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BLEAK AND BLUE

Like Keanu and company above, the restless young characters in French-Canadian director Denys Arcand's Love and Human Remains are also searching for love and family. But most of them are initially so unlikable that we don't care much if they succeed. Consider the gay actor-turned-waiter David (Thomas Gibson), a hard-shelled cynic who's a little too good-looking, a little too glib, a little too self-centered. Consider his roommate and ex-lover Candy (Ruth Marshall), whiny, wounded and unsure of her identity. Or Bernie (Cameron Bancroft), a misogynistic yuppie whose forte appears to be seduction and abandonment. There's Benita (Mia Kirshner), a dominatrix cursed with ESP, and Jerri (Joanne Vannicola), an aggressive lesbian schoolteacher with a crush on Candy. There's Kane, a seventeen-year-old busboy who drives a Porsche but can't get through to Dad.

In other words, Arcand (Jesus of Montreal) has tossed one of each type into his stewpot of Nineties longings, upped the ante with an undercurrent of danger (there's a serial killer loose in the film's chilly, nameless city) and still kept the sense to laugh darkly at it all. As in Stephen Soderbergh's sex, lies & videotape or fellow Canadian Atom Egoyan's underrated Exotica, the mood here is self-consciously postmodern and tragically hip, but once you get by the cool posing of these twentysomethings, Remains has plenty to say about the human entanglements of contemporary society and the difficulty of living honestly--if that doesn't sound too large for a movie this small.

This is Arcand's first work in English, but he's gotten plenty of help from his largely unknown but talented cast (Gibson is a regular on TV's Chicago Hope) and from the Alberta-born playwright Brad Fraser. The latter had never before written a screenplay, but his stock-in-trade, misfits trying to find their way, comes across vividly here. As is so often the case these days, the specter of HIV haunts the proceedings, but this is not another AIDS movie: Rather it addresses, in its edgy, bleakly comic way, the even more prevalent diseases of alienation and lovelessness on the high seas of youth.

 
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