“Saint-Narcisse”: down with taboos

Bruce LaBruce, the enfant terrible of Canadian cinema, strikes again: after premiering at 77e edition of the Venice Film Festival last year, then at the Toronto International Film Festival, Saint-Narcisse, his thirteenth feature film, arrives on our screens to crush taboos around family, religion and, of course, sexuality. With this family drama punctuated by comic scenes set in Quebec in the early 1970s, LaBruce underlines the influence of Quebec director Paul Almond on his work.

In an interview he gave to Vancouver Sun. last week, Bruce LaBruce evoked this trilogy signed Almond, Isabel, The Act of the Heart and Journey, respectively published in 1968, 1970 and 1972 and in which his wife of the time, the actress Geneviève Bujold, plays. “When I was little, I saw The Act of the Heart. […] Donald Sutherland plays a priest who sleeps with a girl [Bujold] on the church altar, then she goes to a park, sprinkles herself with gasoline and sets herself on fire… and that’s the end of the film. I saw that when I was 12 or 14 – on CBC – and it had a huge effect on me. “

Certain themes of Almond’s trilogy can be recognized in Saint-Narcisse. LaBruce places his characters in a Quebec village near a monastery, the scene of sexual violence. The story begins in Montreal, however: when his grandmother (played by Angèle Coutu) dies having raised him, Dominic (Félix-Antoine Duval, nuanced and convincing) discovers the correspondence she had with her biological mother, which he believed to have died. The fop, a fan of self-portraits that he takes with his Polaroid camera – both a commentary on our Instagram time and a reference to Greek mythology – then gets on his motorbike and heads for the small village, where he will discover his origins.

Villagers show him the way to the house of the “witch” Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni), who lives with another woman, Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), the one “who does not seem to age”. The reunion with his mother arouses in the latter a lot of mistrust towards this proud and rather slobbery man, whom she will nevertheless then try to seduce. But Dominic’s mind is occupied elsewhere, first with the story of his mother, who fell in love with a woman while she was pregnant, thus finding herself forced to entrust her son to his mother.

But it is above all the meeting with a young monk that will upset him, since it is his twin brother – as in some places in the film, the scenario here fails since Beatrice does not mention to him beforehand that she was expecting two little boys. Anyway, the twist will provide the director with the opportunity to put on screen one of his most provocative scenes: the sexual relationship between these twins, who have fallen in love with each other. In English, commentators have spoken of ” twincest ».

Welcome to the cinematographic universe of Bruce LaBruce, taboo slayer who identifies with the movement queercore, former journalist and columnist became an icon of gay marginal auteur cinema. With Saint-Narcisse, he moved away from the porn productions of his beginnings to offer a more accessible vision (and this surprisingly polished film is indeed!) of his cinema, not without agreeing to joyous transgressions and a first bloody finale , then smirk.


★★ 1/2

Drama by Bruce LaBruce. With Félix-Antoine Duval, Tania Kontoyanni, Alexandra Petrachuck, Andréas Apergis. Canada, 2020, 101 minutes.

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