Films

Francois Peloquin on minimal dialogue and maximum movement in ‘The Sound of Trees’

Roy Dupuis and Antoine L’Ecuyer in “The Sound of Trees”Christian Mouzard/Courtesy of Silversalt PR

In “The Sound of Trees” (“Le bruit des arbres”), writer-director Francois Peloquin portrays rural Quebec’s dramatic shift to unbridled economic and ecological change via a coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old teenager seeking more out of life than taking over his father’s sawmill.

“The way I think about Quebec’s culture is it’s in an adolescent state because it’s turning its back on its regions. If you don’t like where you’re from, you turn your back,” Peloquin told CanScreen, as his debut feature had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

The atmospheric drama, now on release in Quebec and headed to the festival circuit elsewhere in Canada, challenges our understanding not only of the forest’s place in the Quebecois imagination, but also of the environmental and economic dilemmas confronting the French-speaking province.

Peloquin’s script, co-written with Sarah Levesque, unleashes two forces struggling for the hearts and minds of the Gaspesie region – big timber conglomerates looking to buy up smaller sawmills, and local farmers and foresters who are keen to retain their traditional ways.

In the middle of rural Quebec’s cultural rupture and transition is Jeremie, a teenager played by newcomer Antoine L’Ecuyer. Over one summer, he finds himself caught between the forest that sustains a small sawmill run by his father, Regis, (Roy Dupuis) and the road, which promises a better life in Quebec City.

Rather than be content to work in the forest, Jeremie is drawn to fast cars, women and hip-hop culture, a lifestyle his frustrated father blames on a local drug dealer.

Jeremie and Regis represent a dual personality, two conflicting halves of a seemingly doomed Quebecois regional culture that strain in opposite directions. Regis wants to stay, while Jeremie wants to leave.

To develop his coming-of-age storyline, Peloquin selected lead actors with the exceptional skills and talent necessary to animate their characters through body language and movement.

“I didn’t have to cast Roy (Dupuis). He was the best choice for the role,” Peloquin explained.

“I knew I had a lot to say through action and movement, without dialogue. And when I cast Antoine (L’Ecuyer), I was also looking for that, a really intense body that can tell a lot,” he added.

Dupuis said he relished playing an intense and rough character through movement, while also sensitively conveying emotions using sparse dialogue.

“As an actor, and also someone who watches movies as an audience, I tend to feel if you can show it, rather than say it, it’s a plus. Cinema for me is imagery first, and photography,” he explained.

The “Sound of Trees” has ample dialogue, but it’s peripheral to the dramatic action. The audience is encouraged to follow the body movements and facial expressions of the main characters: stir-crazy Jeremie and his father, Regis, who sees his family sawmill business under threat from an encroaching multinational.

In one sawmill scene, Regis repeatedly cuts planks of wood while a representative of a giant timber company promises him a quiet desk job if he agrees to sell his family business.

“I like that Regis is playing with the noisy saw to shock the salesman,” Peloquin explained.

Dupuis added that the scene suggests key information about the implied confrontation and the tension in the film between the big sawmills and the smaller players that they are buying up and taking over.

“The important thing is (Regis is) making wood, in the right way, for my character,” Dupuis said. “He’s using what he does best, and what he believes is the way to do things, to shut the other guy down.”

“I won’t have anything to do (without the sawmill business). I’ll be with people who don’t know the difference between wood types,” he added. “I love the wood. So you you’ll never buy me.”

Dupuis’ character conveys all that in silence.

For Regis, it’s also about keeping faith as a free-spirited father with a traditional way of life in the Gaspesie.

“Regis has the responsibility of taking care of a kid, but he, like most of those men in the region,” Dupuis explained, “has some freedom because they don’t have to wear suits and ties. More than most people in the cities, or that work in offices, and that’s probably why I wanted him to be more free in his movement.”

Peloquin also uses long takes in “The Sound of Trees” for dramatic and narrative effect.

“We were often shooting long scenes,” he said. “I had to rely on what the actors feel through all of the scene, and what we are all listening to in terms of chunks of information that inform feelings and movements and a direction.”

In one extended take, Jeremie gets out of his car, takes a beer from a friend, walks away and joins another friend amid well-choreographed chaos.

Then there’s a close-up of kids, followed by a medium shot, a long shot down a bridge to establish the wider summer night setting, and finally a close-up of Jeremie before he leaps off the bridge and into the water, to whoops and cheers.

As his friends become increasingly impressed with Jeremie’s energy and aggressiveness, so does the viewer.

Francois Peloquin

 

Fabrice Gaetan/Courtesy of Silversalt PR

 

“I always think of the shot in a way that it provides its own editing. So sometimes I have to start wide, then come closer and closer. Sometimes I come closer, I pan away, give other information, and then come back. And other times the actors move around to give me close-ups one at a time,” Peloquin said.

For the Quebec director, screening his debut feature in Karlovy Vary is a dream come true.

“It’s unexpected. It’s a chance and I feel honoured. I didn’t dream of doing cinema when I was a kid. This thing came up later when I was more mature, and felt confident I could do it. Now I’m very pleased with the result,” Peloquin said.

“The Sound of Trees” is released by K-Films Amerique in Quebec.

