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#19 - Top 100 Canadian Films

In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our team favourites? Let us know your thoughts!

#19 - C.R.A.Z.Y.

It's not often that a cornucopia of vivid colour and a sonic wave of rock sounds combines with a finessed family drama about fathers, sons, identity and acceptance. However, Jean-Marc Vallée's insightful fourth feature amply achieves the unusual feat. Weaving a cultivated coming of age journey into his chronicle of the formative years of a quirky Quebecois soul, his inimitable C.R.A.Z.Y. unravels the complexities, charms and complications of an ordinary Canadian family and their extraordinary lives.

The birth of second-youngest son, Zac, in 1960 marks the entry point for the audience, with the sweet, sensitive son noticeably different from his older brothers. As a child (played by Émile Vallée, the director's son), he struggles with his preference for girls toys and his mother's clothing, a conflict that haunts him into adolescence and beyond.

Indeed, as Zac grows into a headstrong teen (now portrayed by Bus Palladium's Marc-André Grondin) with a penchant for glam rock, his inner urges prove at odds with the wishes of his tough, traditional father (Michel Côté, Fathers and Guns). Desperate to meet expectations, he swings between his and others' desires, with a resolution between the two not easily earned.

In an array of emotions and aesthetics ranging from earnest discovery to bitter resentment, and exuberant hyper-realism to whimsical fantasy sequences, C.R.A.Z.Y. offers a rich, resonant portrait of its incomparable characters. While the central narrative focus lingers on Zac and his spiritual and sexual awakening, his intriguing, enthralling interactions with his strict father, accepting mother (Danielle Proulx, Monsieur Lazhar) and diverse siblings – including studious Christian (Maxime Tremblay, TV's Providence), sporty Antoine (Alex Gravel, 3 x rien), rebellious Raymond (Pierre-Luc Brillant, Borderline) and youngest Yvan (Félix-Antoine Despatie, Vice caché) – are instrumental in shaping the textured tapestry of his youthful existence.

Accordingly, this tender, tragic tale of a boy born on Christmas day as he grows from a misfit into a man is an intimate, intricate representation of recognition and respect in all its guises. Canvassing the ability of parents to love their children regardless of their perceived problems, the uneasy dynamic of envy and opposition that exists within large families filled with sparring offspring, and the long road to owning one’s own personality and passions, Vallée's fragrant film contemplates and celebrates its unique perspective on maturation. Along the way, confrontation is common as a cavalcade of contrasting opinions and ideologies on gender and sexuality come to the fore. Yet, in his smart and spirited script (co-written with TV scribe François Boulay) and evocative, immersive execution, the director probes the proliferation of factors confounding his character’s actions but never passes judgement on their darkest doubts and deepest follies.

It’s authentic, ambitious and often amusing handling of disarming, delicate themes aside, the feature is also a technical marvel, with the efforts of the cast and crew nothing short of magnificent. From the precise production design that so completely inhabits its period setting and particular locale that no other option seems plausible, to the stunning symphony of sound and score – the use of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, The Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil and of course Patsy Cline’s Crazy included – the film connects both on an visual and aural level.

Performances, too, seethe with creativity and control as well as chaos and catharsis, with the largely inexperienced cast nothing short of exceptional. However, there is never any doubt that the suitably bittersweet, slightly surreal effort is anything other than Vallée's consummate creation, in personal, poignant film that bursts with enlivened energy and arresting entertainment.

- Sarah Ward

"An exuberant, disarming entertainment, C.R.A.Z.Y. makes a familiar story seem new all over again through its sheer showmanship, sharp humor and a wise, profound understanding of the highs and lows of family ties." Rene Rodriguez - Miami Herald


To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.

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