Jean-Paul Colmor is an eccentric subject. Living alone in the woods, the hermit’s daily chores include fiddling with thousands of used cars scattered throughout his expansive property. Colmor, it is apparent, enjoys his solitude.
“For me, it’s not crazy. It’s a good life,” he says to a couple of young, camera-toting visitors.
Carcasses begins as a contemplative documentary about an old man and the simple pleasures of his isolated life. Then, unexpectedly, a group of wanderers with Down-syndrome appear. A tableau shot of one of the intruders pointing his rifle at Colmor reveals a carefully scripted drama. Our established assumptions and sense of certitude quickly disappears.
Denis Cote says Carcasses is his favorite among the nine feature-length works he has made during his productive filmmaking career, which began in 2005.
“Maybe it is a bit fragile and doesn’t work too well. But all that I’ve been trying to do with cinema is captured in that film,” says Cote, who spoke with the Taipei Times last week when he was in Taipei to attend a retrospective of his works held by the Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節), which ends on July 17.
FROM FILM CRITIC TO FILMMAKER
Born in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, Cote grew up watching “every horror film in the world” and was dubbed a “horror film encyclopedia” during his teen years. He studied film at Montreal’s Ahuntsic College before embarking on a career as a film critic, watching up to three films a day at the local cinema, while reading as much as possible about movies. On weekends, he would make his own short films.
Cote remains a devoted cinephile, watching films wherever he goes and is among the best-traveled, contemporary directors in Canada.
His narrative-driven films, All That She Wants (2007) and Curling (2010), garnered two best-director wins at the Locarno International Film Festival.
The more experimental projects, Bestiarie (2012) and Joy of Man’s Desiring (2014), were selected for the Berlinale Forum, and Carcasses (2009) was shown at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes.
His first foray into filmmaking, Drifting States, reveals much about his character. The film, he says, was made as an act of rebellion against the “commercial cinema being made in Quebec.”
The director says he started to write about film during the period when the international film scene saw the arrival of auteurs such as Jia Zhangke (賈樟柯) and Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮). As a strong advocate of art cinema, Cote would give a full page to an obscure film by Abbas Kiarostami, but only a paragraph to Spiderman. He consequently made enemies and was “banned by some distributors.”
“So I [said], ‘Just give me a video camera and six friends, and we will make a film,’” the 40-year-old director says.
And so they did. With a small budget and shot within 11 days, the resulting film takes a minimalist approach to storytelling and paints a frank and intimate portrait of a man’s journey into an arctic town after committing a crime of compassion.
Cote and his friends also did something uniquely cinematic. By presenting a fictional character in a realistic environment and making the film as he interacts with real-life inhabitants and their surroundings, the director creates what he calls “the cinema of the in-between,” an obsession he would come back to in his works again and again.