Thursday 2 October 2008

Film Review: Bluff (2007)

Bluff is an engaging piece of film-making from Quebec. In the tradition of weaving several unrelated stories around one inanimate object (famous examples being 1965's The Yellow Rolls Royce and 1998's The Red Violin), Bluff presents an apartment unit that is slated for destruction. At the final walkthrough before the bulldozers move in, the demolition foreman makes a startling discovery inside the apartment, the exact nature of which remains a secret until the film's final few scenes. The foreman is soon joined by the doomed apartment's superintendent, who calls the police to investigate the discovery, and as they wait for the authorities to arrive, we are taken back in time to see the stories of five sets of tenants who previously occupied the apartment.

A young man preparing for a job interview; an infertile couple seeking the help of a friend to get pregnant; an old man who was briefly a boxer and wants to re-live his glory by trading punches with his daughter's latest boyfriend; a couple who are about to celebrate a birthday just as soon they sell a set of horrid paintings to a mysterious buyer; and an aging thief who is staging a final heist in the hopes of enhancing his legacy. The stories are presented through inter-mingled scenes, and while the stories start innocently enough, they all start to head towards a threat of violence or unexpected misfortune, while always maintaining a low-key streak of humour. Meanwhile, back in the present, the construction foreman and the apartment superintendent are also discovering that all is not what it seems.

An ensemble cast of actors does a terrific job of bringing all the characters to life, which is no small achievement given that each actor is effectively creating one sixth of a movie. Co-directors Simon-Olivier Fecteau and Marc-Andre Lavoie manage to quickly introduce us to the unique dynamics of each story, and effectively weave the various threads into compelling vignettes that may or may not be heading to a variety of unwelcome endings.

With a suitably nifty soundtrack, Bluff is proof that a small, low-budget film can provide clever and thoughtful entertainment through tight storytelling, deft acting and efficient directing.

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