the kids, who, despite their lack of experience, turned out to be professional and intuitive actors. “We would discuss the characters and Antoine L'Écuyer, the young actor who played Léon, would be dead-on about 80 percent of the time. And professional actors are just children anyway. So there's almost no difference.”

It's Not Me, I Swear!
screens next on Tuesday at 1:00 pm.

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