Special Report: The 1996 Genie Awards: Lilies extends men’s emotional range

Synopsis: A surreal tale of a romantic homosexual love between two childhood friends, and the counterpoint of betrayal and revenge as the story unfolds in two separate historical times and places, a luxurious country hotel in 1912 and a grim men's...

Synopsis: A surreal tale of a romantic homosexual love between two childhood friends, and the counterpoint of betrayal and revenge as the story unfolds in two separate historical times and places, a luxurious country hotel in 1912 and a grim men’s federal prison circa 1952.

Lilies has 14 Genie nominations and has won the public choice awards at the Montreal World Film Festival and Blois, and a best new director’s prize at Locarno.

Alliance Vivafilm has released the film in its original English version, as well as in French in cities across Quebec.

Michel-Marc Bouchard and Linda Gaboriau are nominated for best adapted screenplay.

Bouchard, an established playwright, might be a relative newcomer to the industry but he’s quickly picked up on the spirit. Theatrical reality is evocative, he says, in film, the methodology is illustrative.

‘In theater an actor can say, `I see 15 horses approaching,’ in cinema, the producer says he only sees one,’ he quips.

Shooting a French-language play as an English film was fine by Bouchard, who says he’s seen the play produced in various languages and in English in cities across Canada.

The original play, Les Feluettes, was directed by Andre Brossard in 1987.

Three significant differences between the film and play come to mind, says the 38-year-old writer.

First, the play lasted two-and-a-quarter hours, while the film is 100 minutes, and only 25% of the original play dialogue is retained. And while the stage play unfolds entirely within the confines of the prison, the movie takes us to all the places evoked in the story, specifically Roberval, Que. in 1912, and the ending is different.

Part of the idea of having an all-male cast was an experiment in extending the emotional range of men. Bouchard says that exploration asks the sort of question, ‘Can a man play to the emotions of a mother?’

The nominations for the film’s three male leads – Jason Cadieux, Matthew Ferguson and Danny Gilmore – suggests the ‘gamble’ worked, says Bouchard, ‘although we were all surprised Brent Carver wasn’t nominated.’

Looking ahead, Bouchard says he’s writing a new feature film screenplay, working title The Fresh. And Lilies’ producers, Triptych Media and Galafilm, are shooting a one-hour hdtv family drama special based on Bouchard’s play The Fate of Teeka/L’Histoire de l’oie. Plans are to shoot in June ’97.

Craft highlights certainly include best music/original score nominee Mychael Danna’s beautiful score. It’ essentially a ‘musical mass’ sung by the brilliant Hilliard Ensemble.

As for Sandra Kybartas, nominated for best art direction/production design, she says the main challenge was designing two period pieces for the same movie.

‘Theatricality, painterliness, trompe l’oeil and symbolism were the iron posts of my early conversations with director John (Greyson). Then we tried to get committed to reality; the 1952 theater of the prisoners is gritty and real and as unartistic as possible.’

The color tones between the two periods is exaggerated – the bleak, unmagical prison – and the introduction of color (the space becomes hallucinatory with a peep-show quality) with the play in the chapel.

Linda Muir (nominated for best costume design) faced her own challenges, not the least of which was designing a very excellent sequined ballroom gown for Remy Girard.

The basic concept for the costumes, she says, was ‘not to dress men in women’s clothing but to build (female) costumes for men’s bodies.’

Best cinematographer nominee Daniel Jobin used Kodak 87 and 93 interior and exterior film stock. Soft lens effects were used for the 1912 scenes at the hotel and straight, unfiltered photography for the 1952 prison scenes.

Considering the story’s complexity, the big challenge was ‘mainly the lack of time and money,’ says Jobin (Louis 19), an earlier nominee for Cargo.

The special effects in Lilies include a house on fire created with the use of cost-effective lamps, and lots of scenes with indirect lighting reflecting the actors in watery surfaces. ‘The big plus on this film was John Greyson, a very bright, intelligent filmmaker,’ says Jobin.

Best editing nominee Andre Corriveau (The Boys of St. Vincent) edited Lilies on a D-Vision (digitalized from Betacam) system at Telepoint.

The editing went well and was completed over two full weeks. The challenge, says Corriveau, was effectively integrating the story’s ‘different levels’ – the prison and the change to Roberval in 1912.

‘The first step is being close to material, and the rushes are most important, that’s where we see the direction for the shoot,’ he says.

Corriveau says filmmaking is a team activity, ‘and John (Greyson) is a team player, someone who respects and listens to other people.’