Jean Pierre Lefebvre is one of the brightest stars in the constellation of gifted Quebec directors that rose in the 1960s. Early on, he revealed an admirable talent for making quietly convincing films about ordinary people, including his stately Les dernières fiançailles (The Last Betrothal) in 1973 about an elderly rural couple. Lefebvre’s latest effort, Le Jour “S... ” (The Day “S...”) uses a similarly limited focus, but the results waver disappointingly between the mildly charming and the downright insipid. There is some evidence in Lefebvre’s self-conscious subtitle, “S” as in... A Sentimental Tale, that he may have been aware of his film’s shortcomings. But telling the viewer that the film is sentimental hardly saves it from being so. Le Jour “S... ” has the savor of flat beer: little better than no beer at all.
The film follows a Montrealer, JeanBaptiste Beauregard (Pierre Curzi), through a day of his life as he waits for his actress-girlfriend, Claire Renault (Marie Tifo), to return from Toronto that evening. Jean-Baptiste idles away the hours by buying new underwear, watching a movie, remembering his youth and going to bed with his ex-wife. With its numerous flashbacks and fantasies, Le Jour “S... ’’becomes a pastiche of Jean-Baptiste’s entire life, from his first sexual initiation in the inhibited
1950s to the advance of middle-aged wisdom in the conservative 1980s.
Cleverly, Lefebvre manages to give some unity to those random memories by having Tifo play the parts of all the women who attract Jean-Baptiste. Wearing a variety of wigs and makeup styles, Tifo (Les bons débarras) appears as Jean-Baptiste’s lover—and also as his ex-wife, a cinema cashier, a pregnant woman on a bus and several others. Tifo skilfully plays each part in a different style, while remaining obviously the same woman all along. The device nicely underlines the old truth that people tend to choose the same type of companion over and over again.
But in designing the part of the idling Jean-Baptiste, Lefebvre has given Curzi (Les fleurs sauvages) little to work with. Jean-Baptiste is a passive, tepid fellow, although at times his very lack of imagination is amusing: sitting in a restaurant he fantasizes about the other patrons moving around stiffly in their underwear. Indeed, Le Jour “S... ” does not convincingly achieve the mixture of pathos and gentle humor to which it aspires until the last scene, when JeanBaptiste must confess his tryst with his ex-wife. The confrontation has a poignant honesty and mystery that is sadly lacking elsewhere. Viewers may find themselves wishing that Le Jour “S... ” started where it finishes—rather than pawing for so long through the predictable clutter of one man’s ordinary mind.
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