The Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce is best known for his provocative spins on modern sexuality, but his latest is a semiclassical affair. The melodrama “Saint-Narcisse” presents an interpretation of the Greek myth of Narcissus, the beautiful youth who pined after his own reflection. Of course, this is mythology by way of 1970s pornography; incest and Catholic perversion abound.
Felix-Antoine Duval plays twins, Dominic and Daniel, who were separated at birth. In 1972 Quebec, the adult Dominic finds a letter from Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni), the mother he assumed was dead. He seeks out her forest hideaway, where the witchy, lesbian Beatrice explains her lifelong absence. She doesn’t mention if Dominic had siblings — a curious omission, given that Dominic has seen a doppelgänger in his travels.
Dominic finds his twin brother at a monastery, where Daniel is the petulant prey of a perverted priest. Dominic stalks his sequestered reflection, and when their eyes first meet, it’s love and lust at first sight. Dominic is determined to save his brother-lover from the clutches of the dirty Father, so that they may return to the sanctuary of their lesbian earth mother.
“Saint-Narcisse” is a handsomely produced film with sincere performances, lush cinematography and a classical score. Anarchic energy zings out in moments of overemphasis — when the music swells too loudly, when the dialogue comments too closely on the themes. But for the most part, LaBruce tries to maintain fidelity to the idea that camp is best performed straight. If keeping up the pretense of unwinking entertainment causes the pace to drag at times, at least this movie never fails to follow through on its scandalous promise.
Not rated. In English and French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. In theaters and on virtual cinemas.
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