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Carcasses

By: Addison Wylie
*As seen at the 7th Annual All Canadian northbayfilmfestival*

Don’t you hate it when a film does nothing? Absolutely nothing. There’s potentially a good story there and, with a very open and creative director, the film could be very effective but instead the film just decides to do….nothing? Carcasses is one of these frustrating films filled to the brim of a director’s own indulgence and is too busy basking in its own pretentious soak to see that it’s doing nothing to involve an audience whatsoever. I sat in the theatre as the characters mumbled, observed crummy camerawork, and as the film’s pace progressed sluggishly, I couldn’t believe what was going through my head. Carcasses, a film barely directed by Denis Côté, is the worst movie I have ever seen.

Finding a plot in this muddled mess is difficult. What the audience is shown in the short duration is a series of scenes that feature real-life Quebecer, Jean-Paul Colmor, quietly drifting through life, not doing anything exciting in particular, while he helms his own personal junkyard. We see Jean-Paul rummaging through old car parts, finding old car parts and trying to sell these old car parts. When he’s not searching through his cluttered junkyard, he’s wandering around inside his house, where we see he is a hoarder. The audience then experiences what Jean-Paul likes to do in his spare time when he’s not looking for spare parts. Jean-Paul practices his Spanish and eats. He eats a lot. In fact, Jean-Paul breaks the forth wall to tell us how many times he chews his food before swallowing, and we see these actions; every last chew. One day, while Jean-Paul is searching through his junkyard, four teenagers with Down Syndrome, one welding a rifle, appear on the site seeking refuge. What will happen if Jean-Paul and these young teens meet? You’ll just have to wait and see. Or better yet, don’t wait at all. In fact, don’t even bother to wait from the first scene of the film to the end.

A movie like Carcasses really tests an audience’s patience. The audience is punished by sitting through endless scenes of lonely Jean-Paul finding car parts, sitting by himself, and chopping wood. These are just some of the activities Jean-Paul takes part in. As a fan of film and a critic, I can understand what Côté is trying to establish with these methods of filmmaking. For example, in Gus Van Sant’s, Elephant, the audience watches many scenes where students walk around a school for endless scenes. Why? To capture the innocence of an environment before two students turn that innocent environment into a murderous nightmare. Another example is Jim Jarmusch’s ,The Limits of Control, where the audience follows a no-named hit-man as he collects clues and meets interesting characters while the film builds up an intense mood to see how this hit-man’s mission will end. I mention these films because what Sant and Jarmusch do is what Côté fails miserably at and that is that he never makes one iota of his film compelling. Yes, we understand Jean-Paul leads an action-packed absent life but is he interesting enough of a character to have a movie made around him? Simple answer, no. Scenes where “nothing” happens is fine if we, the audience, care about a situation or characters. Here, we have no one interesting to care about in dull situations. By bringing in actors with Down Syndrome, this is Côté’s way to get the audience interested in his characters but it’s too late into the film for the audience to garner any interest for anyone or anything. It’s just sloppy handling of an otherwise fine method to create a fascinating film.

Not only is the limited direction a wreck, everything else is very confusing and frustrating as well. The camerawork is awful. We have multiple shots where the camera is locked off, showing establishing shots of trees and debris. These shots don’t add anything to the story since we already known how isolated Jean-Paul is in this environment. Whenever there are close-ups of characters, the shots are never of anything interesting as well. For instance, in a shot where Jean-Paul and a client are talking about cars, the shot is locked off on their lower torsos. There is no explanation given as to why the audience is forced to look at stomachs and rears and even if there was a reason given, the shot looks sloppy and unappealing. This example speaks volumes considering the other shots featured in this film are of the same nature. Also, the music chosen for this film is unnecessary. Hardly any music is used throughout this film to symbolize the isolation issue but when Côté decides to incorporate some kind of musical elements, the audience gets uncomfortably loud drivel that adds distraction to the scenes. Instead of being captivated, the audience is wondering, “who in their right mind would’ve picked a musical track this maddening?”; absolutely disappointing. Along with the confusing technical decisions, the actors look distraught too. Jean-Paul, who is apparently playing himself, looks confused to even breath let alone perform any actions that are directed towards him. As an audience member, I felt unsettled when the young teens with Down Syndrome would appear on the screen because it appears they were given limited direction. The camera focuses on them as they appear uncomfortable and confused as to what they should be doing. When they are given direction, the actors look very forced and uneasy. The film wrestles between being a documentary and being fictitious work and I don’t think anyone informed the talent of what Carcasses is even supposed to resemble. Côté’s direction is borderline exploitation and if he intends on directing another film, he needs to get his act together.

Carcasses is an agonizing journey through a never-ending void. Côté is too focused on being experimental that he is too blind to see he has made a disaster of a film. For me, a big convention of film is substance, which always has to come first over style. If the substance isn’t there, the film is going to fall apart. Côté’s Carcasses doesn’t have substance, it doesn’t have style, it just has a large, pompous ego

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