- 1997 Sundance Film Festival
Video-artist-turned-filmmaker John Greyson comes into his own with this intensely cinematic refashioning of Michel Marc Bouchard’s play Les fleurettes, which deepens his characteristic wit with themes of great passion and tragic betrayal. The setting is a men’s prison circa 1952, where Bishop Bilodeau arrives to hear the confession of Simon, sentenced forty years earlier to life for the alleged murder of his teenage love Vallier. But the occasion is a ruse: It’s really the bishop whose confession Simon aims to procure. Religious ritual turns into a play within a play, a fey flashback to wry Quebecois revels in the innocent days when the bishop and convict were young.
Midway between Shakespearean idyll and Genetesque rebellion, Lilies displays a cunning force of invention. Squares within squares frame our views of the action, drag accentuates the frame of gender, and tricks of memory are turned on end to reveal long-buried truths. While the theme of romantic love resonates as powerfully in the present as in the flashbacks, it’s the visual design of Lilies that truly captivates. Elegant compositions and overwrought staging dust tragedy with irony and conjure fantasy out of thin air. In the end, the brave young Vallier’s murder is made viscerally shocking by the oh-so-decorative route its telling has taken.
— B.Ruby Rich
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