Dreamscapes and fluid transitions dominate the otherworldly aesthetic of Robert Lepage’s oeuvre. His seamless transitions across time are stunning, while he allows a kind of whimsy to seep through even his bleakest pieces. He’s a transitional master, blending time and space with elegant fluidity. No genre is out of reach, and each film has his unique eye branded upon it.
In celebration of this masterful mind, TIFF Bell Lightbox in conjunction with the Glenn Gould Foundation are honoring the Canadian filmmaker and stage director, this year’s recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize. The Prize is awarded to an individual for a unique lifetime contribution that has enriched the human condition through the arts. Lepage’s elegant, sensual, and highly theatrical work has certainly made its mark on Canadian cinema. This short retrospective runs from March 27th until April 1st, and showcases eight of Lepage’s films, including his latest film Triptych, the cinematic adaptation of his nine-hour theatrical production Lipsynch.
The series begins tonight, Thursday, March 27th, at 6:30pm with Lepage’s cinematic debut, Le Confessionnal. A beautifully shot drama, the film follows two estranged brothers as they attempt to unravel a family mystery. Delicately transitioning across time, the film flips between 1952 and 1989 in Quebec City. In ’89, Pierre Lamontagne has returned home after the death of his father, a presumably careless man who severely neglected his diabetes, leading to his demise. As he attempts to paint over the stained memories of his childhood home, he seeks out his long estranged adopted brother, Marc, in an attempt to discover his birth father.
In ’52, the plot progresses in a timely fashion alongside the production of Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess, shot in Quebec. The fictional plot of Hitchcock’s film runs parallel to the mystery unfolding before Marc and Pierre, setting the stage for a most painful reality.
The film effortlessly transitions across time. The mood bleeds across decades, blending the chronology of the film into a seamless line. With stunning performances from Lothaire Bluteau as Pierre and Patrick Goyette as Marc, this was a remarkable way for Lepage to begin his cinematic career. His theatrical elements are palpable, but delicate enough to avoid being overwrought.
Lepage’s first English language feature, Possible Worlds, the stunning adaptation of John Mighton’s challenging play, will be shown on Saturday, March 29th, at 7:00pm. This elegant, almost sensual, science fiction crime drama transitions consciousness, as opposed to time. A man leaps from one reality to the next, the only person aware of his abilities. In each world, with different careers, lives, and motives, he finds himself with Joyce (Tilda Swinton). In each world, he falls in love. But while he finds himself repeatedly infatuated with the same woman in multiple realities at once, there is a killer on the loose, stealing brains.
Cerebral and often intricately challenging, Possible Worlds is a cold, calculated masterpiece. The stark and sterile world of George Barber’s multiple realities (played beautifully by Tom McCamus) glides from place to place, through familiar landscapes, and confusing emotion. We’re carried along with his consciousness, ever wondering and questioning his sanity. This is a beautiful film, not one to miss.
Lepage will be present for introductions to select films, including tonight’s Le Confessionnal, and Saturday’s Possible Worlds. The full roster includes an introduction from Lepage to his latest work, Triptych (Friday, March 28th at 6:30pm), The Metropolitan Opera’s recording of Lepage’s Le Damnation de Faust (Saturday, March 29th at 12:00pm), Le Polygraphe (Saturday, March 29th at 3:45pm), Possible Worlds (Saturday, March 29th at 7:00pm), Susan Froemke’s documentary Wagner’s Dream, of Lepage’s monumental staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle for the Metropolitan Opera in 2012 (Sunday, March 30th at 12:30pm), the colourful political farce Nô (Sunday, March 30th at 3:45pm), and the retrospective will culminate with Lepage’s adaptation of his semi-autobiographical stage play, The Far Side of the Moon (Tuesday, April 1st at 9:00pm).