Missing Victor Pellerin (2007) Review

Missing Victor Pellerin (2007) Review
Missing Victor Pellerin (2007) Review 1
Missing Victor Pellerin (2007)
Director(s): Sophie Deraspe
Actor(s): Eudore Belzile, Sophie Deraspe, Anne-Catherine LeBeau, Elisabeth Legrand
Film Genre(s): Biography
Running Time: 102 min
CGM Editors Choice

Never believe that a film or book is not an autobiography on some level; if something creative is pure fiction, then the audience/reader will not connect with it and you will have wasted your time as an artist. Sophie Deraspe, director of Missing Victor Pellerin would possibly agree with this line of thought as she feels all films are documentaries. In the spirit of a film within a film, an art within art and a story within a story, Deraspe has created a tumultuous, irreverent, and complex docudrama about acclaimed Montreal painter, Victor Pellerin.

To say this film is stunning would be a severe understatement. Deraspe, a character in the film herself, slowly unravels the story of Pellerin’s life through those who were involved with him before his disappearance. From the onset of the film, you are engrossed in all the fragments about Pellerin that you hear through friends, lovers, family, fellow artists and art gallery owners. Victor Pellerin is no saint or full-fledged devil, but a complex sum of his parts. Undoubtedly, a man who adopts pseudonyms and has all his paintings methodically returned to him so that he can set his life’s work ablaze in one destructive effigy has the prerequisite dark corners to his soul. So why did Pellerin disappear? Why was he mixed up in forgery charges? Why did he torch his paintings? Why is every account of him different? Why does nobody seem to know what happened to him? Or who he really was? We mere viewers are privy to most information about Pellerin, but are still left with more questions than tidy bows of resolution by the film’s surreal ending.

Deraspe creates a vibrant and esoteric account of Pellerin, morphing truth with fiction, developing real people within a character-driven plotline. Deraspe even makes the film appeal to the sense of stylized movies, no desperate running scenes and overly grainy sequences of present day documentaries. We are lead down a path of believing that the film is both fiction, and stranger than fiction, but not quite non-fiction. As a viewer, you are entangled in Pellerin’s alter-egos and Deraspe’s cryptic unveilings. Missing Victor Pellerin makes for an evocative and thought-provoking film, an astonishing feat for a first time feature film director, giving validity to new talent, untested.

The cast, or perhaps the people Pellerin knew, were a delight to watch. Most being artistically inclined, or influenced, give a performance like ‘stage act’ wrapped within sheer intimate truths about their relationships with Pellerin. An immense sense of loss is evoked by all of Pellerin’s acquaintances; some have lost the love of their life, some have lost the artistic lead they emulated and some have simply lost a cash cow of the art industry. Most of those followers of Pellerin converge at one point in the film in order to share their stories and discover truths about the man they all had a small piece of. Pellerin is an enigma, and even discoveries within this inner circle lead to few answers as to why Pellerin was the man he was. Many of Pellerin’s paintings depict a rabbit, an animal that has a long history within mythology, adding another level of mystery and symbolism to Pellerin.

Ultimately, what Missing Victor Pellerin does is investigate the Montreal, and on a greater scale, the Canadian, art scene. A very under-valued and unexamined form of artistry. Missing Victor Pellerin should have people downloading Canadian Art Gallery websites from Newfoundland to British Columbia to discover what creative artists Canada has in its mosaic. After all, Pellerin was not the greatest Canadian painter, but he was smart enough to make a statement with his disappearance. Would we be so interested in Pellerin fifteen years later if he hadn’t demolished his life’s work and then disappeared into a puff of smoke? Would Sophie Deraspe have examined Pellerin in film if he’d simply walked away one day into the sunset, with galleries and private collector houses filled with what he had left behind?

At the end of Missing Victor Pellerin I asked myself, did I just watch a film or a documentary? I think this is how you should leave the film, looking things up on the internet, reviewing the film’s sequences and verbal accounts in your thoughts and reassessing what you believe to be real.

Final Thoughts

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