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MOVIE REVIEW : Love Against Tyranny in Brault’s ‘Paper Wedding’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Canadian director Michel Brault is a filmmaker with an overwhelming talent for evoking the here and now, a talent that streaks through his latest film, “A Paper Wedding” (Laemmle’s Fine Arts).

It’s no more than a trifle, perhaps, certainly not as memorable as the films that gained him fame as a director (“Les Ordres”) or a cinematographer (“Mon Oncle Antoine”). And some will complain that he’s plowing the same ground “Green Card” did last year--or “90 Days,” did back in 1986-- another marriage for immigration laws that blooms into romance. But the filmmakers and cast, especially the radiantly offbeat star, Genevieve Bujold, give it something extra.

The story, from a scenario by Jefferson Lewis and Andree Pelletier, is simple: A Chilean immigrant, Pablo (Manuel Aranguiz), whose visa has expired, is urged by his lawyer, Annie (Dorothee Berryman), into a show marriage with her sister, university professor Claire (Bujold).

It’s supposed to be a quick formality, but an obsessed immigration officer, Bouchard (Gilbert Sicotte), stakes out Claire’s apartment, breaking in and harassing her. It’s Bouchard, unwittingly, who acts as matchmaker; because of his Javert-like pursuit, the couple are forced to live together, developing an unlikely sympatico.

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In outline, that’s not much of a story. And, if you reduce “A Paper Wedding” to its script--if you try to make it a paper movie-- it doesn’t seem particularly rich or deep. But Brault and his team turn “A Paper Wedding” into a film about people against the state, love against tyranny, a cry against oppression.

The romance between Claire and Pablo (played by Manual Aranguiz, a Chilean immigrant who has acted for Raul Ruiz) is not really the core of the movie--though perhaps it should be. Instead, our interest shifts to the battle of wits among Claire, Annie and Bouchard.

Bouchard, in a typical American cop movie, would be the hero: brutal, confident, profane, funny--and perfectly played by Sicotte. Claire, by contrast, is a good, untested liberal, her maternal instincts aroused by the soft-eyed Pablo--with his empenadas, jail scars and Spanish songs. That’s what Brault seems most interested in: the way principles can open up a sheltered life.

Brault creates the illusion of immediacy while simultaneously glazing his images--shot by his cinematographer son Sylvain--with something bittersweet and romantic. And he has wonderful subjects here: Genevieve Bujold and Dorothee Berryman have great movie faces. Bujold’s, bruised and a little wary, is the face of innocence and experience entwined. Berryman’s shines like some luminously moist orchid. As their mother, Monique Lepage, rapidly adjusting her dreams about Claire’s wedding, has the movie’s most delicious comic moment,

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I don’t want to overpraise “A Paper Wedding” (Times-rated Mature for language and sensuality). It’s good, middle-range filmmaking, which gets you involved in a story that, from beginning to end, isn’t particularly surprising. But what “A Paper Wedding” has, more specially, is the spectacle of expert performers and filmmakers using their talents with humanity, commitment and emotion. Would that all movies offered as much.

‘A Paper Wedding’

Claire: Genevieve Bujold

Pablo: Manuel Aranguiz

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Annie: Dorothee Berryman

Gaby: Monique Lepage

A Capitol Entertainment release. Director Michel Brault. Producer Aimee Danis. Screenplay by Jefferson Lewis, Andre Pelletier. Cinematographer Sylvain Brault. Editor Jacques Gagne. Costumes Mario Davignon. Music Martin Fournier. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Times-rated: Mature (Language, sensuality, adult themes.)

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