Format: 35mm Colour
Runtime: 95 min
Triptych Media Inc.,
n a Quebec prison in 1952, Bishop Bilodeau (Marcel Sabourin) accedes to an unusual request to hear the confession of an aging convict. On entering the prison chapel, Bilodeau finds himself locked inside, held against his will, and forced to watch as the inmates stage an elaborate play – a recreation of events from forty years earlier, when Bilodeau and the confessor, Simon (Aubert Pallascio), were locked in a love triangle with another boy, the beautiful Vallier (Danny Gilmore).
The all-male prison cast magically transforms their grim, Genet-like surroundings into the most real of reminiscences, exploding beyond their incarceration to conjure a luxurious turn-of-the-century resort hotel set against a brilliant northern Quebec summer landscape. Inside this exotic memory device, populated by convicts-become-European counts and countesses, the bishop and Simon are reincarnated as lithe young boys (Matthew Ferguson and Jason Cadieux, respectively). Inexorably, the truth of Vallier’s tragic demise, and the bishop’s duplicitous role in it, emerges.
With Lilies, an emotionally intense, suspense-laden tale of love, betrayal and revenge, director John Greyson crafts the cinematic equivalent of a multi-faceted gemstone, reflecting and refracting the light of the past to illuminate the present. An exceptional cast, featuring Tony Award-winner Brent Carver, combines with a richly-saturated cinematic vision to render Lilies a sumptuous feast for the eyes, heart and mind.
Greyson exhibits enormous control over the material (and the play-within-a-film structure), in effect normalizing the unconventional casting (all major parts, regardless of gender, are played by men). The film’s structure mixes performance theatre with cinematic techniques in an impressively fluid way, while the solemn gravity of the production perfectly suits the repressive subject matter.
Lilies was named Best Canadian Film at the 1996 Montreal World Film Festival, one of numerous festival honours it earned around the world. The film was also nominated for twelve Genie Awards and won four, including Best Picture (Anna Stratton, Robin Cass, Arnie Gelbart), and Art Direction/Production Design (Sandra Kybartas).