Reflections on Metafilms

Film Curator Danny Lennon Discusses Movie Selection for Carte Blanche Series

courtesy of Centre Phi.
courtesy of Centre Phi.
courtesy of Centre Phi.
courtesy of Centre Phi.

From Jan. 20 to Feb. 17, Montreal’s Phi Centre will be presenting the Metafilms Carte Blanche series, five nights of film screenings highlighting favorites selected by Metafilms’ producers: Nancy Grant and Sylvain Corbeil.

Their varied selection includes Claude Jutra’s À tout prendre (1963), Maurice Pialat’s À nos amours (1983), Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997), Joachim Trier’s Oslo, 31 août (2011) and Jean Eustache’s _La Maman et la Putain_(1973).

Danny Lennon, the Phi Centre’s film curator and a passionate cinephile, has sustained a lasting relationship with Grant and Corbeil, whose numerous short and feature-length productions have won over his confidence for this month’s program.

“When Metafilms announces a new film, I don’t bother looking it up, I instantly run to see it,” said Lennon.

For the unsuspecting audience, both Grant and Corbeil are behind such Quebec hits as Xavier Dolan’s Tom à la ferme (2013) and Mommy (2014), which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and Maxime Giroux’s Félix et Meira (2014), crowned “Best Canadian Film” at the 39th Toronto International Film Festival.

Grant and Corbeil’s contributions to contemporary Quebec cinema is an important one, having brought the public the works of Mathieu Denis, Simon Lavoie, Julie Hivon, Frédérick Pelletier, Karl Lemieux and Guy Édoin, to name a few.

Denis Coté is also a close and frequent collaborator and his films have all been awarded internationally, making him one of Quebec’s most acclaimed auteurs.

Through these often difficult, existential films, the duo’s trademark cinematic vision has thrived alongside directors who embrace marginal perspectives and succeed in viscerally melding psychic and emotional turmoil with Quebec’s spirited and ominous landscape.

Metafilms’ prolific production of short features espouses Danny Lennon’s fierce dedication to promoting the best short films by independent filmmakers from around the globe.

“The two-year-old Phi Centre seems to be the ideal platform to challenge conventional cinema and genuinely deliver daring artistic visions,” explained Lennon.

Lennon collaborates regularly with no less than 20 Quebec film festivals, taking part in the short sections of around 50 festivals worldwide, as well as serving as director of programming for the short-film component of the Festival des films du monde de Montreal.

In general, and particularly for this month’s Carte Blanche, “the concept of thematic curation would be too constricting,” said Lennon.

Instead, Lennon’s sole premise is to show films that hit you in the gut. The tedious task at hand for the producers of Metafilms was to pick five essential films that emerged as emblematic observations of a generation.

What links their chosen films is the groundbreaking frankness they initiated with regards to themes like teenage exuberance and alienation in Gummo, the emotional estrangement fuelled by drug addiction in the Norwegian feature Oslo, 31 août, and feminine sexuality in À tout prendre, La Maman et la Putain and À nos amours.

Through this screening experience, audience members can expect a creatively audacious investigation into the subtleties of human emotion, roaming from rural nihilism to feminine emancipation from chauvinist ideals.

In much the same way that Jutra and Eustache explore the classic theme of gender entrapment or Trier explores Scandinavian melancholia and drug recovery, Korine’s Gummo, a film often denigrated as pretentious, is now elevated to the ranks of other classics through its touching observation of Ohio’s disaffected youth. La Maman et la Putain, now lauded as a seminal piece of French cinematography, was on its release condemned as immoral, obscene and “an insult to the nation,” according the French newspaper Le Figaro.

As a fervent film curator, Danny Lennon stresses the importance of granting to such unique films the public film-viewing ceremony they and the audience deserve.

Overall, the upcoming Metafilms Carte Blanche series seeks to relay a poignant reflection of individual lives at odds with their surroundings and calls for a reevaluation of films that have shocked complacent audiences by their sheer veracity.

Metafilms Carte Blanche film series // Jan. 20 to Feb. 17 // Phi Centre // $41.25 for a 5-film pass to the series