In Mathieu Denis’ second turn as director, we are left with little doubt that he’s more than a talented newcomer, more like a cinematic powerhouse. Corbo would appear to be the work of a director far more seasoned than Denis’ credits suggest.
Set in 1960s Quebec, Corbo is the story of Jean Corbo, an Italian/Canadian schoolboy, determined to see political change in his lifetime. Uncomfortable and ashamed of his privilege, the beautiful outsider meets Julie and Francois, and quickly becomes involved with the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ). The film charts the early beginnings of the organisation and its fight to free Quebec from colonisation and Anglophone dominance.
After a factory bombing does not go to plan, the novice radicals grow fearful of their involvement, questioning whether their violent actions are justified. There are powerful scenes of their dawning realisation that not only will there be death, but that they will be directly responsible. An exciting world of secrets and pseudonyms lure the passionate teens further than some of them are prepared to go.
The subject is one massively under-represented in film. Corbo attempts to inform while emotionally involving the audience by seeing it through the passionate eyes of youth. Music is skillfully used to great effect: Jean listens to jazz alone in his room, while his peers listen to rock ‘n’ roll at a party he’s forced to attend. In scenes of great tragedy, we hear opera. Each scene is perfectly represented by a different genre.
Jean is played by the relatively unknown Anthony Therrien. He brings an authenticity to the role, where his alternating passion, fear and bravery are palpable throughout his scenes. Isolated and friendless at school, the further entangled he becomes with the activists, the happier he appears; the misunderstood loner finally finding somewhere to belong.
The film is beautifully crafted and technically masterful. Devastating scenes are played out with a remarkable delicacy that layers, rather than reduces their impact. Intelligent and understated, Corbo is a welcome antithesis to the spectacular way violence is portrayed in current American cinema.
Corbo does not yet have a UK release date.
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Watch the trailer for Corbo here: