TESTAMENT (Canada 2023) ***
Directed by Denys Arcand
TESTAMENT is a Canadian drama film, directed by Denys Arcand and released in 2023. The film stars Rémy Girard as Jean-Michel Bouchard, a retired archivist in his 70s living in a retirement home, who is initially angered when a group of protestors arrive to demand that the facility remove an art installation that has been deemed insulting to First Nations, only to find new love and a new zest for life in the experience. His new love is played by the beautiful Sophie Lorain who looks too young to be falling in love with the retiree. The film is a blend of comedic satire and romance.
Playwright and fellow filmmaker Robert LePage has a cameo in the film playing an angry ‘sous-minister of the Beaux Arts seen storming into Suzanne Francoeur’s office protesting the removal of the art installation which is painted over not once, but three times - a sacrilege against Quebec art, in one of the film’s most hilarious biting scenes.
It is difficult to ascertain which side director Arcand is on. It appears that Arcand is on the side of Quebec art and not on the side of the indigenous people. He has said on ‘ tout le mode en parle’: Arcand: I do not believe in consultations. (He did not consult the Indigenous people on the making of this film.) It’s now the latest trend when we have to talk about Indigenous people or whatever. We’re always supposed to consult. I’m completely opposed to this. I think the creative process is an absolutely personal act that comes from deep within ourselves. Arcand appears to have made his stand when he showed the restoration of the art by two Chinese restoration specialists.
Veteran and many-time collaborator with Arcade, actor Remi Girard is one of the reasons to watch the film. He delivers a meticulous and nuanced performance, fed up with what is happening in the world and let to live the rest of his life in the retirement home. His only source of hope and happiness is Suzanne.
Arcand is the only Academy Award Winner from French Canada His most famous film THE DECLINE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE put him on the film map and his sequel, THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS won Canada the Best Foreign Film (not called the Best International Feature) Academy Award, which explains how he managed to get LePage to do the cameo in the film.
Arcand plays more for comedy in this last TESTAMENT, though it is a film less biting but more meditative on what life has to offer. in the current social and political setting. Arcand also blasts the provincial government (and with reason as the province has the worst record of COVID cases in retirement and nursing homes)in the film. There is also an adverse comment madden the topic of climate change.
The film premiered on August 26, 2023, at the Angoulême Francophone Film Festival, before going into commercial release on October 5, in Quebec. It opens in Toronto on November 10th.