Rémi St-Michel’s short PETIT FRÈRE is funny enough that interviewers sometimes wonder if it was a fluke. “A lot of people ask us if it was improvised, but actually, I’d say it is about 95% scripted,” clarifies the director. “The dialogues were already good, we took the time to rehearse before shooting and we had the time on set to get it right.”
To begin, our male leads walk down a Montreal street playing chicken: competing as to who can say a rude word the loudest. Passers-by caught in the crossfire “seemed pretty confused about what we were doing” reports St-Michel, who also co-produced. Such japes don’t feel yobbish or juvenile, but strangely inclusive: while the juggernaut IMBETWEENERS films exaggerate the talk of teens, PETIT FRÈRE is realistically boyish. The piece charts a few hours in the lives of two young friends: one late school age, and the other older. They beat-box. They play dice. They get into one more adult scrape. While their non-blood relationship isn’t totally clear, it is explained that the older ‘bigger brother’ is preparing to leave for Moscow. Their afternoon on the streets is a long goodbye.
St-Michel explains that clarifying the pair’s bond was not vital: “There are some hints in the film that show they are not real brothers, but closer to tutor and student. It used to be clearer in earlier edits, but we decided it wasn’t a big deal. Whatever their relations are, it is the nature of the relationship that is interesting.” The film is shot in black and white, which the director first chose as an homage “to the cinema we adored, like CLERKS, STRANGER THAN PARADISE and MANHATTAN” Also, he says, “we figured that using the black and white would help the audience to have a distance from the action, and help them to have a more global feel about the relation between the characters, instead of getting stuck to the narrative. This aim is also why we used a lot of symmetric large shots, unusual close-ups and New-York jazz music.”
“Young lead Étienne Galloy as Antoine is very charismatic and funny, conveying well the emotions of a mildly troubled teen…”
While universal aims are successful, the short film format sometimes means the specific school troubles of PETIT FRÈRE are rushed. This does not upset the tone unduly, instead adding an edge. Another mood shift in a centrally choreographed section of dancing exhibits the performing duo’s confident anchoring of the piece. Young lead Étienne Galloy as Antoine is very charismatic and funny, conveying well the emotions of a mildly troubled teen. Director St-Michel explains that Big Brother (and screenwriter) Eric K. Boulianne met Galloy “on another project and really wanted to write something for them to play together.”
The two actors carry a very enjoyable, realistic and well-written short. ‘Youth’ comedy can often feel forced. PETIT FRÈRE, however, feels easy and fresh. As the director says, it’s ‘two very intelligent actors having a lot of fun.” The director and screenwriter are both now working on feature films.
PETIT FRÈRE screens as part of SHORT FUSION: BELOVED at 11.00am Tuesday 2nd & 10.15pm Friday 5th September.