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Un crabe dans la tête

Un crabe dans la tête

(Soft Shell Man)

Year: 2001
Language: French
Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 102 min
Director: André Turpin
Producer: Joseph Hillel, Luc Déry
Writer: André Turpin
Cinematographer: André Turpin
Editor: Sophie Leblon
Sound: Gilles Corbeil
Cast: Pascale Desrochers, Chantal Giroux, Emmanuel Bilodeau, Isabelle Blais, David La Haye
Production Company: Qu4tre par Quatre
Un crabe dans la tête is an appealing exploration of love, honesty and self-esteem and established André Turpin’s reputation as a talented director. Although only his second feature film as director, Turpin was already well known for his cinematography on films such as Denis Villeneuve’s Un 32 août sur terre (1998) and Maelström (2000). He wrote, directed and shot Un crabe dans la tête; his striking visual style is evident in a prolonged underwater sequence in the opening frames.

Alex (La Haye), the film’s protagonist, is a successful underwater photographer who is on assignment when a diving mishap occurs. He blacks out and winds up in a decompression chamber, unable to recall the incident. Back at home in Montreal, he finds that his equilibrium is off; determined to leave again as quickly as possible, he can’t seem to get away. Alex has an obsessive need to be liked and a fear of confrontation that lead to (not necessarily positive) entanglements with his friends — and just about every person he meets. Alex has “a crab in his head,” or as Turpin describes it, “You’ve been wanting to say No to somebody for years, and when the moment comes, and you say Yes, you are conscious of that bug eating your brain.”

Chameleon-like, Alex plies his charm indiscriminately and without self-control on a megalomaniac businessman; an agoraphobic drug dealer; his agent; his best friend’s deaf girlfriend, Sara (Giroux); and so on. Naturally, subjugating his identity and persistently back-pedalling and dodging the truth have negative consequences. It becomes obvious that Turpin’s “Soft Shell Man” won’t be able to cope successfully with reality until he contends with the crustacean. At the end, the audience is left wondering whether or not Alex was able to transform himself.

A pairing of Turpin’s unique aesthetic with a well-crafted, mature drama, Un crabe dans la tête is a collection of absorbing and detailed characters in an intricate web of relationships. Québécois star David La Haye is charismatic as Alex and the supporting cast is also impressive. Turpin keeps Un crabe dans la tête light-hearted and engaging with his fast-paced, fresh approach. An imaginative film about the unattainable desire to please others and oneself at the same time, Un crabe dans la tête offers an intriguing metaphor for Canadian-ness.