The Films of Simon Boisvert
Barmaids (March 20/05)
With Barmaids, filmmaker Simon Boisvert continues his exploration into the way men and women relate to each other - mining the same sort of territory that his previous films dealt with (Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent and Guys, Girls and a Jerk), without resorting to derivativeness. Alex (Boisvert) is engaged to marry Lyne (Caroline Gendron), despite the fact that he clearly can't stand her. Lyne, for her part, doesn't trust Alex and accuses him of sleeping around whenever he comes home late. As it turns out, Lyne is right to be suspicious; Alex has recently started seeing an actress named Isabelle (Elise Beaumont), though she's made it abundantly clear that she's not interested in anything beyond a casual relationship. Barmaids marks Boisvert's directorial debut, and he does an effective job of imbuing the film with a hands-off, improvisational vibe (except in a pair of love scenes, in which Boisvert employs an annoying strobe/slow-motion effect). One of the primary weaknesses of both Stephanie, Nathalie, Caroline and Vincent and Guys, Girls and a Jerk involved an unnecessary reliance on superfluous subplots, a problem that has been corrected here. Boisvert places the focus entirely on the dialogue, allowing his characters to talk and talk almost exclusively on the subject of relationships. It's an appropriate choice, particularly since Boisvert has long since proven that he has a good ear for dialogue that sounds authentic. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the filmmaker has assembled a surprisingly strong cast - with Beaumont and Diana Lewis (a veteran of Boisvert's previous films) giving especially capable performances. The film's only real fault is that it might be a little too talky, as the non-stop barrage of relationship-centric dialogue eventually becomes a little overwhelming. Still, that's a fairly minor complaint for a film that contains an impressive amount of truths and observations that nearly everybody can relate to.
Swinging Couples (October 5/06)
Swinging Couples marks the latest effort from Simon Boisvert, an indie filmmaker whose previous features - including last year's Barmaids - have dealt heavily with contemporary relationships and the problems that tend to emerge between the sexes. This time around, Boisvert shifts his focus to the world of swinging and follows three couples of varying happiness as they start to experiment within their relationships. Not surprisingly, each of the six primary characters reacts differently to the carnal shenanigans - with Diana Lewis' Lisa particularly horrified by the entire endeavor. Though Boisvert - along with director of photography Nathalie Lasselin - has infused Swinging Couples with a pleasantly ambitious sense of style, there's simply no denying that the dialogue remains the focus of the filmmaker's attention. His characters spend the majority of the movie's running time discussing the pros and cons of adopting unconventional lifestyle traits, and while the ceaseless chatter often threatens to become overwhelming, Boisvert generally does an effective job of injecting the proceedings with a palpable feeling of authenticity (thus ensuring that doldrums never quite set in). The uniformly effective performances certainly go a long way towards keeping things interesting, and help allay the nastier aspects of their respective characters' personalities. Swinging Couples clearly isn't for everyone, but for those that can stomach it, the movie does have valuable insights into the darker side of relationships.
40 Is the New 20
The English-language debut of French-Canadian filmmaker Simon Boisvert, 40 Is the New 20 casts Pat Mastroianni as Gary - a successful stockbroker who becomes convinced that his search for love has come to an end after encountering his high school sweetheart (Claudia Ferri's Jennifer). Though it becomes increasingly clear that Jennifer's simply not interested in him romantically, Gary nevertheless plows full-steam ahead in his efforts at rekindling their long-lost coupling - with his methods taking an unexpectedly sinister turn as he begins surreptitiously spying on her movements and hindering her attempts at meeting other men. There's little doubt that 40 Is the New 20 initially boasts the feel of a prototypical Boisvert endeavor, as the writer/director emphasizes dialogue in which the various characters explore the ins and outs of contemporary relationships - yet it's not long before the lack of a concrete storyline results in a lull within the proceedings. The movie quickly regains its footing, however, as Boisvert slowly-but-surely paints Gary as a far more duplicitous figure than one might've initially suspected, with the film's subsequent transformation from affable comedy/drama into a dark examination of the lengths men will go to control women - one that's ultimately reminiscent of Neil LaBute's In the Company of Men - certainly proving instrumental in its overall success. Mastroianni's effortlessly charismatic performance ensures that Gary remains likeable in spite of his progressively sleazy actions, while Bruce Dinsmore effectively steps into the shoes of Gary's exceedingly slimy friend Simon. The end result is an uneven yet intriguing piece of work that fits comfortably within Boisvert's remarkably consistent filmography, and it's undoubtedly becoming awfully difficult not to label the director Canada's answer to Ed Burns (although, to be fair, Burns has yet to emerge with such an unapologetically cynical take on romance in the 21st century).
Bold & Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style
As indicated by its title, Bold & Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style is a feature-length documentary detailing Canadian director Simon Boisvert's ongoing exploits within the realm of low-budget filmmaking - with the movie charting Boisvert's career from his early, amateurish beginnings right through to his English-language debut in 2009 (with 40 is the New 20). And although Boisvert himself acts as the director here, Bold & Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style offers a surprisingly unbiased treatment of the struggling auteur's body of work - as Boisvert proves more than willing to strongly criticize his own endeavors. (He also elicits impressive honesty from several of his collaborators, with, for instance, actor/director Diana Lewis noting that she felt a "personal embarrassment" at how one particular project turned out.) There's little doubt that Bold & Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style works best as an incisive behind-the-scenes look at the low-budget filmmaking scene, with the movie boasting an eye-opening and brutally honest account of Boisvert's ongoing struggles in the industry. Boisvert's tales of his initial efforts to make a film are especially interesting, as the writer/director discusses, for example, his own shortcomings as an actor and his crew's lack of respect during the shooting of his first film. As intriguing as these tidbits are, however, Bold & Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style ultimately does suffer from a pervasively uneven feel that diminishes its overall impact - with Boisvert's overuse of clips wreaking havoc on the movie's tenuous momentum (ie the clips seem to have been included solely to bump the running time up to feature length). Still, Bold & Brash: Filmmaking Boisvert Style is, for the most part, an engaging look at the trials and tribulations of a modern-day independent filmmaker - with Boisvert himself coming off as an affable, sympathetic figure. (Though most of his movies have received a critical drubbing, Boisvert earnestly notes that he doesn't "want to make bad films on purpose.")