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Nouveau Cinema: Sentimental Capitalism

Next Floor plays Friday 10 October, 5:30 p.m. at Ex-Centris

Un Capitalisme Sentimental plays today, 3 p.m. at Ex-Centris

As I walk into Cinema Ex-Centris at 8:50 a.m. on a Thursday morning, I am tired, cold, and wary of what to expect from the two films being screened for the Festival Nouveau Cinema. I perk up a bit at the prospect of free chocolate croissants and settle myself into the seat where I will spend the next two hours.

The first film, Next Floor, is only 12 minutes long, but it’s definitely an intriguing 12 minutes. The film opens with a scene of 11 dinner guests devouring a meal that appears to consist entirely of meat. The meal is shown in grotesque detail, which is quite a shock so early in the morning. The focus is on the never-ending meal, and the guests continue to eat as servants bring out countless dishes of sausages, pheasant, and even rhinoceros. However, the meal is continually interrupted by an unexpected event, which eventually leads to the dinner’s end – and the guests’ demise. I have never been particularly drawn to short films, but this one certainly piqued my interest, and I recommend it for its pure absurdity.

With Next Floor, understanding the language spoken was not a problem because only two words are uttered during the film, which – as you can probably guess – are “next floor.” So as the lights dim once more for the 90-minute film Un Capitalisme Sentimental, it does not cross my mind that the movie might not have English subtitles. However, as the film comes on and the protagonist begins to speak, it becomes quite clear that there will be no subtitles to guide me through this three-quarters-French, one-quarter-English film. Still, I am able to make sense of the movie with my not-quite-fluent French, especially with the English interjections.

The movie is set in the late 1920s, beginning in Paris with an idealistic young woman named Fernande Bouvier. She abandons her husband in the country and moves to the city to be an artist, but is unsuccessful, and attempts to commit suicide. Two capitalist Americans bet their stockbroker, Victor, that he cannot market Fernande as a product. Victor accepts, finds Fernande before she can kill herself, and whisks her off to New York City where she begins her capitalistic ventures. However, as Fernande learns, what comes easily in the capitalist world can also be taken away in an instant.

The Quebec film has a very avante-garde feel; the mixture of drawn representations of scenery and filmed reality give it an air of fantasy. The characters’ random outbursts into song also remind me a little of a scattered, pared-down Moulin Rouge. The movie raises some noteworthy points about the careless attitude toward money that was prevalent in the late 1920s. In the end, Un Capitalisme Sentimental offers a somewhat unrealistic fairy-tale ending, which I feel didn’t fit with the atmosphere of the rest of the film. However, it is an interesting film, and I don’t regret the 8 a.m. wake up, which is saying something – I don’t generally enjoy being up before 10.

Erin O’Callaghan