Montreal hasn’t looked so achingly beautiful—and desolate—since Jean-Claude Lauzon’s Léolo (1992). Director Charles Binamé’s Eldorado, a box-office hit in Quebec and one of four Canadian films that travelled to Cannes in May, is an intense drama about six 20-something characters confronting themselves in the middle of a hot summer. Shot in natural light with hand-held cameras, and with each actor improvising dialogue, it is about as far from a Hollywood movie as it is possible to go and still retain a plot line. Yet, the movie has a polished, assured quality as it interweaves the lives of an anxious barmaid and her dull boyfriend, a radio host who makes Howard Stern look positively prudish, the deranged young woman who fantasizes about him, and an amoral, home less female who betrays everyone, including the kind young woman who has taken her in. It is as if they are the disinherited children of the morally adrift characters in Denys Arcand’s Decline of the American Empire. Seemingly without roots, the young men and women in Eldorado are lonely, guilt-ridden and devoid of belief. Sex is everywhere, but it offers little consolation.
At times, writer-director Charles Binamé, a veteran documentary maker best known for his work on the hit Quebec series Blanche, allows Eldorado to descend into a joyless Gen-X catalogue of cynicism and anxiety.
But the quality of the performances— especially James Hyndman as the disc jockey, Pascale Bussières as the homeless waif, and Pascale Montpetit as the deluded Henriette—make it compelling. And the musical score is arresting—from the head-banging dance beats of techno-dread to the amazing cello solos of Claude Lamothe, who composed various pieces and performs them on-screen. Like the movie, Lamothe’s music is many-faceted— harsh, grave, dissonant and occasionally achieving a soaring beauty.
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