Thursday, July 13, 2006
MUSIC-HALL - a 2002 mini-series offering from la Société Radio-Canada (offerings like this should officially be returnable gifts - at the sender's expense!)
The true star of this one is Michèle-Barbara Pelletier, one of a new generation of Quebec actresses (along with Isabel Richer and Celine Bonnier, most notably) who could have international careers... but probably won't because of their knack to speak French the way they do (joual québécois, which is quebec slang) and their inability to speak English without a thick accent too. Nonetheless, they have that star-quality to be huge - if only in Quebec!
Virtually all of these talents have, in fact, been seen in international productions - only, in very smallish roles. Even Véronique Cloutier, who gets top billing here despite it being her first and nearly only time acting really (unless one counts her apologetic speeches during the scandalous revelations about her pedophilic father, talent agent Guy Cloutier as "performances" as well...) - even "Vero" had previously been seen in a very small role in "Frankenstein And Me", a forgettable piece of children's fare that was nothing more than a cheap American production shot on Canadian soil to save on production costs... Vero played a vampire in that one. Here, in Music-Hall, she is just as believable as a full-of-herself little witch as she can be in real life, I'm sure... Likewise, in her only other credited role, she was insufferable in "Les Dangereux"... None of her roles though are "engaging" in the least - she does not lend it enough credibility or passion in order for the viewer or (few) moviegoers to either like her character or even despise it. She has kept to being a game show host and radio host too since these disasters... Oh, and she has kept her dad's company afloat while he served time in prison.
Patrick Huard really lets loose here - in one of his "carte blanche" roles, he sets out to prove that he can play "something else". One can only be mildly convinced since he usually is "nuts" in his numerous talk-show appearances - so what is really new here? The extreme edgy side? The violence? Not enough...
Serge Postigo seems to be playing the same role over and over again - as he's done on countless "téléromans" on Quebec television (mostly for the SRC - the French equivalent of the CBC)
Claude Blanchard is actually likeable here - as a sort of gruffy big bear with some heart somewhere in there would be...
Annie Dufresne is some sort of a performer too - and some sort of an actress as well. One cannot readily tell... She comes off as the bimbo of service here, nothing more though...
Julien Poulin, most famous for portraying the buffoonesque "Elvis Gratton" in two films (or wastes of celluloid - depends on one's tastes, really) mercifully DOES NOT sing in this one (oops - does this count as a "spoiler", tell me?!?)
Notable also is the appearance of the ravishing Bet E, in this thing - Bet E. is a real-life singer and was singing fado as a part of a very successful duo soon thereafter (Bet E. & Stef)
She eclipsed my very own cousin São as such - shooting a few video-clips for her music (while my cuz never did) and touring the province of Quebec (the alleged "Belle Province") far more extensively than São did too. Inexplicably though, Bet E. and Stef have since split up as a performing act...
If I may remain "personal" a bit further more here - I would be remiss if I did not mention the cameo appearance of a most unlikely individual in this production, although he appeared in a non-speaking role and was roughed up for his troubles too! He is not an actor - not even a regular "extra", and yet he got the "supreme honor" of getting beaten up on camera by usually-stand-up-comic Patrick Huard!
His name appears in the credits of the one episode where he appears and gets his beating, but nowhere else, quite understandably. The name is Marsolais and, knowing the individual as I do, I can attest that he was well cast here. His bit part is that of... a simpleton actually. He could not even reply to Huard's rather unintelligible lingo - and then he's thrown like a rag doll down the stairs, rammed into a wall, kicked around... all the while crying like a girl. He should know what pain is like because he is a DOCTOR! A short four years after shooting this scene (surely some form of nepotism got him the "coveted role" - coveted it is if one is into s&m that is!) DR. Marsolais would have much more to say - TO ME - but he would STILL come out on the losing end of the exchange as I won two consecutive debates over him... The subject of those debates was MY FATHER'S LIFE. DR. Marsolais had put him on a respirator - AT MY INSISTENCE - but wanted me to make the decision to "unplug" him asap... I admit that, more than once, I imagined myself doing to him what Patrick Huard did to him here... Eventually, it was ANOTHER doctor who tricked me into letting father go - but I stand with a 2-0 record versus Marsolais. Huard is 1-0. Marsolais is quite a wuss, I say! Hence, of all the "actors" here, his short-lived onscreen performance is the most believable for he is basically playing HIMSELF! As I played myself to the hilt too, in my one memorable VIDEOCLIP appearance, years before... ;)
Ahh - douce jalousie... eh?
It is ironic how things happen - insomnia, after my father's untimely death, leads me to watch cable TV when I wouldn't normally be watching... I catch then, one after the other, a documentary on CANAL VIE filmed in the same hospital where dad passed away. It is about a 95 year-old woman who was kept on the respirator for MONTHS. My dad was younger than that and yet Marsolais and company were on his case in order to unhook him in LESS THAN A WEEK.
And then I catch this - MUSIC-HALL, on Bravo - complete with English subtitles (in order to preserve the original bad French dialogue?!?). I had not BOTHERED with this mini-series the first dozen repeats or so - but now, I stayed with it, for the music. And I immediately recognize Marsolais sitting at a table at a cabaret... Needless to say, I enjoyed thoroughly what happened next!
Music-Hall is full of clichés about show business and about the pitfalls of RUNNING a business... Add to that clichés about artists' vanity, attitudes and tendencies for self-destruction - AND the bad acting - and one gets fed up real quick. It was NOT just because the last few episodes had been pre-empted on their original airdates that viewership was actually DOWN for the climactic episodes (something totally unheard of in mini-series lore!)
It was because NOBODY CARED ABOUT ANY OF THESE CHARACTERS! Least of all the supposed heroine portrayed so uninterestingly by Veronique Cloutier (she is also the sister-in-law of hockey player José Théodore - for how much longer, that we do not know! For he was seen hanging out with Paris Hilton... Better that than doing what Guy did, but... The link to a goalie is omitted on her IMDB page here, so I thought I'd add this too in my review... sorry, "comment"!)
I can't believe they didn't have a role for Élise Guilbeault or Sylvie Drapeau in this one... One can only be glad they did not find a part for Sarah-Jeanne Salvy though - enough nepotism as it is going on around here! Not just Guy Cloutier (still as white as snow in 2002) pulling strings for his daughter, but really Fabienne Larouche giving out roles to her "favorites" - or pulling those strings so they'd get them. Fabienne Larouche is like a mixture of Anne Rice and Judith Krantz - but with much less at her disposal to really flesh it all out. Michèle-Barbara Pelletier may have given the character written for her some "life", somehow - but usually, Larouche does not get so lucky and her characters' lack of depth shows badly, for no thespian on Earth could do much with so little...
One final note about the presence of Murray Head here. It brings to mind that horrid film that the late Richard Harris came to Canada to do one time. The great Oliver Reed did that as well. These Englishmen who, just for the MONEY, will associate themselves with Canadian "arts" fund programs - lending these productions the credibility they lack and desperately require if the end product can be "exportable" in any shape or form (despite, again, the horrible Quebec slang!)
At least no one got to LISTEN to DR. MARSOLAIS speak said slang, since he had a non-speaking part - for, to know that this guy is really a doctor and that he speaks that way is quite the dishonor for the whole "Belle Province" and Canadian Winter Wonderland overall!
Audiences were lucky in THAT small way, at least - unlike me, who had to listen to the not-so good doctor's arguments at length, and in person, during the most stressful of times...