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Directing death is easy. Directing comedy is hard. So when it came time to cast Surviving My Mother, a movie in which a woman deals with the loss of a parent by trying to learn more about her, um, adventurous 21-year-old daughter, Quebec filmmaker Emile Gaudreault knew what he wanted.

Directing death is easy. Directing comedy is hard. So when it came time to cast Surviving My Mother, a movie in which a woman deals with the loss of a parent by trying to learn more about her, um, adventurous 21-year-old daughter, Quebec filmmaker Emile Gaudreault knew what he wanted.

"The entire cast had to be actors with the gift of comedy," says Gaudreault, 43, whose last film was the 2003 hit comedy Mambo Italiano. He knew that if his performers could hit the comedic notes in this new film (also written by Mambo scribe Steve Galluccio), he could lead them through the drama. "I can't direct comedy," he shrugs.

Caroline Dhavernas, the 29-year-old Montreal actress who plays the daughter Bianca and carries, directly or indirectly, most of the film's laughs,

picks up on the theme of comedy. "He knows its rhythm," she says of Gaudreault. "He feels when it's right, so he can concentrate on the drama because he doesn't need to put his full attention on the comedy and figure out how that works."

Dhavernas has been acting since she was eight years old but hadn't done much comedy until she starred in the short-lived 2004 TV series Wonderfalls, an experience she likened to going to comedy school. She says that when the timing is right, "you feel it in your body," adding, "if you don't get it right, it can look ridiculous."

Other faces in the cast includecomedianColinMochrie as Bianca's long-suffering

father, and some lesserknowns (to English Canadians), such as Paris-born Veronique Le Flaguais in a rare English role as Bianca's grandmother. Again, comedic chops were paramount to the role. "That part played by a 70-year-old actress who isn't funny would be tragic," says Gaudreault. (For the record, Le Flaguais is only 59.)

Surviving My Mother has played at Canadian film festivals from coast to coast before its general release tomorrow, and Gaudreault says the humour of an English Catholic family from Montreal travels well, just as Mambo Italiano's Montreal Italians struck a chord with audiences worldwide.

"They laugh at the same places," says Gaudreault of festival audiences in Vancouver, Halifax and points between. He says many Quebec-made comedies rely on stereotypes and caricatures that may not generate the same laughs in the rest of Canada, but "you don't need to recognize these characters as your neighbours" to find them funny.

The film began as a stage play by Galluccio, but when Canadian uber-producer Denise Robert read it, she suggested it be adapted into a movie. "I will propose scenes; he's going to write the dialogue," Gaudreault says of his collaboration with Galluccio, adding: "We don't have egos. We just want to create."

One change from stage to screenplay was that Bianca meets her love interest not in a bar but over the Internet. Gaudreault came up with the idea of showing her text-message conversation on walls, tables and other surfaces during other scenes, neatly avoiding those boring, plot-stopping shots of people typing at computers. "It was just a way to transpose those parallel lives in the same image," Gaudreault says modestly. Surviving My Mother also features a neat trick of cutting between a person leaving a voice mail and another listening to it, so that it appears more like a conversation. Such tricks meant Gaudreault spent three months editing this film, twice the time that he usually spends on that stage.

He has nothing but praise for his leading lady, whom he says would do eight takes of a scene "and I could use all of them." For her part, Dhavernas says she worked hard to keep her character present at all times, which included being on set for the other actors. (Often when we see a character speaking in close-up in a movie, the actor they're supposedly talking to isn't there at the time.)

"I love this work because you're bouncing off the other person," she says. "What they throw at you, you throw back. If you shut off when it's not your turn anymore" -- she gives a shrug that looks like she picked it up from Gaudreault -- "then I'd rather sell hot dogs."

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Category: Articles | Added by: kate-ksk (2011-12-12)
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