Review: ‘Two 4 One’

Gabrielle Rose and Gavin Crawford in “Two 4 One” Courtesy of Strut Entertainment

Maureen Bradley’s “Two 4 One” is centred around a transgender male who is in the final stages of transitioning. After a recent story in the news and on television that followed a high-profile gender reassignment, one might be tempted to describe Bradley’s feature film debut as “timely.” I would, but for the filmmaker’s sophisticated approach towards her characters. Bradley refuses to use a current, much talked-about topic as a gimmick to elicit knee-jerk responses.

“Two 4 One” is highly original with a cast full of great performers. At the core is actor Gavin Crawford, taking a break from semi-blue comedy to play the role of Adam – formally known as “Melanie.” The support Adam receives is positive, but his world feels interrupted when Miriam – a past flame – enters the picture.

Miriam (Naomi Snieckus) is a bit of a wild card, and she knows this. Her choice to become a mother has Adam raising an eyebrow. However, she’s dedicated and, after much reluctance, Adam agrees to assist with her artificial insemination. But the simple procedure takes a turn when proper precautions are tossed away during the heat of the moment, leaving Adam to be unexpectedly expecting.

“Two 4 One” has a plot with indirect people dodging the obvious answer to all of their problems: if everyone had honest conversations with each other, there would be hardly any complications. But then “Two 4 One” would also be a ten-minute short.

Bradley’s film gets away with these contrivances mostly because of the dedication of the cast and the sweetness of the story. But “Two 4 One” is honest in other ways, as we see Adam attempt to prove to himself that he’s more masculine than before – and Crawford’s performance is particularly strong during these scenes in which he appears alone and his body language convincingly relays his internal struggle.

“Two 4 One” is a good movie that isn’t light on beauty shots of Victoria, BC. However, Bradley deserves to be applauded for knowing where she wants to take her film and for understanding the level of intensity it would require to venture down those untravelled roads. She knows that providing deep focus to certain themes means having to make compromises and critical changes to the story’s atmosphere.

“Two 4 One’s” time-leaping, shortcutting final third could be compared to the neat wrap-up of an after-school special, but I understand Bradley’s sensibility. Moviegoers, too, should be able to recognize her skillful touch as a filmmaker who keeps her lovely film light-hearted, while also revealing the gravity of difficult issues.

Beginning July 17, “Two 4 One” will be in Toronto cinemas and available on iTunes everywhere.

“Two 4 One” is distributed by Hoggwild Films.

Interview: Ric Esther Bienstock on her ‘Rashomon’ documentary “Tales From the Organ Trade,” coffee and Cronenberg

Filmmaker Ric Esther Bienstock talks about her journey of tracking down and interviewing those involved in an organ trafficking ring for her lauded documentary “Tales From the Organ Trade” and how David Cronenberg came to narrate the film.

Producer/videographer/video editor: Nicole Powell
Journalist/videographer: Charles Hutchings
Sound recordist: Logan Scott


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Interview: Liz Marshall on ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine,’ ‘cognitive dissonance’ and the film’s impact

Filmmaker Liz Marshall discusses her award-winning, animal-rights documentary “The Ghosts in Our Machine,” “cognitive dissonance,” and the impact that the film has had on her and audiences.

“The Ghosts in Our Machine” is available on DVD and VOD.

Producer/videographer/video editor: Nicole Powell
Journalist/videographer: Charles Hutchings
Sound recordist: Logan Scott


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Interview: Albert Shin on his ‘female-driven’ film ‘In Her Place,’ multiculturalism and the power of characters

Albert Shin discusses the journey of his successful, small-budget feature “In Her Place,” the centrality of the film’s female characters, and how multiculturalism and world cinema speak to audiences.

Producer/videographer/video editor: Nicole Powell
Journalist/videographer: Charles Hutchings
Sound recordist: Logan Scott


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Interview: Joel Thomas Hynes on ‘Cast No Shadow’

“Cast No Shadow” writer-actor Joel Thomas Hynes talks about the inspiration for the film’s story, Newfoundland settings and working with his son Percy Hynes White.

Producer/Videographer/Video Editor: Nicole Powell
Journalist/Videographer: Charles Hutchings
Sound Recordist: Logan Scott


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Interview: Albert Shin discusses ‘In Her Place’

Filmmaker Albert Shin talks to CanScreen about his “quietly”-made feature film “In Her Place” and its seven Canadian Screen Awards nominations.

Journalist/Videographer: Zachary Zaza
Video Editor: Stephen George


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Interview: Producer Chris Agoston on ‘Cast No Shadow’

Producer Chris Agoston talks with CanScreen about “Cast No Shadow” and its multiple Canadian Screen Awards nominations.

Journalist/videographer: Zachary Zaza
Video editor: Stephen George


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

Interview: Liz Marshall on her documentary ‘The Ghosts in Our Machine’

Filmmaker Liz Marshall talks about her “cinematic,” “character-driven” documentary film “The Ghosts in Our Machine” which asks, “Are animals property to be owned and used or are they sentient beings deserving of rights?”

Journalist/videographer: Zachary Zaza
Video editor: Stephen George


SHARE THIS ARTICLE:

1 2 3