"Le Marais’ thick with atmosphere | VailDaily.com

"Le Marais’ thick with atmosphere

Christine Ina Casillas
Special to the DailyThe vast difference between sinners and saints comes to life in "Le Marais," a grim fairy tale set in the heart of a European countryside.

The dreary, dank autumn colors couldn’t have looked more hauntingly beautiful than in Kim Nguyen’s “Le Marais,” translated as “The Marsh.”

The last film presented by the Vail Symposium for the Toronto International Film Festival’s film circuit Sunday at Beaver Creek might have been a story about corruption and sin. But mostly it was a story about love and redemption.

Shot exclusively in 35-mm projections, “Le Marais” was set almost entirely outdoors in a fantasyland deep in the heart of a 19th-century European countryside.

The audience of about 150 was taken into a world where gnomes, goblins and elves exist in this fairy tale straight from the Brothers Grimm,

“Why does your hair always look like straw?” asked the Mailman in the film.

“Because the elves come to me at night and mess it all up,” said handicapped Ulysse, played by Quebec actor Paul Ahmarani.

Visually stunning by Daniel Vincelette’s director of photography debut, the story begins with an accidental murder of a local countrywoman by a man who is tired of people crossing his land.

But when the woman turns up missing, and the one who killed her refuses to admit it, the townsfolk blame a pair of puppet theater artists who just settled into town.

The two outcasts, Alexandre and Ulysse (Gregory Hlady and Ahmarani), find homage in a small cottage near a marsh that is fabled to be haunted. There, the missing woman is found by Ulysse, an innocent born from a goat, who fancies her a siren. The fairy tale does bring to life a siren of sorts, who interestingly finds her way into the heart of Ulysse anyway.

Ulysse is told by cynical Alexandre, “If you find love, then you must follow it. You must follow her wherever she goes.”

But because of the missing woman, the puppet theater artists immediately are thrust into the fires as the perfect scapegoats for the crime they did not commit.

Atmospheric, moody and slightly creepy, the plot of the film twists from past to present, where the audience, if not paying attention, could get lost.

Lurking behind dark crevices in the depths of the haunted marsh, the suppression of the townspeople and the vast difference between the sinners and the saints is a mystery that Nguyen allows to unfold as the film closes.

Flashbacks show earlier moments in the town’s history, when trusts were broken, war among families were formed, and allegiances forged.

“What a wonderful film,” said Ebby Pinson, president of the Vail Symposium.

Cultural voices

Pinson said the festival was one of the most popular events this year. Pinson and others at the symposium worked with Cam Haynes, director of the film circuit, on choosing which films would make it to the festival.

“Film is a cultural voice,” Pinson said. “And it brings the community together.”

More than 400 people attended the festival, Pinson said, which had been one of the best turnouts this year.

The highest turnout of the weekend, Pinson said, was Saturday for “The Road Home,” directed by Drew Johnson.

This year’s festival, which cost $15,000, was an upgrade from last year’s “The Best of The Telluride Festival,” also organized by the Vail Symposium.

This year the Beaver Creek Merchants Association and the Beaver Creek Resort Company pitched in more than $20,000 to buy a 35-mm projector, which made the festival possible.

Another positive aspect of the festival is that Steve Lindstrom, the owner of the movie theaters in the valley, has expressed interest in showing some of the independent movies.

Haynes has worked hard over the past years to make independent movies accessible to audiences in big cities and small towns. His film circuit in Canada now reaches 120 communities, and about 320,000 viewers have seen at least one of the movies he selects.

“We hope independent film making grows into something the whole world tunes into,” Haynes said at the beginning of Le Marais. “It’s quite a clever film with the way it looks and how it feels – it’s quite a good film.”

And for a reasonable price. The shows cost only $8.

Veronica Whitney contributed to this report. Christine Ina Casillas can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 607, or at ccasillas@vaildaily.com.

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