Sunday, September 19, 2004

La Peau Blanche (White Skin)

La Peau Blanche is the first feature film from director Daniel Roby. Based on a novel by Joel Champetier, who co-wrote the screenplay with Roby, the movie follows two friends, Thierry (Marc Paquet), who has a pathological dislike of redheads, and Henri (Frederic Pierre). One night, for Thierry's birthday, the two decide to get some hookers, but Henri is viciously attacked by one. They try to put this seemingly random event behind them until Thierry meets a mysterious redheaded woman, Claire (played by Marianne Farley), to whom he is strongly attracted despite himself. As he starts a torrid affair with Claire, connections to earlier events emerge and both he and Henri are drawn deeper into a mystery that goes in unexpected directions.

This was a very good movie that won the $15,000 Citytv award at the festival for best Canadian first feature film. La Peau Blanche was filmed on a very small budget, but you couldn't tell, as it looks as polished as any other film out there. The cast is made up of relatively unknown actors, but all do a wonderful job, especially the two leads. The movie really stands out because it defies expectations as to what is coming next.

The director and the author of the novel on which the movie is based both attended the screening and a Q&A session after the movie.

- The novel, and the movie, play with the idea of boundaries. Boundaries between countries, races, literature and non-literature.

- Roby liked that the novel was full of surprises, could portray characters in such a real manner, and have such great dialogue. Roby felt the novel was original and the story kept changing style so you never knew where Champetier was taking you.

- Roby wanted to treat the movie in a realistic way so the audience wouldn't know what was coming, and part of that was to cast unknown actors in Quebec.

- The movie's structure is like some movies of a certain genre from the 70's, where the initial pace is slower and you watch the characters lives before anything happens.

- The movie is generally faithful to the novel on which it is based, although there are some differences. One of the characters in the novel comes to Quebec from France, but that would have required casting a French, rather than a Quebecois, actor, so the plot was changed. But most of the elements were kept, especially as the novel is not a long one.

- The novel is written from Thierry's point-of-view, so nothing could occur in the film unless Thierry was actually there. So scenes were added to show what Henri is doing when he is apart from Thierry.

- The movie was made with $800,000 worth of funding, and they couldn't exceed that amount without losing the 800k they already had.

- Roby tried not to imagine things he couldn't do, so he limited himself so that he wouldn't be disappointed. But one thing he didn't want to sacrifice was a scene that takes place in a snowstorm. The scene made the entire crew nervous as they couldn't shoot more than one night as they only had $5,000 for fake snow. The assistant director, director of photography and others kept asking if they could change it to something simpler like mist, but Roby was insistent that it was Montreal in winter, so it had to be snow. Two days before the shoot there was a snowstorm so the entire street was covered in snow, and the night of the shoot, it was snowing. But some of the scenes that night had to be cut short when the sun started to rise.

- From first reading of the book, it took approximately five years before the film was finished. The movie required about 24 or so days of shooting.

- In an effort to be more realistic in look, citing a movie like The Insider, Roby intentionally chose not to have what might be considered ideal camera placement or lighting.


My experiences at the Toronto International Film Festival. Note this blog is not affiliated with the Toronto International Film Festival Group or the festival itself.
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