The Festival of New Quebec Films, with 11 pictures, runs Friday through Nov. 12 at the Monica 4-Plex.
In the Canadian cinema the language barrier acts as a protection for its French-speaking film industry; its English-speaking film makers are constantly faced with the competition of American films and with being coopted on their own ground by U.S. productions. Consequently, there's a sense of cultural context and a richness of diversity within the Quebecois cinema rarely matched by Canada's English-language cinema.
Opening the festival with plenty of punch is Yves Simoneau's bleakly beautiful and ironic "Pouvoir Intime" ("Intimate Power"), a terrifically tense and consistently plausible "Rififi" gone wrong. Jacques Godin, who has a weathered Gabin-Montand look, is a career criminal who's no sooner out of prison than he's assembled a team to knock over an armored truck. Two gay lovers become caught up in the misfired plan and their non-stereotyped characterizations make the film all the more refreshing.
"Pouvoir Intime," screening Friday at 9:15 p.m. (and Sunday at 4:10), is preceded at 7 by Marquise Lepage's "Marie in the City," which boasts a pair of touching performances by Frederique Collin as a hard-bitten, aging Montreal streetwalker and Genevieve Lenoir as a solemn, 13-year-old runaway who latches on to her. To her credit, Lepage, in her feature debut, plays against sentimentality, but her story is underdeveloped and her pacing needlessly slow.
More encouraging is another debut picture, Jean-Claude Lauzon's "Night Zoo," which has a heady film noir atmosphere. Dark, moody Gilles Maheu stars as a drug dealer fresh out of prison and immediately pursued by a pair of crooked cops who were his pushers--and who want to get their hands on his $200,000 stash. Lauzon gradually loses interest in his thriller plot to concentrate on the drug dealer's late-blooming relationship with his father (played with a warm expansiveness by Roger Le Bel), and gets carried away with the father-son business to the extent that his film becomes anticlimactic and overly sentimental, but he has a passionate intensity rather like that of Jean-Jacques Beineix. "Night Zoo" screens Saturday at 10 p.m.
Lea Pool's "Anne Trister," which screens Sunday at 9, was one of the highlights of this year's Gay and Lesbian Film/Video Festival. It is a somber, delicately nuanced story about a young Swiss art student (Alvane Guilhe), shaken by her father's death, who goes to Quebec only to find herself unexpectedly attracted to an assured older woman (Louise Marleau). With wit and imagination Pool draws upon the artist's work to express her view of herself and her predicament. For full schedule: (213) 478-1041.
The UCLA Film Archive will present in Melnitz Theater Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Ho Quang Minh's "Karma" (1986), which deals with the impact of the Vietnam War upon a young peasant couple, and on Sunday at 7:30, Indonesian director Slamet Rahardjo Djarot's "Moon and Sun."
The Vietnamese film was unavailable for preview, but "Moon and Sun" proves to be a stunner, a terrifically demanding, highly episodic odyssey of a young man's return to his native village after a seven-year absence in the fleshpots of Jakarta. Primitive and vital--and lurid and melodramatic as well as tender and pastoral--the film is crammed with incident in its depiction of a claustrophobic communal existence that embraces ancient ritual as well as modern medicine. By the time this rich and singular film is over, Djarot has invoked a timeless sense of the eternal cycle of life and death. Information: (213) 825-2581.