Moncton, New Brunswick. Present day. Max sneaks Linda out of a psychiatric hospital where she has been committed for reasons unknown to us. Max drives north in a last-ditch effort to introduce some much needed normalcy and stability into their lives. Max's plan? To settle in the film's eponymous city in the Northwest Territories. As they venture into the unknown, the pair pick up twin male, English-speaking strippers who seem normal enough, but soon reveal themselves to be cynical hustlers.
Stopping at a club somewhere down the road, and booking into motel, Linda takes in a set by an aging lounge singer, who immediately elicits Linda's admiration. However, the singer's sleaze--ball manager takes a rather unwholesome interest in her. Linda decides to hit the road with the singer, but is scared off by the manager and soon resumes her journey with Max. Returning to the motel that they share with the twins, Max and Linda steal the strippers' bankroll and head back on the road.
Sometime later, they are pulled over by the highway patrol for speeding after hitting a deer. Linda is taken to the station for further questioning but it is soon apparent that the officer is infatuated with her and angles for a date. It is revealed that Max is her brother, and she is free to date whomever she chooses. They head for the local casino where the lounge singer and her manager have settled in for a short stay. The manager still has a thing for Linda, lures her to a lonely spot, and masturbates while she stands fascinated and naked against a tree. The police officer appears, kills the pervert, and manages to frame Max for the crime. When Max arrives in Yellowknife, he is arrested for murder.
Yellowknife is the second feature from Rodrique Jean, a follow up to the acclaimed Full Blast (1999). It sets itself up to be a seminal Canadian road movie--Max (Sebastien Huberdeau) and Linda (Helene Florent) are driving north not south; people are polite while screwing each other over; and the film is about as bilingual as you can get--and in some ways, it is quite successful. It's photographed in a sparse and beautiful style, its muted tones echoing the landscape to a "T." Its pace is very much that of a road trip. The constantly forward-moving rhythm as things pass by is broken up by the occasional pit stop where any action, a change from the unbroken scenery, seems heightened. The ambience of the piece is so pitch perfect that while watching the film, you can almost taste the clean fresh air and feel the scenery slipping past you.
For the most part, the performances are good, especially Florent, who creates a very subtle yet highly conflicted character, and Patsy Gallant, whose pathetic lounge singer seems positively noble, albeit in an abstract way. Unfortunately, the script calls for both principals to be ciphers, and Huberdeau can't quite seem to pull that off. Furthermore, the story loses all of its energy after the first half. It starts with a definite purpose, but gets caught up in too many small-town-noirish goings-on that fall into one of two categories: confusing or unbelievable. In the case of Linda's and Max's relationship, it's both. We see them together in bed, then later Linda tells her cop boyfriend (Glen Gould) that they are siblings. It is never fully understood whether they are either (a) brother and sister who have sex together, or (b) they are a couple and Linda lied to the cop.
In essence, Yellowknife, like its protagonists, gets lost somewhere down the road. It has some beautiful elements, but probably needed another few drafts to have them fully realized. Still, credit must be given for the attempt. Yellowknife is a unique, laconic picture that simply tries to swallow more than it can chew. As a road movie, it certainly sets itself apart from its counterparts south of the border. If it had been an American film, the slow, sensuous feeling of alienation probably wouldn't have been allowed to develop, and I'm sure there would have been a lot more blood-soaked bodies along the way.
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|Date:||Dec 1, 2002|
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