Canadian director extraordinaire Bruce La Bruce graces TIFF20’s program with his latest schlockfest ‘Saint-Narcisse‘. La Bruce takes us back to the 70s, where we meet the 22 year-old narcissist Dominic. Taking Polaroid selfies every opportunity he gets, he constantly turns himself on by looking at his own reflection. When his grandmother dies, he discovers his mother didn’t die in childbirth, like he has been told, and he has a twin brother who was raised by a depraved priest in a remote monastery. While looking for his mother, a mysterious force connects him with his identical brother. Strange sexposition, twincest and bizarre intrigues ensue. “Go fuck yourself”, in the most literal sense of the word.

Although director La Bruce (‘It is Not the Pornographer That is Perverse…‘) creates shots of the twin brothers by using 21st century technology, the film often looks like a Madonna music video from the beginning of her career, especially when we explore the monastery. Félix-Antoine Duval (‘La Malédiction de Jonathan Plourde‘) plays the two brothers on screen, and even though he does his best to establish a difference in personality, there is still a self-consciousness and some sort of disconnect that he can’t overcome.

I’m not really familiar with La Bruce’s previous work, but he does strike me like a je-m’en-fous kind of guy, who just creates whatever he pleases. The amount of nudity and self-adoration that goes hand-in-hand with Dominic’s character extends towards an expected path of “twincest” which seems natural to his personality, but that doesn’t make it less immoral. In some sort of multiverse version of The Parent Trap, these two estranged brothers meet eye to eye and their sexual fluidity goes off the charts, by means of teasing and flirting with whomever they please. This goes so far, that the only family they have left, consisting of mother and step-sister, join in on the “fun”.

The whole monastery plot takes a turn for the worse, when the priest believes Dominic’s twin brother is destined to be a Bride of Christ and spikes his wine to abuse him on the regular. This sort of weird fetishized clergy-fantasy is nothing more than a plot vehicle to address why Dominic and his mother never knew about the twin’s existence. La Bruce has an eye for detail, and especially the costume and set design, lighting, editing and score are of higher quality than you’d expect, but his and co-writer Martin Girard‘s storytelling skills don’t go much further than the rather absurd synopsis.

The talented La Bruce’s newest work will definitely be appreciated by a very niche audience, but mainstream? No, that’s just a bridge too far, and I don’t think that will keep La Bruce awake at night. ‘Saint-Narcisse‘ is definitely worth a watch for its rather clean schlok-factor. This unique version of a belated coming-of-age journey starts off ambitious before the crazy ride completely derails when they decide “to keep it in the family”.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

TIFF20 Review – ‘Saint-Narcisse’

Reviewed online (as part of Toronto International Film Festival), September 11, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 101 min.

PRODUCTION: A Best Friend Forever release of a 1976 Productions, Six Island Productions production. Producers: Nicolas Comeau, Paul Scherzer.

CREW: Director: Bruce La Bruce. Screenplay: Martin Girard, Bruce La Bruce. Editor: Hubert Hayaud. Cinematography: Michel La Veaux. Music: Christophe Lamarche-Ledoux.

WITH: Félix-Antoine Duval, Tania Kontoyanni, Alexandra Petrachuk, Andreas Apergis.

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