At the outset, Self(less) Portrait is alluring, presenting a collection of French-Canadian interview subjects telling anecdotes and personal secrets, while director Danic Champoux visually plays with forms or darkness and light. There’s a sense of mystery at the top of the film that proves intriguing, but quickly this is revealed as nothing more than a misapprehension.
The biggest issue is that the bits of darkness and light, which manifest themselves in different ways (oily blobs and shadow contrasted with lens flares and whiteness), lead nowhere readily apparent or even existent. It distracts greatly from the discussions that really are interesting to observe. These flourishes ask you to draw a thematic line that really isn’t there and come off feeling like a trick to keep you in your seat.
Take away this mysterious and provocative dead end, and what Self(less) Portrait offers are 50 people sharing personal stories largely about suicide, abuse, life, death, love, family and parenthood. The connection that each interviewee is able to display through the film is always compelling and emotionally engaging moments frequently, but 98 minutes is far too long for a montage of talking heads with no central argument to provide overall coherence. (Peter Counter)
Sunday, April 27th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 6:30pm
Monday, April 28th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 8:45pm
Sunday, May 4th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 3:00pm