Lilies

on October 10, 1997 by Kevin Courrier
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   Based on Michel Marc Bouchard's play "les fleurettes" (who adapts), "Lilies" is probably John Greyson's most beautifully crafted movie yet. Yet it is still pretty silly. In trying to tell a tragic tale about a gay love triangle that involves jealousy and murder, Greyson ("Zero Patience") falls for all the same cliches that haunt purple melodramas of heterosexual love, above all in the sentimentality of the key love affair between two boys, which is portrayed as chaste and tender.
   "Lilies" (which won the audience Best Canadian Film Award at the Montreal fest and four Genies) takes place in Quebec in 1952 when an aging bishop agrees to hear a prisoner's confession inside a penitentiary. When he enters the confessional in the prison chapel, the bishop discovers that he's locked in and forced to watch the prisoners stage a recreation of the events of a love triangle that took place 40 years earlier and involved both the bishop and the confessor. Greyson deftly shifts between the past and the present using Brechtian devices to frame the action, but part of what goes so wrong in the material is that the prisoners come across as a cast set more in a gay bar. And Greyson directs Brent Carver, who plays a character's mother, as if he were a drag queen instead of a woman.
   Perhaps Greyson believes he's showing a view of gender through a gay sensibility, but having some of the male actors playing women in this way only confuses the issues in the story. "Lilies" is about coming to terms with secrets, an idea that extends itself to the secrets that homosexuals have had to bear in a culture that shuns them. But it's too bad that Greyson can't see that, by creating positive gay stereotypes, they are still stereotypes. And that's a secret "Lilies" doesn't wish to address.    Starring Brent Carver, Marcel Sabourin, Aubert Pallascio and Gary Farmer. Directed by John Greyson. Written by Michel Marc Bouchard. Produced by Anna Stratton, Robin Cass and Arnie Gelbart. A Turbulent Arts release. Drama. Unrated. Running time: 95 min.
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