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Another tricksy Canadian fiction set in an alternate reality—namely late 1970, when, responding to Quebec separatists, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau effectively placed the nation under martial law—Robert Lepage's third feature, , opens in off-putting schematic mode before running cheerfully amok.

Lepage, Quebec's best-known experimental theater director, asserts his mastery of time and space by cutting back and forth between a theatrical performance in full-color Osaka, Japan, and a countercultural dump in black-and-white Montreal while offering a barrage of possible perspectives (backstage, onstage, from the audience, and through various cameras, including surveillance). But then, without sacrificing its cerebral premise, —which is adapted from a part of Lepage's epic theater piece The Seven Streams of the River Ota, a 50th anniversary memorial of Hiroshima—settles into a highly satisfying low comedy.

Free-spirited Sophie (Anne-Marie Cadieux), a Montreal actress playing in a mediocre French Canadian production of a hokey Feydeau bedroom farce at the Osaka World's Fair, discovers that she's pregnant and telephones Montreal to inform her lover just as, unbeknownst to her, his would-be terrorist friends stumble in, seeking shelter from the police. The ensuing misunderstandings and increasingly comic parallel action—which involves amorous diplomats, ideological rants, jealous wives, and ticking bombs—unfold in two time zones, even as Sophie's own behavior oscillates wildly between the passive and the volatile.

Details

eXistenZ
Written and directed by David Cronenberg
A Dimension Films release
Opens April 23

N
Directed by Robert Lepage
Written by Lepage and Andr Morency
A New Yorker Films release
Opens April 23

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Lepage doesn't stint on walking metaphors (his longtime associate Marie Brassard plays a translator blinded as a child by the bomb that fell on Hiroshima). Still, more than contrasting vision with insight, or East with West, Lepage is rehearsing the familiar '60s merger of the personal and the political—as brought home in the coda to this deft and unexpectedly economical farce.

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