Far Side of the Moon Reviews
i was in stitches for much of the show ;) the sibling brawls are hilarious and credible
French Canadian Multi-Tasker Robert LePage(writing, directing, & starring) has here created a near masterpiece, from his own stageplay. So drawn in was I by this films insights on so many levels. I kind of see this film as the lost human chapter of 2001: a space odyssey, which you may know is one of my favourite films.
The film is about many things: memories, lifelong regrets and hopes, lost loved ones, elation out of success, stagnation out of failure, the infinite universe; in three neat words, its about the human condition.
Put extremely simply, this is the story of two brothers living in the immediate wake of their mothers passing, who aren't identical twins, but are both played by the same person, Director LePage. The older brother, Philippe, is a over the phone solicitor, who is much too smart for his job, but has been in a rut. His brother Andre is a weatherman, and is in a homosexual relationship with Carl.
The film spends the bulk of its time with Philippe, although there is ample screen time for Andre as well. Other than their mother & Carl, the other characters' in this film are in only 1 or 2 scenes, yet they have great purpose and add meaning to the story.
Philippe, has since seeing the Apollo 11 moon landing as a child, wanted to be an astronaut ( or cosmonaut, as the Russians call them, and is said in this film as well). He was once a teacher, but has been writing a thesis for two years on "Mans' journey to the moon as fulfilment of extreme narcissism", and meanwhile has been working as a solicitor. He and his brother's mother just died from a slow degenerative disease. Both brothers had very different relationships with their mother, and both men don't see each other very much. They are like the Yin to the others Yang, in the literal and symbolic sense.
The acting by LePage is superb, and he is an intriguing figure on screen. He does a good job at portraying the brothers conflicting views in life, and the resentment and anger they harbour towards one another. Often we are met with ideas or facts about the brothers, and then suddenly we are shifted into the distant past, where the two brothers are living in their home as children; the flashbacks are used to evoke greater meaning in the present context, and allow for us to connect various dots. Yet the film always seems macrocosmic, never a mere character study, because its ideas and infatuations are with Existential and Cosmic themes. All of the smaller bits of seemingly ordinary bullshit are actually of limitless importance.
Such a knack for art house directing does LePage have. Sometimes we'll see two or three split screens, sometimes image superimposition; sometimes both, simultaneously. LePage makes effective use of dream sequences as well as memory recollection. Some scenes flow into others so effortlessly and discreetly that you may not even realize that one has ended and another begun. There are a couple formalist techniques that are representations of the characters inner psyche, including a mesmerizing one which ends the film.
There are so many subtle connections made in this film, and while it is very different from another film, Exotica, which I recently reviewed; both films have the same sensibilities, pertaining to tying memory recollection into the present plot, in strange and orignial ways. This narrative device not only illuminates the ending, but makes you realize that the beginning is no less important. This is unlike, say, a typical Hollywood narrative, which would usually employ flashbacks as a way to drive the present plot forward.
I truly admire this film, despite its sometimes slow pace. It has so much in it. I'll mention a part of the plot, which involves Philippe; while Philippe is watching a talk show, the host of the show has a member of SETI (search for extra terrestrial intelligence)on to speak. The person from SETI tells the people watching to send in video's of what you would like to say to ET's in the distant cosmos. SETI will pick the ten best video's and send them into outer space, where they may be found and watched by ET's. Parts of the rest of the film involves Philippe making video's as messages to the ET's, and it is purely brilliant. And so is this film. If you can find it, see it.
FYI: this is not a Science Fiction film. At all. And any score that seamlessly integrates Beethoven and Led Zeppelin into a film has my vote.
Visually, this is clever and enticing work, as Lepage uses recurring imagery (the moon, a goldfish, television screens, washing machines) as Phillippe revisits his past and present. Special effects are both subtle and astonishing, and the camera gets up close to capture hidden recesses of emotion within the characters. Filmed with a small budget, La Face CachÃ©e de la Lune still manages to dazzle. And yet... it's a bit annoying that the film doesn't grab hold more effectively, because artistically it is a real achievement. Lepage constructs films fluidly, dissolving between scenes in almost imperceptible ways that are clever and extremely skillful while touching on deep themes.
As an actor, Lepage is fine enough, but he can only command our attention onscreen for so long, so I found myself holding on to supporting performers for any narrative interest. Needless to say, he is at the very center of the project, so characters besides Philippe and Andre are not given a lot of screentime. I understand the brothers occupy the core of the drama, but I personally found them uninteresting, and their dialogue sometimes feels forced.
I wanted to fall in love with this one as it obtained even more international recognition than Le Confessional, but alas, I was not swept away at all. I appreciated it, but... that's about it.