Lilies

Feature Film Canada 1996

Delicate. Brilliant. Claustrophobic. Aesthetic in the extreme. Virtuoso. Decadent. Lyrical. These adjectives perfectly describe this film by John Greyson, a Canadian director with an activist past, a penchant for the queer and an eccentric filming, featuring complex plots and lavish sets. Three years earlier, he directed a bizarre musical about AIDS, Zero Patience. In Lilies, inspired by Michel Marc Bouchard's play, he is able to absorb, contaminate and recast different experiences: combining cinema with theatre like Chinese boxes, he references Peter Brook's Marat/Sade, Bertold Brecht and Jean Genet. He evokes the aesthetics of pre-Raphaelite paintings and, almost neo-Shakespearean in spirit, he reworks the conventions of Elizabethan theatre, casting men in the roles of women and representing the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian as an erotic ecstasy to symbolise the deadly embrace between catholicism and homosexuality, persecutors and victims, sin and guilt. In 1952 in Québec, a bishop visits a prison to hear the confession of a prisoner on his death bed. He then watches an improvised play by a group of prisoner/actors who have transformed an altar into a stage. The play recalls a crime of passion which took place forty years before. When he was a teenager, the priest himself was involved in that crime together with two other young men.

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