Tectonic Plates

Adapting a play by Robert Lepage and his Theatre Repere, Peter Mettler combines scenes from various stage performances with footage shot on location in Venice, Paris, and New York. Some of the transitions are stunningly imaginative, but this 1993 film is far from seamless, partly because the play has its share of disjointed moments and partly because Mettler's realism sometimes breaks the theatrical spell of Lepage's work. The main story, told in flashbacks during psychotherapy, follows a mousy, insecure art student as she matures into a confident middle-aged painter who sublimates her traumatic past through her work. Too often the film digresses to include people who cross her path and whose neuroses are also caused by sexual disappointment, identity crisis, and cultural clashes (the metaphoric plates of the title). The actors, often knee-deep in a pool of water, gamely play to Mettler's camera, but after a while even they seem to be flummoxed by the conflicting forms of make-believe.

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