The Villeneuve List: A Tour of Cosmos

"Move and I shave her!"

Upon posting on Facebook that I was stunned to my senses by the film Incendies the other day, my friend Kenda recommended that I see director Denis Villeneuve's earlier work in a film called Cosmos (1996). After finding it Cosmos is not readily available on DVD or streaming (not even on, I managed to locate a quality full copy that someone posted on YouTube. Even better, since the film is in Québécois French, the copy turned out to be subtitled in English.

Cosmos is not a full Villeneuve film. It is an anthology film of short films by six directors including Villeneuve, each taking place on and around the streets of Montreal. The short films are tied together by the presence of a partly Greek cab driver named Cosmos (played most appealingly by Igor Ovadis), who stays mostly at the edges as the six vignettes are played out before us, though he is fully involved in one of the stories (Cosmos et agriculture, probably the funniest section of the film).

The short films are edited together so that they weave in and out of each other's stories occasionally in a mostly organic way, aided by the fact that co-director André Turpin also serves as the cinematographer for the whole affair. His stellar camerawork aids immeasurably to keeping a consistent look to Cosmos, even if there are vast changes in tone and style between the six directors.

Villeneuve's extremely odd section (Le Technétium, about a film director who is highly nervous about appearing on an MTV-style channel where the only real concern is how incredible the guests' hair looks once in-house star stylist Tekno has his way with it) was my favorite (and most imaginative) of the individual sections.

Cosmos is somewhat reminiscent of the higher profile Night on Earth (1991), the difference being that the Jim Jarmusch film is in color, and tells the stories of five different cab drivers in five cities around the globe in one night, whereas Cosmos is in black and white, and has one cabdriver involved in six stories in one city in Canada. But it was hard for me not to think of Night on Earth constantly while watching Cosmos. Still, while at least one of the stories didn't really work at all for me (Marie-Julie Dallaire's L'Individu), I enjoyed the film overall.

Recommended for the adventurous of spirit and for those who don't cringe at the thought of either subtitles or French (or both).

For anyone interested,


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