The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Robert Lepage

REVIEWED: 10-11-99

Forbidding title aside, this film by Quebec's Robert Lepage has a positive attitude -- though it opens with an example of the stark traditional Japanese theater it's named after, in spirit it takes after the Feydeau farce that is its centerpiece. In 1970 Montreal, Michel (Alexis Martin), a radical writer, harbors three Quebec Liberation Front friends hiding from a police crackdown. Meanwhile, at the Osaka World's Fair, Michel's girlfriend, Sophie (Anne-Marie Cadieux), an actress in a theater troupe with the Quebec pavilion, discovers she's pregnant and debates whether to return home. And so goes, bouncing from one country to another, with Japan in color and Canada, on the verge of martial law, in black and white. Michel points out spelling errors in his terrorist friends' manifesto and contributes a clock to their time bomb; Sophie goes out to dinner with the boorish cultural attaché and his wife and drinks too much sake; and Lepage explores issues of independence and collectivism, theater and life. Sometimes the symbolism gets glib: a Buñuelian stage moment, an automatic-photo booth that snaps pictures of each of the main characters at key moments, and a coda set in 1980 in which the word "no" takes on broader political implications all edge from quirky to coy. But the sly, subdued performances (the lanky Cadieux is like a combination of Vanessa Redgrave and Lucille Ball) make worth saying yes to.

--Peter Keough

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