Friday, 8 January 2010

Fuck! I Left My Bag Of Weed At The Pub.

Hmm, I've been swearing a lot in my post titles of late... Oh well, I tend to swear more when I'm in a good mood.

Looking back, growing up in the period from the 60s to the 80s has always seemed to me to be the ideal time. All that free-loving in the 60s, the drugs mixed with some remblance of impending responsibility of the 70s, and by the time you get to the 80s you've kind of been through all the good times and find yourself able to deal with the comedown. Plus, there was some killer music, on and off some great fashion, and the world just seemed to be a simpler, safer place. It was smaller, there was no AIDS, the drugs were cleaner, people were less afraid of who was next door, instead fearing unnamed and faceless enemies on the other side of the world who had not yet fired a weapon.

But then you deal with the small-mindedness of the times. Despite my own personal romanticisation of the period, it can't have been easy for many living in the minorities. That smaller world meant fewer borders crossed. It meant more thinking along the lines of the dominant social paradigm. It meant if you were in a minority, whether racial, sexual or whatever, you were always going to live on the outside, on the fringe, without the acceptance of the world at large. Not necessarily within your own social group, and in more urban centres this would probably be somewhat curtailed - I imagine an Asian in London, for example, would have far fewer difficulties than one in a small country town. Probably in large part because the sheer size of these larger cities allowed for a larger number of that minority to congregate without upsetting the overall proportion.

C.R.A.Z.Y., Jean-Marc Vallée's 2005 French-Canadian feature, looks at the identity aspect, predominantly from a queer perspective. Using the gender-bending fashion of the likes of Bowie, Vallée (with co-writer François Boulay, on whose youth this apparently heavily references) provides a neat introduction to the nature of lead character Zac's (Marc-André Grondin) dealings with his sexuality. His transformation from a sensitive child into a young music aficionado and imitator allows for the derogatory homophobic name-calling to prompt his strident denials of any queer leanings on his part, before a later confrontation and spiritual journey gives him the ability to come to terms with it, and a death in the family finally brings his father around.

It's a long movie, and doesn't gloss over any aspects of Zac's upbringing. All of the psychoanalytic theory from the time and from today gets a look: pushing prams and playing with dolls, paternal and maternal love, typical masculine influences all get a look, allowing recognition that no singular element ultimately determines a person's identity. As Zac grows up with three older brothers and one younger, he is exposed to a world of drugs, or sports, of sex, of lust, of desire, of fear, of loathing, of repression, both externally and internally, and his dealings with all of this almost entirely contained in a familial context allows for a fairly thorough look at the emotional politics at play.

It is a beautiful examination, but another one steeped in historicism - there will, very shortly I imagine, be a rant about the historicisation of homosexual representation in modern cinema allowing for distancing from the current entrenched homophobia still rampant in western and developed society despite current sentiment that we have come so far. Regardless, it is a story that could be transplanted to now, I feel. It isn't flawless, but it's pretty close. Performances from all involved (and there are a fair few significant players in the film, aside from Zac) are terrific, and the story moves itself along very easily - nothing ever feels forced. At the same time, it never drags. Every moment is there for a reason, and every reason is worthwhile.

4.5 stars, and definitely worth checking out. I remember seeing this back in 2005 at a media preview or some such and being quite transfixed by it, which is why I pulled it out again now. It's definitely a worthy addition to the canon of modern queer cinema, for its unapologetic look at denial and exploration of the pitfalls self-acceptance can throw at you. Much more than just a coming-of-age story.

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