Le Banquet @ Rendez-vous du Cinema Quebecois

There was plenty of anticipation building up in Quebec for director/screenwriter Sébastien Rose's (How My Mother Gave Birth to Me During Menopause) third feature length film. Much of the hype has been due to the fact that it involves a crazed gunman's rampage through a university. Obviously this is going to be a touchy and controversial part of the film due to the fact that in the city of Montreal we have had three shootings in schools over 20 years.

As someone who lived through the Dawson College shooting (my 'real' job is at the college) the parts with the shooting were harrowing to watch. What that means, I guess, is that Rose got that part of the film bang on. It is different enough from the three shootings at Dawson, Concordia and Polytechnique in that it is not offensive or insensitive, but infused with enough reality that it really brings home the message in an effective way. The film's goal is to make us realize that the shootings are a result of angry, exasperated and disturbed youth. We have to recognize them, figure out why it's happening and try to help those that need our help.

As a warning to those who might find the scenes of the shooting too disturbing. They are. It is bloody, violent and horrible. Even those with stronger constitutions better brace themselves. The fact that he decided to include this type of angle in his story should not cause an uprising against the director. It is an important and logical part of the film. Nothing is gratuitous. Film is an art form in which those involved should be allowed to question all aspects of society. The good and the bad. The easy and the hard. He is just looking at the problem from one point of view and hopefully it will cause discussion and, more importantly, action

Rose's film is incredibly ambitious as it tries to tackle the subject of youth becoming disillusioned with higher education due to the commercialization of higher education (it's all about the Benjamins now), resources in decline at most post secondary institutions, the rise of student tuition fees, and, at the same time, a decrease in the amount of student bursaries made available.

"Le Banquet" is an ensemble film with interconnected stories. Louis-Ferdinand (Frédéric Pierre – Scoop II) and Granger (Pierre-Antoine Lasnier – La Vie Avec Mon Père) are two student leaders at a university who are trying to negotiate a better deal (tuition and bursary-wise) with the government. With one taking the moderate position and one the hard-line, so conflict and chaos is inevitable. A student strike seems to be inevitable. They both butt heads with the president of the university, the dollars and cents Jean-Marc (Raymond Bouchard – Nitro, La Grande Séduction). Jean-Marc also has his hands full with his addict, struggling actress, single mother daughter Natasha (Catherine De Léan – La Vie Secrète des Gens Heureux, La Capture), who shows up wanting money at an inopportune time. Bertrand (Alexis Martin – L'Audition) is a teacher who is depressed and frustrated and finds his difficult job of teaching cinema at the university level even more trying by a disagreeable student, Gilbert (Benoit McGinnis – Délivrez-Moi), in one of his classes. Life at this university is not a happy one for anyone.

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