Cannes 2024 – Oh, Canada: Richard Gere terminally ill [critique]

Back in competition, the great Paul Schrader signs a true-false twilight self-portrait whose lyrical fever gradually fades. But Richard Gere manages.

On the threshold of a career which continues to progress despite the vagaries of declining health, Paul Schrader makes a return to the sources of his cinema and his psyche with this new adaptation of a novel by Russell Banks. No repression yet. The 77-year-old American ensures daily after-sales service for himself, through the celebration of his films (from Blue Collar has Master Gardener), its scenarios (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull…) or his repeated posts on social networks… This Oh, Canada in fact presents itself openly as an open-hearted testament, the final introspection before the big leap. Leonard Fife (Richard Gere), his hero, is an aging director suffering from terminal cancer. He agrees to participate in a long filmed interview to take stock of a dotted existence whose holes he intends to fill. Here then is Schrader returning to the exercise of the fragmented biography, a bit like his Mishima (1985), a pivotal work in his film career which above all marked the definitive break with his brother, Leonard Schrader, sidelined from this project which he had partly initiated. Leonard Schrader / Leonard Fife. By reading Banks' novel from which he had already adapted Affliction in 1997, the filmmaker surely saw an almost subliminal opportunity to reconnect this broken link with this brother who died in 2006. Mishimahad in his time won a Prize for the best artistic contribution here on the Croisette.

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Wheelchair and confidences

From the first minutes, a close-up of an old Richard Gere, as if embalmed by illness, jumps into the eyes of the viewer immediately haunted by the ghost of the sensual Julian Kay, the ephebe he once played in theAmerican Gigolo (1980) by the same Schrader. The movie buff therefore enters this Oh, Canada fully charged. Gere/ Fife caught in the spotlight, immobilized in a wheelchair, lets his voice flow over images of his own past. A past where Fife then appears in the guise of the young and slender Jacob Elordi. A past mainly broken down by confessions, memories but also overly defined questions from a film crew constantly repackaged by the person concerned. This dialogue is mainly intended to be a monologue or even a confidence with his wife (Uma Thurman) whose presence he requires.

Uma Thurman in Oh, Canada (2024)
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This beautiful lie

After his Jansenist trilogy begun with On the path to redemption in 2017, this Oh, Canada would like to be more lyrical. This forgets that the Bressonian Schrader is not very fond of great outpourings. His Leonard Fife is dissembler. By making documentaries, he sought a truth that he was unable to grasp about himself. We want to hear everything, swallow snakes or even follow a little reminder of Susan Sontag's theories on photography (life suspended, death constantly renewed…), that's the game of this beautiful lie. Except that it all ends up biting the tail a bit and ultimately doesn't reveal much. The staging, although solid, appears flat, the smooth images retain characters kept prisoners of a story which refuses tooth and nail to unfold.

The Gere is sad but flamboyant. Thurman shows a deliberately tired face here. As for Elordi, he navigates gracefully and very at ease in these still waters. Life, as we know, is a puzzle with pieces always missing. And breath in this case here.

By Paul Schrader. With: Richard Gere, Jacob Elordi, Uma Thurman…. Duration: 1h37. Undetermined exit.


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