Denis Cote's Boris Without Beatrice is another singular vision from the enigmatic Canadian filmmaker, an introspective, adult fairy-tale about the pitfalls of vanity, which details the exploits of Boris, a wealthy businessman whose wife Beatrice, a high-profile politician, has fallen into a deep-seeded form of depression. Cote's film details a man in Boris who has grown cold and impatient to nearly everyone around him, with his stoic, business-focused demeanor creating a sense of detachment between not only Boris and his wife, but also his daughter who seemingly has an almost non-existent relationship due to Boris' misguided priorities. When a mysterious (and supernatural) stranger, played by the incomparable Denis Lavant, accuses Boris of being the man solely responsible for his wife's catatonic state, Boris begins to slowly reevaluate his life choices, a decision that slowly begins to reveal a man who wants nothing more than to be a better husband and father to those in his life he truly cares about. Denis Cote's Boris Without Beatrice is a detailed, honest portrait of a man in Boris who has lost sight of what is truly important in life, a man whose inherent hubris and vanity has left him naked to the pain he causes around him. Cote's film works quite well due to its ability to never fully demonize its central protagonist, understanding that Boris himself is a man of flesh and blood, with the film never delivering a plain, agenda-driven caricature of the inherent coldness of power and money, but a man who has lost his way. Boris Without Beatrice offers a compelling portrait of a character who is used to getting what he wants, detailing the general demeanor of a man in Boris who has never really had to do anything any other way but his way, due to his tremendous success as a businessman. His impatience with dealing with even the smallest details of inefficiency are fully realized through his interactions with everyone, from a sales clerk to his own family, with Cote painting a portrait of a man who simply has grown accustomed to being right and in charge. Even Boris' own stride, his movements, are assured, calculating, and efficient, with Cote creating a characterization that may not be very likable at times, but who is fully-realized, fair, and compelling. While Boris Without Beatrice never makes excuses for Boris' overall stern demeanor the film provides a compelling portrait of emotional pain, exhibiting how suffering and depression tend to lead to combustible anger, with Boris often coming across as very irritable, due in part to the pain he is going through. Boris is a mere mortal, and no matter how successful or prideful he is, he crumbles under the sheer powerlessness he finds himself in, unable to deal with idea that he can't control the situation. Throughout the film's running time Boris finds himself entering into sexual relations with two characters who are not his wife, almost as if sex is Boris' only form of personal connection, detailing how Boris as a character has become emotionally bewildered, only capable of feeling comfortable around those he can be physically intimate with. While some will surely find this aspect of the film appalling, I'd argue it's an important aspect of expressing Boris's struggles a character, detailing how his own lack of control and hubris have left him emotionally damaged, jumping into intimacy as a way of deflecting his own pain of seeing his wife in such a catatonic state. While Boris' own neglect is primarily to blame, which we learn due to the supernal, mysterious Denis Lavant, perhaps what rings the most truthful throughout Boris Without Beatrice is the importance of empathy and respect, with Boris reconnecting with his wife, mother, and daughter, due more to being respectful of their differences of opinion and general well-being, finally understanding their perspective towards why they feel so much pain, with his love for them being much more valuable in the end then their differences of opinion when it comes to the importance of financial success. An introspective fairytale about the dangers of vanity and hubris, Denis Cote's Boris Without Beatrice is another one-of-a-kind experience, a film that works incredibly well due to its strong, fair, and fascinating central character.
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