Sunday, January 16, 2011
As mesmerizing as it is infuriating, Quebec writer/director Denis Cote’s Carcasses resides somewhere in those hinterlands of filmmaking where fact and fiction transform into a single brain-melting beast. The first half of Cote’s film is a documentary, of sorts, focused on Jean-Paul Colmor, a real-life scrap collector whose isolated acreage is home to the sleeping wrecks of 4,000 cars. Cote constructs delicate tableaux of this lonely junkyard world, while Colmor busies himself with salvaging what he can from the old vehicles. But halfway through the film, a vagabond group of four people with Down’s syndrome take up residence in the detritus, scavenging food from Colmor and quietly settling atop his routine like a blanket of snow.
Largely silent, the second half of the film takes on the air of a compressed fable as the outsiders find refuge amidst the discards of Colmor’s home. Cote’s daring is laudable, even though his extreme choices threaten to throw this precarious film out of balance (one might also question the wisdom of comparing people with Down’s syndrome to car wrecks, although I don’t believe any malice is intended). Perhaps I’m simply dismayed by the way the film essentially drops a curtain right down the middle, rather than letting the documentary and fantasy blend together more naturally. But the film poses difficult questions of discarded lives, and even though much of what we would consider a plot is hidden or suppressed, the proceedings are marked by a quiet playfulness that I found endearing. He may stumble at times, but nobody doesn’t tell a story quite the way Cote doesn’t tell a story.