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tectonic plates is an incredibly painful motion picture experience that nearly prompted me to walk out 20 minutes into the movie .
the film ( which opened in canada during 1992 but was never released in the united states ) is based on a 1988 stage play by canadian auteur robert lapage , and , while it's evident that this could be a fascinating live production , the translation to the screen is a creative disaster .
enduring tectonic plates is like sitting through a filmed version of performance art -- lifeless and tedious .
the qualities that make it captivating when seen in person are effaced in the motion picture medium .
tectonic plates has a storyline , although the narrative is developed in a decidedly non-traditional fashion , with shots of the stagebound play intercut with more typical cinematic sequences .
it's not an inherently uninteresting way to present a movie ( despite the valid complaint that it is pretentious , all-but-screaming , " look !
art ! " ) ,
although it keeps the audience distanced from the characters .
because we're constantly made aware that we're watching a play or a movie , it's impossible to accept these individuals as anything more than mouthpieces for the writer's ideas .
they're not real , sympathetic , or believable .
i'm willing to give director peter mettler credit for trying something different , but this particular experiment is not a success .
tectonic plates opens by introducing us to madeleine ( marie gignac ) , an art student studying in montreal who has fallen in love with her professor , jacques ( lapage ) .
one day , he disappears , and , fearing that he left because she was undeserving of his love , madeleine travels to venice to kill herself .
while preparing to commit suicide , she encounters drug addict constance ( celine bonnier ) , who causes madeleine to re-think her decision .
meanwhile , jacques has moved to new york city , where he starts cross-dressing , calls himself jennifer , and becomes a successful counter-culture talkshow host .
with settings that shift from paris to venice to montreal to manhattan to scotland , supporting characters that include a topless goddess and a deaf/mute , and cultural references that point to chopin , george sand , and jim morrison , tectonic plates is unique , if nothing else .
however , as interesting as the film sounds ( and i was excited to see it because the synopsis is promising ) , it never really delivers .
the tone is soporific , the supposedly-intellectual prattle is inane and uninteresting , the plot meanders in a pointless and irritating manner ( although it doesn't take long for the viewer to determine that the story is largely unimportant ) , and the symbolism is obvious .
tectonic plates is trying to show that human interaction is as volatile as unpredictable as the shifting of the earth , but it takes one-hundred minutes to get across this transparent point .
there are some worthwhile moments , such as a silly sword fight between jacques and the topless goddess and an entertaining discussion in both french and english about the differences between the two languages ( although the fine points will certainly be lost on those who aren't bilingual ) .
the only people likely to enjoy tectonic plates are those who feel a strong need to praise something this rootless and boring because ( a ) it's different , ( b ) it's not like anything they've seen before , and ( c ) it's pretentious .
for everyone else , it's not only a waste of time , but a poor introduction to the work of robert lapage .