27 July 2007


C.R.A.Z.Y. is one of the first Canadian films I've seen this year and it's not disappointing. It's a coming-of-age story of Zac, a teenage who learns to recognise his own homosexual desire in a rather eccentric family of five siblings. Zac has a gift: he can heal burns, stop bleeding, and cure other minor wounds. There is a strong parallel in the film between him and Jesus Christ but the significant difference is the fact that he has trouble with his own sexuality and needs to come to terms with it under the domineering shadow of his homophobic father. Well, maybe this is also a similarity: both Zac and Jesus are social outcasts, infamous for their difference that has yet to be accepted by contemporary societies (Jesus in the time of the Roman Empire trying to disseminate Christianity, Zac in the time of David Bowie trying to embrace his own sexual preference despite the resentment of his father). The similarity is also startling on a superficial level: Zac was born on Christmas and he also died once (only for three seconds though) in a road accident before being resuscitated.

The path of one's own self recognition is not easy. Zac has an on-and-off relationship with a girlfriend, while also having some homosexual affairs, one of which entails a partner who resembles a conventional Jesus-lookalike. This reminds me of Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha of Suburbia though it's not just as jubilant in overall atmosphere. Despite his gift of healing other people's suffering, the main irony lies in the fact that he cannot use this gift to cure his own. Asthma is associated with his own homosexuality, as both are his inbred conditions that he wants to get rid of, but simply can't.

The first half of the film is pretty idyllic, portraying the sweet relationship between Zac and his father, whom he thinks is charismatic. However, the paternal influence proves to be too powerful a force that Zac needs to reckon with, as it remains a factor that Zac needs to take into account in his personality development, especially in the second half of the film, when we see the rather tempetuous side of their relationship. The mother, on the other hand, is an understanding Virgin Mary, who is ready to be at Zac's side and defends him at all costs.

However, Zac doesn't need to deal with his parents, but also his elder brothers, especially Raymond, whom he detests most. Raymond is a drug addict who enjoys leading a rough life and constantly nags Zac about his sexuality. However, the two are similar in that they are marginalised outcasts. It is perhaps this similarity that heals their rift at the end, when Raymond feels indifferent towards Zac's sexual preference and even tries to protect Zac's dignity.

Despite all these difficulties and turmoils, C.R.A.Z.Y. is a feel-good Bildungsroman film that has a rather positive ending (of which I do have some qualms). What I find rather surprising is that even though the sixties was regarded as a period of liberation, both sexually and politically, there's still a corner in a world whereby sexual prejudices were still extant.

Also not to be ignored is the magical quality, both in scene-editing and in content, strongly reminiscent of Amelie. It contrasts well with the humdrum of Montreal suburban life and shows the mystical/magical side, which for some is still vital. Sometimes we still need to believe in something in order to go through their tough times or at least to make them more bearable. I'm not sure whether I'm too sentimental but the film does this pretty well without running the risk of being too much like tear-jerking soap-opera.

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