Irlande Cahier Bleu (2023) [Fantasia Film Festival 2023] 

The story of Ducarmel, a poet, firefighter, father, basketball amateur, and soup-maker.  

Written and directed by Olivier Godin, this film feels like a mix of experimental and home/family film. The story looks to be improvised more than written, or rather not refined. There’s a story here, there’s something here, but because of the direction and style of the movie, it’s another case of a film getting lost within itself. The story is one of those where odd things happen, many things happen, and nothing happens all at the same time. It’s not a film that relies on the usual style of filmmaking and it could have worked. However, here, the story just falls flat. Like there is not much that keeps the attention. There’s some talk and mentions of potatoes that keep coming back, but even with common thread throughout, it’s difficult to keep the attention on the film and soon scenes are completely missed while watching the movie. It’s hard to explain, but there is so much in here and absolutely nothing at the same time. 

The cast seems to be just going through the motions of their characters which is either pure genius or absolute laziness. The cast works well together, there’s definitely something there, it just doesn’t feel like the right something. Like with the story and direction, it’s hard to explain, something is there, but something is massively missing, and it makes paying attention to the film difficult, or rather it makes it hard for the film and the performances to keep the viewer’s attention.  

One of the film’s aspects that does catch the eye and sometimes brings the attention back to the film here and there is the visual aspect of things. The cinematography by Renaud Després-Larose has some good ideas but feels limited by an attempt at being edgy or nostalgic. The film is shot in a grainy style, full screen aspect ratio, which makes it look like a VHS tape one might have had for decades and is finally watching. Except some of the technology in the film sets it very much in the current times, so the images create a dichotomy which was most definitely on purpose as the film’s lead is described as “anachronistic”. That being said, the visual style matches that anachronism and makes it even more obvious while still not really creating much more than just a style for the images that feels disconnected. 

While the film’s look has the nostalgic aspect down, the story itself does not keep the attention and the characters come off as bland. There is an attempt here at doing something original, a bit experimental, and mostly not all that interesting. There are good ideas in there, but it’s done in a way that is going to appeal to very few viewers and if it gets on the screen of someone it’s not made for, it will come off as a an oddly made movie with some dialog that doesn’t feel natural, characters without much development to them, a universe that is quite bland, and well, not much to keep the attention. This is not a film that would be recommended for many, or any, viewer.   

This year the Fantasia International Film Festival runs in Montreal from July 20th to August 9th.