17 November 2004 | JamesLisk
Average sex farce from award-winning director Gilles Carle
Quebec-born director Gilles Carle has never done much to impress me, so that's why, despite being nominated for at least one award, I really wasn't expecting much from his anomalous sex farce The Postmistress.
Set in the small rural town of Val Jacob, Quebec 1935, it concerns a community rallying together in an attempt to stop a government-backed Hydro-Electric project from going forward. When an affluent family, the Cunninghams, backed by political sponsorship reaching up as far as the Quebec Premier, look to push plans of starting up an electrical venture on the outskirts of the Val Jacob dam, the town's Postmistress, Rachel, played with a seductive magnetism by Chloe Sainte-Marie, resolves to unify the residents into a cohesive unit against them. An electrical engineer, Fernand Gautier (Nicolas Francois Riyes), determines that any escalation in the water level will most likely cause the outdated dam to give way, potentially causing a tragedy.
The problem I had with the film is that the plot, which is quite engaging, is pushed almost entirely into the background, allowing director Carle to focus pointlessly on his various one-dimensional characters and their sexual exploits. The characters, all of which lack any kind of real composition, seem motivated almost completely by their libido, and nothing else. I knew almost nothing about the characters when the film began, and even less when the film ended. Sadly, this is what is really bothersome about the picture, nobody really cares about anything or anybody... except themselves. If you're intrigued by sex however, then this might be the film for you because there's an abundance of it with this eccentric lot. First, there's the Mayor (Roger Giguere) who is cheating on his wife, Mrs. Mayor (Louise Forestier), as she is called, with his secretary Amelie (Michele Richard), who dresses up as a deer for at least one rendezvous in the woods. There's Cora (Marzia Bartolucci), Rachel's best friend, who is courted by Tonio (Alain Olivier Lapointe), a man as obsessed with his bag-pipes as he is with dressing in women's clothes. Finally, there's the Postmistress, Rachel, who spends the majority of the film stalking the engineer Fernand, including opening, and replying to, his mail and breaking into his motel room in the wee hours of the night. There's also Rachel's nine-year old brother Amedee (Steve Gendron), who is informed in the opening minutes of the film, that he has a detached retina and will eventually go blind. The bulk of his screen time is spent preparing for his impending blindness by wearing dark glasses and walking with a cane. He also seems to be present for a good majority of the sex and nudity, something I found myself having a real problem with. During the course of the film, this youngster, all of about eight years old during the time of production, is shown exposed breasts, takes a photograph of his naked sibling in a tub, reads the Kama Sutra, watches a couple copulating, spies on a naked woman across a field and much more. Exposing Gendron to such adult exposition left me wondering, exactly, what kind of point was director Carle making? The joke, if it is a joke, doesn't pan out because the audience knows the child is not blind, and most of the characters also know it too, so what's the point of it? Unpleasant, to say the least.
There were a couple of chuckles in the film, including a meeting between Algonkian Indians and the Quebec businessmen looking to set-up shop on the dam. Chloe Sainte-Marie, acting as the interpreter for the Algonkian and French speaking parties, offers her own hilarious slant on what the French businessmen are really offering with their sales pitch. Also, the cinematography by Rene Verzier is breathtaking. The gorgeous scenery around Saint-Narcisse, Quebec, where the film was lensed, was a real treat for the eyes.
A few laughs and some visual eye-candy are hardly enough to save the whole of the film. The director should have spent more time developing interesting characters, because without that you're left with nothing, and in the end, you feel cheated.