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Montreal World Film Festival, part four

If you have a loaded doctor in the first act he has to go off by the end of the movie. Anton Chekhov said that, or he would have had he been watching the same films as I have over the last couple of days.

Like "Morphine," mentioned previously, in which a doctor in a remote outpost clinic in Siberia becomes a drug addict and seeks the ultimate high. Or German director Lancelot von Staso's "Ceasefire" in which a doctor in a remote outpost clinic in Iraq seeks the ultimate low. Or Japanese director Miwa Nishikawa's "Dear Doctor," in which a doctor in a remote Japanese clinic simply disappears.

Leo Tolstoy, on the other hand, said that all unhappy families are the same and happy families simply don't exist. Or words to that effect. There's nothing about that; just look at Greek tragedy. Oedipus especially has been taking a beating this week.

The title alone of Claude and Nathan Miller's film is a tipoff. "I'm Glad My Mother Is Alive" is based on a true story about a young mother who's a bit of a party girl (not to be confused with the mother in Danish director Morten Giese's "Love and Rage" where the party girl mom sleeps with the kid's piano teacher after dad commits suicide) and has to give up her two young sons to family services. They find a new home with for them, but they're no prize either. The younger boy adjusts but the older has unresolved memories of his mother's feet and other erotically charged body parts and when he grows up trieshunt her down. The Millers' cold, detached and remorseless style suits the Claude Chabrol-like denouement.

Childhood memories also stir the murky depths of Italian director Felice Fabrice's "The Physics of Water." Young Allesandro has an aversion to the title liquid and also to his evocatively named Uncle Claudio, who has returned years after Allesandro's father died in an accident to sell the family home and woo the boy's mother (not to be confused with the kid in Argentine director Daniel Bustamante's "Andres Doesn't Want to Take a Siesta" whose mother dies in an accident and whose mother wants to sell the family property). Unsure why he feels so hostile to the guy but guided by a detective who might or might not be spectral, this pint-sized Prince of Denmark seeks revenge for his father by tampering with the brake lines of Claudio's vehicles. It's "Hamlet" by why of "The Sixth Sense" with a little "Ghost" thrown in.

Finally, there's American director Asiel Norton's "Redland." Set in a 1930s backwoods mountaintop hovel of the mind, it opens with a young girl beating her belly and howling in pain as she tries to induce a miscarriage. It seems she loves a local boy, much to Pa's displeasure. He takes the boy on a hunting to trip to get food for the squalidly starving family while back home the girl lies in bed stroking a chicken as she indulges in erotic daydreams about the boy and Pa. The imagery is reminiscent of David Lynch or John Waters or Ed Wood.


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