Continental: A Film Without Guns (2007) dir. Stephane Lafleur
Starring:Fanny Mallette, Réal Bossé, Marie-Ginette Guay, Gilbert Sicotte
“Continental: A Film Without Guns” set a new benchmark for cinematic despair. It’s an inexplicable title to begin with – as obtuse as the characters in the film. There certainly are no guns, that's about the only thing the film gets right.
In the opening a sullen middle age man is driving home on a transit bus. He’s suddenly drawn to something outside. He gets off the bus in the middle nowhere and proceeds to walk into the bush. Days later his wife Lucette files a missing person’s report and spends the rest of the movie anxiously waiting for his return. Concurrent with Lucette’s inactivity is the life of Louis, an insurance salesman cold calling residents in the area about his life insurance plan. He wanders around dopey and depressed in his grade b Best Western style hotel room. The receptionist in the hotel room is equally depressed, she lives alone, without a boyfriend and spends most of her days wallowing in inactive self-pity. Lastly, there's Marcel, a divorced elderly man, who runs a pawn shop. He is uncomfortable with his growing age and his one desire is to get surgery on his gums, but without a dental plan he takes up video poker to score his big win.
That’s about all that happens. There’s nary a blip of hope or an ounce of humour. Lafleur manages to make Louis’ experimentation in a threesome with a hotel neighbour a depressing scene. Instead there's concerted attempt to create meaning from nothing.
At least Lafleur is consistent. He shoots the film with a selfconscious detached visual style complimenting the vacant emotions of the characters. He rarely changes camera angles off the four leads, always keep a fare distance from the scene and flattens the cinematography to portrait style framing.
Why even discuss this film? Well, "Continental, A Film Without Guns" was showered with Awards in Canada – Best Canadian First Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival, numerous Jutra wins (the best Quebec cinema), including Best Film as well as numerous Genie Award nominations. Obviously the film’s creative minimalism moved audiences, enough to garner this praise, unfortunately, at the expense of frustrating unsatisfactory visual tedium. Or perhaps I just completely missed the boat.