Boris Without Beatrice is no Antonioni

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      Starring James Hyndman. In French, English, and Russian, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      Unlikable characters do dull, unconvincing things we don’t care about in Boris Without Beatrice, a mannerist exercise that doesn’t have the manners to keep us awake.

      New Brunswick critic turned filmmaker Denis Côté has been a tough sell for the decade he’s been directing, with small-scaled dramatic oddities like Curling and Vic + Flo Saw a Bear seeming to reach for a little more than they actually delivered. Given more rope, and a slightly bigger budget, Boris seems to offer less than what’s on the surface, perhaps because that surface, while initially attractive, seems so self-consciously designed.

      Known in Quebec for several medical series (one coincidentally called Au Secours de Béatrice), a bald and bearded James Hyndman plays Boris Malinovsky, successful owner of an unspecified business he’s been neglecting lately. Well, he has been having an affair with one of his executives (Dounia Sichov), but we don’t know if that’s a reaction to or a reason behind the paralyzing melancholia currently being suffered by his wife, Beatrice, played by the appropriately ethereal Simone-Élise Girard, who has little to say.

      We see in flashbacks that the macho Boris really loves his wife, but she’s not getting much help from therapy and a perhaps overly attrac­tive hired hand (Isolda Dychauk, a Russian-born Amy Schumer type). Beatrice is some sort of high government official, and Côté hands us a Cancon zinger by casting queer-cinema icon Bruce La Bruce as an unnamed prime minister who pleads for her return. Another cult figure, Holy Motors star Denis Lavant, plays a mysterious, Nehru-jacketed stranger who steps into Boris’s life to demand that he clean up his act.

      These in-jokes don’t add up to much, mainly because the movie is too humourless and its characters too vague for anything to resonate much beyond “Hey, this guy sure likes Antonioni movies from the ’60s.” Those are still available, for all who want them.