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Ce qu'il faut pour vivre (2008)

Posted By : Someonelse | Date : 03 Jul 2011 02:33:11 | Comments : 2 |
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Ce qu'il faut pour vivre / The Necessities of Life (2008)
DVD9 | ISO | NTSC 16:9 (720x480) | 01:41:24 | 7,77 Gb
Audio: Inuktitut-French AC3 5.1/2.0 @ 448/192 Kbps + French Commentary | Subs: English, French
Genre: Drama | 14 wins | Canada

What does a human being need to live?
The film uses the 1950s-era tuberculosis epidemic in the Far North as its starting point. The spread of the disease forced many Inuit to go to various Canadian cities for treatment. Tivii is taken to a sanatorium in Quebec City. Uprooted, far from his loved ones and faced with a completely alien world, he finds himself unable to communicate with anyone.
When his nurse, Carole (Éveline Gélinas) realizes that Tivii’s illness is not the most serious threat to his well-being, she arranges to have a young orphan, Kaki, transferred to the institution. The boy is also sick, but has experience of both worlds and speaks both languages. By sharing his culture with Kaki and opening it up to others, Tivii rediscovers his pride and energy. Ultimately he also rediscovers hope through a plan to adopt Kaki, bring him home and make him part of his family.

IMDB

In lesser hands, Ce qu'il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life) could've easily degenerated into a rather trite melodramatic tearjerker. But director Benoit Pilon and Bernard Émond, who wrote the original screenplay, avoid the obvious clichés and instead make a point of underlining the subtle nuances in this story of two cultures clashing and then sort-of reconciling in 1950s Quebec.

That said, many will still likely need a few hankies to make it through this one because it is indeed one sad drama, all the more affecting because it's inspired by real events that scarred Canada's Inuit population 50 years ago.


Pilon, who is one of Quebec's best documentary auteurs, makes an assured feature fiction directorial debut with this deceptively simple story about an Inuit man, Tivii (the just-brilliant Natar Ungalaaq of Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner fame), living in the Far North in the '50s and suffering from tuberculosis. One day, a Canadian government ship arrives in his small community to test the locals for this terrible disease, and all those who test positive are immediately brought down south to be treated.

That's exactly what happens to Tivii and it goes without saying that he's almost in a state of shock when he suddenly arrives in a sanatorium in Quebec City, hundreds of miles from his wife and kids, surrounded by people who don't understand a word of his language.


That's really all there is to this deceptively simple story, but Pilon handles it with such care and finesse that it's impossible not to be moved by a film that is part invaluable social document, part old-fashioned melodrama and most importantly a downright fascinating exploration of two completely-alien cultures - Inuit and Québécois - meeting up in a church-run hospice jam-packed with people who have one thing in common whatever their ethnic roots - they're all suffering from a debilitating disease.

What's great about the film is that Pilon and Émond, who worked on the screenplay together, make every effort to not provide a black-and-white portrait of this dark slice of Canadian history. The film doesn't shy away from making it clear that it's a terrible thing that Tivii is brutally wrenched from his family and community, but this is not just another tiresome exposé of the white culture's exploitation of aboriginals.


The sanatorium's head doctor, Dr. Montpetit (Guy Thauvette), underlines the lack of compassion of the system when he notes that he has no time to be a missionary. But Tivii's main nurse Carole (Eveline Gélinas) goes well beyond the call of duty in her efforts to heal her patient, notably by introducing him to a young Inuit boy Kaki (Paul-André Brasseur), who helps Tivii come to terms with his new environment.

It probably wouldn't work nearly as well if it wasn't for Ungalaaq, who just has this unbelievable presence on the screen (as you already know if you've seen Atanarjuat). He has one of the most expressive faces ever to grace a movie screen and he ropes you in from the very first second you see him. You simply can't not care about what happens to this man.

It's hard to imagine this fine film, which had its world premiere in competition at the World Film Festival, will come away from the fest awards ceremony Monday night empty-handed and there is already plenty of talk about Ungalaaq nabbing the hardware as best actor. I certainly wouldn't quibble with that choice.
By The Gazette (Montreal), link


It's a tale of hopelessness, terror, confusion and desperation, and Ungalaaq makes you feel all of that. The Necessities of Life has done well on the festival circuit and was Canada's entry for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year, although it didn't make the final cut to be in the running Sunday.

Language barriers are no problem with sub-titles, but even without them I think the film would still work just in how Ungalaaq manages to get so much across with expression and pitch. Éveline Gélinas as a sympathetic nurse is also very good, as the relationship between her and Tivii shows that common language is not an impediment to either friendship or understanding. I also liked Denis Bernard in a small role as a sympathetic priest that tries to help Tivii adapt an orphaned Inuit that's also a patient in the hospice; some genuine laughs are mined out of their visit to the monsignor.


This proves that things aren't all black and white in the story. The actions of the government are not driven by I think some imperialist mentality, but by the notion that they were genuinely doing all right by the Inuit by taking them far from home and treating them in spite of everything. Their self-deluded altruism may have blinded them to certain facts on the ground, but Necessities isn't a story about the right-or-wrong of government policy. It's the story of one man's struggle to get some semblance of control of his situation, and whether or not he can maintain a sense of self so far from home. It's a simply powerful story that works its magic in small and unexpected ways.


At times filled with humor and warmth and at others feeling compounded by isolation and a hint of claustrophobia, Necessities of Life reaches out from the past and across cultures to remind us how fragile we are in a number of equally important ways. Is one's health worth a trip hundreds of miles away from home and being thrown into the deep end of some strange culture? It's a tough question, and while I think I know my answer, it's up to the audience to make up there own minds as to whether Tivii's journey made him the worse for ware, or worn for the better

In examining what constitutes the necessities of life, Pilon presents a variety of options – communication, belonging, acceptance and family. But chief among them is dignity.

Seen at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
IMDB Reviewer,
21 out of 23 people found this review useful


DVD Extras:
- Director's Commentary (French only)
- Behind the Scenes (French only)
- Trailer
- Photo Gallery


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