Review: Bruce LaBruce Makes Satire Sexy with His Brainy, Brawny 'Saint-Narcisse'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday September 14, 2021

'Saint-Narcisse'  (Source:FilmMovement)

Iconoclastic director Bruce LaBruce plays with contrasting stripes of identity, and eros, in the subtly satirical thriller "Saint-Narcisse."

Dominic (Félix-Antoine Duval) is a twenty-something in need of a jolt. He still lives with his grandmother, Marie (Angele Coutu), who tells him that he needs a family. She's right... but she's not telling him that he has more family than he knows about, a fact that he only discovers once she's died andn he's sorting through her possessions.

A secret cache of letters puts Dominic on the trail of his mother, Beatrice, (Tania Kontoyanni), whom he's always believed to be dead. Tracking her down to the village of Saint-Narcisse, Dominic soon finds out that the locals regard Beatrice with dread, thinking her to be a witch. More unsettling, they say, is her female companion — a woman who never ages.

For Dominic, none of this is nearly as shocking as the discovery of a headstone in the local cemetery that bears his own name — to say nothing of a monk he glimpses who looks exactly like him... a monk who's been appearing in Dominic's dreams.

As Dominic presses forward in his quest to understand his own origins, family secrets slowly unfurl, but each new revelation only points to new and stranger questions. Why does his mother's companion, Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), appear in a decades-old photo together with his mother, looking the same as she does now? Why does the monastery's sinister head monk, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), seem dead-set on preventing Dominic from visiting the monks there... especially the one who seems to be Dominic's twin?

Portents abound in this film, as do sly puns and unsparing observations that parallel religion with paganism, sexual oppression and abuse with liberation (especially of the LGBTQ+ sort), and even the archetypal tropes of Mother and Father, such that each element finds itself reflected (often grotesquely) in its thematic mirror image.

LaBruce has always been a filmmaker who blends the sexually provocative with the intellectually complex, and the sheer density of ideas in this film will beckon and enrapture. Or, if you prefer, you can simply enjoy the '70s horror-movie aesthetic of the piece, which LaBruce carefully conjures with his camerawork, lighting, and editing choices. One thing is certain: You'll never look at the myth of Narcissus (or the patronizing notion offered by some straights that narcissism is that being gay amounts to) in the same way again.

"Saint-Narcisse" opens in New York and via virtual cinema on Sept. 17.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.