Review: ‘Boris Without Beatrice’ Offers Modernity Laced With Mythology


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James Hyndman, as a businessman in “Boris Without Beatrice” whose wife is afflicted with a melancholia that has rendered her unresponsive.

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KimStim

Ostentatiously peppering a shaggy-dog story with allusions to Greek myth — and, depending on how you take the title, Dante — the Quebecois director Denis Côté’s “Boris Without Beatrice” appears to have something to say about the hubris of the modern business tycoon, but it never coalesces into more than a self-amused goof.

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Trailer: ‘Boris Without Béatrice’

A preview of the film.


By KimSTIM on Publish Date September 6, 2017.


Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive.

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Boris (James Hyndman) is a dyspeptic man of means whose wife, Beatrice (Simone-Elise Girard), is afflicted with a sketchily defined melancholia that has rendered her unresponsive; she has taken a leave from her post in the Canadian cabinet. (The prime minister, played by the Canadian bad-boy filmmaker Bruce LaBruce, briefly drops in to extend good wishes.) Not that Boris seems overly concerned: He carries on an interoffice affair, banters with Beatrice’s pretty caregiver (Isolda Dychauk) and expresses exasperation at his daughter’s liberal ideals.

Then a mysterious note invites him to a nighttime meeting with a stranger played by Denis Lavant, whose genius for contortion (“Beau Travail,” “Holy Motors”) seems underutilized in a film of sterile, generally static tableaus. “What would you say if I told you that Beatrice was ill because of you?” the stranger asks. And so Boris is impelled to improve his attitude.

As film subjects go, the soullessness of the upper crust counts as low-hanging fruit, even before “Boris Without Beatrice” begins drawing a faintly meaningful parallel between Boris’s life and that of Tantalus, for whom sustenance was always just out of reach. Watching the movie can feel the same way.

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