Saint-Narcisse

Saint-Narcisse: A bold, bonkers and brilliant dissection of narcissism

Saint-Narcisse is screening at the ICA London on April 22nd and arrives on digital and DVD on May 2nd.


In ancient Greek mythology, Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was stunningly beautiful and had the pick of the bunch in terms of suiters. However, Narcissus shunned any attention he received until, deep in the woods, he stumbled across a reflecting pool, where he would suddenly see the most beautiful man in the world; himself. Narcissus was enthralled, enraptured and unable to escape his own beauty, staring at his image for the rest of his life until a flower replaced him at the edge of the pool when he died.

I am sure you have all heard this tale, and you are all aware of its place in literature and film, inspiring works ranging from Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray to James Bidgood’s homemade gay classic Pink Narcissus. Well, now the mythological roots of Narcissus are transported to 1970s Quebec with Bruce LeBruce’s Saint-Narcisse. But here, the legend is dovetailed with themes of religious control, B-Movie melodrama and pop culture. The result is a melting pot of queer iconography within a unique, humourous, and compelling B-Movie structure that speaks directly to themes of judgment, religious hypocrisy, and narcissism.


READ MORE: THE SWIMMER


Dominic (Felix-Antoine Duval) sits, watching his clothes spin in a Quebec laundrette. In the background, the Poppy Family’s “Where Evil Grows” plays as a woman sits next to him, also staring at the steel spinning drums. As the drums stop, both the woman and Dominic collect their washing, engaging in small talk, before dumping their laundry to have sex on top of the dryers as a group of onlookers huddle around the neon-lit window. However, it soon becomes clear the event is a mere fantasy in Dominic’s mind as he folds his washing and carries it home to his ageing grandmother.

It’s clear from the outset that Dominic finds his own image alluring as he takes endless Polaroids of himself. But the film truly steps up a gear when Dominic discovers letters in his grandmother’s possession from a mother he thought was dead. This leads Domenic to embark on a road trip to find his long lost mother at all costs. However, he also finds that he has a secret twin brother who was raised in an abbey by an abusive priest (Andreas Apergis) who believes him to be a reincarnation of Saint Sebastian. Now at this point, I am going to stop, as to try and explain the plot any further would only see me wrap both myself and you up for hours. But I am sure you get the idea, right?


READ MORE: WILDHOOD


Those accustomed to Bruce La Bruce‘s extensive catalogue of work, from Otto; or, Up with Dead People (2008) to Hustler White (1996) and Gerontophilia (2013), will know that LaBruce is unafraid to create richly provocative movies that explore themes ranging from fantasy and fetish to sexual politics and religion. For those who love LeBruce and his work, Saint-Narcisse will undoubtedly prove to be another hit; however, how does it play for those less accustomed to LeBruce’s back catalogue? The answer to that question may depend on the viewer’s ability to embrace the non-conventional, darkly humorous and socially cutting world LaBruce creates.

Saint-Narcisse is crammed to the rafters with dodgy priests, incest, witches, sex, and nods and winks to a range of 70s and 80s cult classic gay movies. However, at its heart, Saint-Narcisse is a bold exploration of narcissism and its growth in our everyday lives since the end of the 1970s. Here LaBruce dares to challenge the apparent social progress made since the 1970s with a profound and uncomfortable truth; we are all more selfish, self-obsessed and insular than we once were. This deep socio-political message elevates Saint-Narcisse beyond its simple B-Movie credentials into something far more profound, a cutting dissection of cultural change since the 70s. The result is a bold, bonkers yet brilliant dissection of narcissism and religious fundamentalism, and while it may not appeal to everyone, it’s another tour-de-force in gay B-Movie making from LaBruce.

  • STAR RATING
4

Summary

Saint-Narcisse is crammed to the rafters with dodgy priests, incest, witches, sex, and nods and winks to a range of 70s and 80s cult gay movies. However, at its heart, Saint-Narcisse is also a bold exploration of narcissism and its growth in our everyday lives since the end of the 1970s.