Film

SHINE ON YOU C.R.A.Z.Y. DIAMOND

Fired with Pink Floyd, Bowie and the Stones, a Quebec gem dazzles audiences

Brian D. Johnson October 24 2005
Film

SHINE ON YOU C.R.A.Z.Y. DIAMOND

Fired with Pink Floyd, Bowie and the Stones, a Quebec gem dazzles audiences

Brian D. Johnson October 24 2005

SHINE ON YOU C.R.A.Z.Y. DIAMOND

Fired with Pink Floyd, Bowie and the Stones, a Quebec gem dazzles audiences

BRIAN D. JOHNSON

IN A MOVIE that lasts more than two hours, it takes up exactly two minutes and 25 seconds. That’s how much of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil is heard on the soundtrack of C.R.A.Z.Y. It’s used for an irreverent fantasy sequence set in a Roman Catholic church, with choirboys lip-synching the “woo-woo”s. And to clear the rights for that little slice of music, the filmmakers paid over $138,000—which doesn’t cover the film’s American release. That’s a pretty nervy purchase for a Quebec movie with a total cost of just $7 million. But the producers lavished almost $600,000 of their budget on music rights. For writer-director Jean-Marc Vallée, the songs were vital to the story, a psychedelic coming-of-age saga spanning two decades in Montreal. The result is a movie wrapped in a crazy quilt of hits by the Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Quebec icon Robert Charlebois. No director since Martin Scorsese has used vintage rock to propel a narrative with such dramatic flourish.

The gamble paid off. C.R.A.Z.Y became a box-office sensation, grossing $5.5 million in Quebec alone and selling to distributors in 50 countries. It won the Toronto International Film Festival prize for best Canadian feature, and is Canada’s official Oscar entry for foreign-language film.

It’s a marvellous picture, a sprawling family drama about a boy born on Christmas Day, 1960, who grows up with four brothers, wonders if he’s gay, and tumbles headlong into sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.

As a wildly lyrical memoir tie-dyed with fantasy, C.R.A.Z.Y. resembles a more accessible, prose-like equivalent to Jean-Claude Lauzon’s poetic masterpiece, Léolo (1992). And it’s the latest example of Quebec’s robust and diverse film industry, which is now firing on all cylinders—thrilling both audiences and critics. It’s enough to make English Canada envious. Of course Quebec has a clear edge, with a captive French-language audience, a coherent culture, a built-in star system—and attitude. What makes its movies so different from English Canada’s pallid, angst-ridden cinema is a brash confidence in full-blooded narrative. Yet not so long ago—before the recent spate of hits that began with The Barbarian Invasions (2003) —Valleé says Quebec audiences dismissed Quebec movies as “boring, annoying, egocentric auteur films.”

Sounds like English Canada. Vallée, 42, is now doing the Hollywood dance, being courted by high-powered agents. He says his next movie will cost $40-$50 million. Meanwhile, C.R.A.Z.Y. doesn’t seem like Oscar bait. The Canadian film Water, Deepa Mehta’s majestic epic set in colonial India, would stand a better chance. But it’s in Hindi, and the Academy insists a foreign-language entry be in a country’s indigenous tongue. If a Canadian wants to make a film in Hindi, it has to be set in Canada, not India, if it’s to be eligible. Now that’s crazy. I