There comes a time in every young man’s life when he ponders the big questions. Life. Existence. Infinity and the universe. For most, this involves long, longing gazes outside the window of adolescence at an expansive starry sky as a neighborhood sleeps. Then he discovers girls (or Dungeons and Dragons) and everything changes. Philippe, is a 40-something man/child, who it would appear, is still in that phase.
He ponders the universe with childlike incredulity and looks at his fellow man with disbelief. Unable to successfully defend his PhD thesis on space travel, he’s forced to sell newspaper subscriptions by telephone and endure the condescending advice of his younger brother André — an insufferably successful TV personality. And he’s in mourning: for his beloved mother, his once limitless youth fading into oblivion, and a society once engaged in the lofty pursuit of space exploration, now more concerned with satellite weather maps.
For Philippe it all comes down to narcissism. That’s what drove astronauts and cosmonauts to the moon, and now drives people like his yuppie bourgeois brother to be a weatherman — a profession in many ways the opposite of astronomy. One is the reduction of global forces to color-coded computer graphics, the other an open-ended exploration of the unknowable beyond our grasp.
Robert Lepage, who wrote, directed and stars, is known for heady, grandiose film and theater experiments and has created an exquisitely well-crafted piece. Swirling around the torpid figure of Philippe is a cosmos of fractured childhood memory, maternal love, sibling rivalry, and angst. It’s a familiarly disquieting picture of modern man, which Lepage holds aloft with humor and haunting imagery until the final beautifully cathartic frames.
Opens December 2 at Angelika Film Center