C.R.A.Z.Y (2005) dir. Jean-Marc Vallee
Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Michel Côté, Danielle Proulx, Émile Vallée, Pierre-Luc Brillant
One of the best films you’ve probably never seen is Jean-Marc Vallee’s phenomenal French-Canadian hit film "C.R.A.Z.Y." The acronym title refers to the first letters of five siblings whom we see grow up and come of age in the late 60’s and 70’s. "C.R.A.Z.Y." became one of the highest grossing films in Canada and won virtually every possible award in the country.
From the opening shot we are put into the point of view of Zach Beaulieu. Vallee begins with Zach in the womb, and shows how the trauma of his birth, being born on Christmas, and being dropped by his father as an infant foreshadowed the burdened life we’ll soon have intimate details of.
In suburban Quebec Zach grows up idolizing his father and hating his 3 older brothers. Between the pressures of his Catholic upbringing and his father’s commanding patriarchal presence, as soon as Zach starts feeling some homosexual urges fear and confusion take over.
Though Zach is gay, the film more than just a coming-out-of-the-closet story, it’s perhaps the most complex film about the subject. Zach is happily straight for most of the film but always with a curious glance to the other side.
Vallee’s wicked Martin Scorsese influenced rock soundrack drives the picture. Early on we’re treated to a wonderful fantasy sequence during Sunday mass as Zach’s mind wanders over to the Rolling Stones. With the song, “Sympathy for the Devil” playing in his brain, the entire audience sings along as Zach rises from his bench and floats in the air.
Other tracks from Pink Floyd and David Bowie whisk us away into Vallee’s Amelie-like world. But while "Amelie" is a pure fantasy experience, CRAZY is rooted in those real scrapbook-like memories relatable to almost any suburban youth.
Vallee maximizes the film medium using all kinetic and stylistic tricks at his disposal to create a visual and aural cinematic masterpiece. Vallee's decade-spanning scope and technical bravura put his film in the company of PT Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” and Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”.
A Q&A with the director after a recent screening in Toronto revealed some details of Vallee's next film, a star-studded British period piece 'The Young Victoria", which I anticipate with excitement. With Martin Scorsese's name on the credits as Executive Producer, even though C.R.A.Z.Y. didn't have enough reach to U.S. audiences, the world filmmaking community appears to have discovered the film. Try and find it yourself.
I couldn't find an English clip, but here's a fun musical sequence set to "Space Oddity":