DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: C.R.A.Z.Y.

Friday 5 December 2008


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":


Anonymous said...

One of the best Canadian films of all time. Every scene is so full of life.

KEEGAN said...

Thank you for the review and writing it exactly the way I want to express my admiration to this film,and all the people who made it happen.
I have read a lot of 5 star review about this film and they all agree that although there some small items that can be done better or it could be edited to a short running time, overall it is a powerful and incredible film. it is compelling, absorbing and full of layers and nuances:

1. Zac challenging the myth of
miracles for his strength
survival and transformation
while at the same time doing
penance for all his weaknesses
"If I could go through this and
survive, I will be cured (or
things will turn okay or for
the better)".
a. going through the red light
on his bike.
b. walking home through a snow
c. walking in the dessert with
no water nor map or purpose.
2. the way the story begins and
the tone of Zac voice-over,
you'll know that this movie is
funny, shocking and has some
agenda, least to say an
credible life ahead of him. The
moment the "baby" was dropped
and shown in slow-mo effect the
movie starts kicking - and I
start laughing for the 1st
surprises to come.
2. the "dreaming about Raymond"
while interspersed with the old
Bedoin man waking him up in the
dessert is symbolic both in
meaning (Raymond is actually
fighting for his life, just as
he is at the moment; either
Raymond is thinking and trying
to ammend their close yet
broken relationship or Zac
acknowledges tat Raymond
inspite of what he is and their
relationships, his big brother
is always there to protect him)
and graphic presentation: the
shadow of the old man's shawl,
the slow-mo of water being
dropped on his face. In all of
these he survives but not
without pain and/or injury as
he moves on, wiser or not.
3. With the story "allowing"
Raymond (against my wish and
expectation) makes the movie
as real as how life turns out to
be a lot of times:
a. It proves to Zac's mother
that his son is just a
normal person and that he
could not perform miracles
even if he desires so.
b. Another "blow' to the
family's situation forced
them to confront the fact
that for good or bad they
are a family that needs to
finally resolve their issues
past their animosities with
each other, and in the end
they did.
4. One could see the deft of the
director in bringing out the
talent of the young actor who
played the young Zac: small
nuances of happiness (his french
fry "excursion" with his dad)
and the pain/insecurities from
things that happens to him and
around him, from wetting the bed
to falling out with his father -
all captured through the boy's
facial expressions (so natural
and believable) and always
beautifully captured by the
cinematographer and/or
supported by very appropriate
soundtrack for each scenes.
5. Marc is perfect for the role
from his good looks and physical
make-up. Showing him the
"jump" to teenage chapter -
practising his martial arts
move with his lithe (and
effeminate) body reveals the
growing angst of his sexual
identity or preference. For
him blowing a ring of smoke to
his father's face with his own
music blaring shows defiance,
symbolizes what he wants to
express but cannot: "leave me
alone, I'm grown up now and I
could do what I want".
6. His crush and sexual desire for
his cousin's boyfriend, not to
mention the attention and mixed
signals that the guy gives him,
is a direct metaphor for his
sexual confusion and desire:
"I want to, but I can't or
here it is, but you won't".
7. The music/soundtrack are not
there as background to set the
mood or period of the movie. It
in itself is one of the
characters (or brothers) having
it's own moods as "he" grows
older, living alongside the
dysfunctional family and having
his own "say" about his own
issues. No wonder that the
director spend a lot of money
for the music rights - for he is
actually "hiring" or "casting" a
very seasoned actor, without him
the whole ensemble is not there.
7. This is one of the "very" few
movies that spans almost a
lifetime of a character/s'
growth and you are involved not
just a spectator because the
characters are very well
defined from the get go, that
one could anticipate each
character's next move or
reaction because you've made
to know them too well.
8. Within the 2-hour period, this
movie's traverse into 30+ year
period is well laid out by
clever editing and
transformation of each
character's behaviour and where
they are at each period of time.
Each "new chapter" is introduced
by means of what one does or can
do as he progresses (smoking
while still having vapor
inhaler), new hairstyles and
music types; not to mention the
family rituals of washing the
car to their christmas parties.
9. The characters are real as I see
them through my own life, I have
2 brothers and a sister (eldest)
who are so distinctly
different from each other and
me, while depending on what
they do or what they're after
you at the moment, you either
love or loathe them. My mother
is a caring and steadfast with
all of her faults, and my father
would exactly be like Zac's (he
sings to Patsy Cline's songs) if
he did not die while I was only
3 1/2 years old.
10. Like Raymond, one of my
brothers died (in Manila),
while I was also fighting for
my life within the same week's
span. He died of stroke/heart
failure for over-consumption
of cigarettes, booze and
occassional drugs; me,
surviving a 7-hour heart
quadruple heart bypass
operation in Colorado. Like
Raymond, he is the rebel
and the "difficult" one in
the family. I am lucky that
my 2 sons are well-mannered,
and has love and respect for
each other.
12. The roles of the parents are
so well acted-out, because
what they go through the years
with their children is a
universal life-story. No
matter how bad or
misunderstood your child is,
blood is thicker than water.
The inherent love between the
dad and the mom although in
different level or polarity,
it is so transparent that they
hurt, because the actors
express their affections and
hurt so well in this movie, not
to mention a very good story
and script to draw their
emotions from.
13.Finally, I think Raymond is
an "undiagnosed" bi-polar or
manic-depressive, that he
turned to drugs to drown his
emotional pain,suffering and
confused just as Zac does.