Could it be that Québécois film is finally breaking out of its comfy little cocoon?
Welcome to Funkytown, director Daniel Roby and writer Steve Galluccio’s powerful chronicle of the highs and especially lows of the disco days in Montreal in the second half of the ’70s, particularly the lives of folks at a dance club called The Starlight, a nightspot clearly inspired by The Limelight, the legendary lower Stanley St. disco mecca.
Paul Doucet plays Jonathan Aaronson, an openly gay gossip columnist who is clearly modeled on the late Douglas (Coco) Leopold, a fixture on Quebec radio in that period. That’s another thing to admire in Funkytown – the filmmakers’ willingness to not shy away from the gay side of the disco scene here.
But the main man in this sprawling, ambitious period piece is Bastien Lavallée, played by Patrick Huard in one of the finer performances he’s ever delivered. Like Jonathan, Bastien is based on a real-life celeb from the disco days – in this case, the radio and tv host Alain Montpetit. At the start of Funkytown, Bastien rules the disco scene. He struts into The Starlight like he owns the joint and clearly he’s taking the fame thing to excess, a point underlined when, early on, this married man is seen snorting cocaine off the tight belly of his model girlfriend Adriana (Sarah Mutch).
Huard is unusually gritty and he really brings it on when Bastien slides into drug-addled loserdom in the second half. Justin Chatwin is also really good as a dancer with major sexuality issues, but it’s Doucet who steals the show here. A franco actor playing an anglo who speaks mostly in franglais, he is just brilliant, somehow making Jonathan wildly over-the-top and someone we can actually care about.
Roby ably handles this ensemble drama, seamlessly shifting between the different stories and smartly balancing the big dance-club scenes with the darker, more personal moments. He also succeeds in really giving us a sense of this almost-forgotten slice of Montreal history, complete with some of the cheesiest outfits you’ll see on the big screen this year. Last but not least, there are plenty of fine disco tunes along the way, a mix of originals and covers by contemporary Quebec artists like Florence K and Marilou.
– Brendan Kelly, The Montreal Gazette
À l’époque des années 1970, Montréal disputait le titre de capitale du disco à New York, son vaisseau amiral, le Limelight (Starlight dans le film) donnant laréplique aux folles nuits du Studio 54. Le tout sur fond d’accession du Parti québécois au pouvoir et d’une forte affirmation du fait français.