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Chaos and Desire

Director: Manon Briand

2002. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 112 minutes.


A Quebec seismologist feels the earth move in mysterious ways when returning to the town of her birth in Chaos and Desire, an impressive second feature by writer-director Manon Briand that explores the power of will and coincidence in strongly cinematic terms. Both atmospheric and deftly humorous, the film is anchored by a strong performance from leading French-Canadian actress Pascale Bussieres. She plays Alice, who works in Japan studying the factors that can predict earthquakes. When the tides mysteriously stop flowing on the St. Lawrence Rive in her home town of Baie Comeau, Alice returns to investigate and comes up against the bizarre behaviour of local residents. In one instance a little Chinese girl sleepwalks every night at the exact same time. In other strange occurrences, a woman chops down every tree in her front garden, and the phone number of a fire-fighting pilot named Marc Vandal (Jean-Nicolas Verreault) has been ripped out of every directory in town.
Briand’s smooth technique immediately sets up an air of mystery as Alice begins to explore the strange phenomenon. Though she was only born in the town and didn’t grow up there, the place holds unhappy memories for her. Now she finds herself having to deal not only with the problem of the tides but with a growing involvement with Vandal and the not so subtle advances of lesbian journalist Catherine (Julie Gayet), an old college friend. When Alice uncovers the film’s central mystery, the investigation turns away from science to the world of spirit, achieving a resolution of surprising power.

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