Born on Christmas day 1960, Zac Beaulieu (Émile Vallée) is forever inextricably linked to the Christ child. Expected to have healing powers by his mother (Danielle Proulx), and expected to “be a man” by his father Gervais (Michel Côté), Zac grows into a teenager (Marc-André Grondin) in an intense battle with his own feelings and eventually into an adult who has to learn to confront both himself and his father.
C.R.A.Z.Y. is many things: a family story, a father and son story, and a coming-out story. It's one of those movies that snuck up on me and spoke to a part of me that I didn't know I had. Identifying with Zac in ways both abstract and direct, it's hard to expose yourself in this way; Zac's story is not literally my own, and I don't want anyone to think that. I have never been confused for Christ's emissary, for instance, but I was forced to confront something about myself and embarked on my own painful journey that, fortunately, ended well.
It's hard to conceive of a Quebecois film industry, but it exists. C.R.A.Z.Y. is one of its biggest successes, and could not have been made anywhere else. Director Jean-Marc Vallée distilled a perfect sense of time and place: he sacrificed his director's fee to secure the extensive musical rights needed to create a world that lives and breathes. Incredible use of musical shifts from diegetic to extra-diegetic and back transport the film from scene to scene and through eras. Zac's cosmic voyage through David Bowie's 'Space Oddity' is a moment that deserves iconic status and, to me, the scene where Gervais listens to Patsy Cline through headphones is possibly the closest I've ever come to cinematic perfection.
If this is not exactly what Quebec was like in the sixties and seventies, it's entirely believable to my untrained eyes. This argument is only reinforced by the film's sole misstep: when it leaves the safety of its environs to go on a bizarre vision quest in Jerusalem. For these brief few minutes one has to wonder why Vallée has ramped up his magic-realism to the point of semi-absurd spiritualistic fantasy. Fortunately a precedent is set earlier in the film to cushion the blow, but it remains a discordant note in a cinematic symphony.
Regardless, C.R.A.Z.Y. is an amazing film on any level. At its core, it's about a family. Most people have one, and the painful reality that Vallée has doled out to these characters makes it universal.
Now, four years after I first saw C.R.A.Z.Y. and it changed my life in no small way, I realise that I don't “need” it anymore. It did its job and asks no more of me. To this day, it retains some of the more truly sublime moments in cinema, and is one of the few films guaranteed to make me burst into tears at the end. To me, there's nothing more magical than that.