TIFF 2020: Saint-Narcisse Review

Saint-Narcisse gives new meaning to the phrase “go fuck yourself.” This totally twisted tale lets director Bruce LaBruce uphold his title as Canada’s King of Kink. Saint-Narcisse has a hard-on for our self-obsessed selfie culture. It’s a delightfully blasphemous romp for a generation of kids reared on notions of “me, me, me.” LaBruce playfully toys with the idea that everyone is someone special. He twins notions of beauty and obsession through the desire one man, Dominic (Félix-Antoine Duval), holds for himself. However, gazing upon his reflection in a pool of water, or nearly making out with his mirror image à la James Franco, Dominic feels an attraction greater than self-love. The magnetic bond of brotherhood pulls him to the woods. Saint-Narcisse is a family affair as only LaBruce could imagine.

Dominic’s quest begins with news that his mother, presumed dead, lives in a woodland cabin. He hits the road on his bike, decked out in sweaty leather, and arrives at the abode. There he meets a young woman named Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk) who inspires him to whip his dick out before going to meet his mommy. His mother (Tania Kontoyanni) is indeed alive and well. The sultry maven looks every part the witch that neighbours in the nearby town say lives in the woods. Hot and bothered by his return, Dominic’s mother hints at further losses that make the reunion bittersweet.

“Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned”

The area in which Dominic finds himself, moreover, is a land of peculiar power. A nearby fraternity features a brotherhood of priests with one particularly catching Dominic’s attention. He looks exactly like him. Whether this is real life or it’s just fantasy remains to be seen. Dreamy sequences take us inside the church, which reeks of incest, rather than incense. These priests spend much time on their knees and not just for praying.

LaBruce devilishly lets the sacred and the profane copulate as he explores notions of twinning. As blasphemous as it is riotous, Saint-Narcisse incorporates Quebec’s fascination with the cloth as an uncanny fetish. Crosses, robes, and divine jewels assume sadomasochistic auras. As Dominic confronts the brother he never knew, LaBruce constructs a tableau worthy of the Sistine Chapel as the twins meet. Amid the fecund woods and verdant landscape, as the angels watch from above, they commit the most carnal sin.


Sick, Twisted, Funny

Saint-Narcisse is a wickedly funny ride that draws upon faith and mythology. It subversively queers the straightest and most restrictive of institutions, appropriating its own iconography for bondage and fetish. LaBruce hasn’t made a film that looks this good in years, either. Saint-Narcisse is among his most aesthetically pleasing films. Paralleling the brothers in early crosscut scenes that evoke notions of twinning and haunted cravings. Seeing two brothers side-by-side, if only through the edits, Saint-Narcisse draws from DePalma as much as from the Holy Trinity. The sun-soaked canvas accentuates both the heavenly and sinful desires. It evokes the B-Movie grunge of the 1970s as well as American new wave indies that hit the road in search of freedom.

As a twin, I must admit that Saint-Narcisse gave me the willies. However, one can’t help but admire how valiantly LaBruce owns his “That’s how it is in our family” tale. Get thee to confession, Bruce!

Saint-Narcisse screened among the Industry Selects titles at TIFF 2020.