Depressed guys, absurdly funny

Nuages sur la ville is not a film for everyone, and that's one reason I liked it so much.

The first feature from Montreal filmmaker Simon Galiero is almost deliberately obtuse and at times even downright irritating, and for a while there, I thought it might just be the umpteenth example of the dreary, dark angst-ridden cinema that Canadians specialize in.

But gradually I began to realize that as downbeat as it seems, there's a strong undercurrent of black humour to this oddball flick. Or at least I'm pretty sure there is. Nuages sur la ville never overstates its intentions, so you have to make up your own mind about what Galiero is up to. And I like that, too.

Galiero had the cool idea of hiring three noted directors to play the leads. They are Quebec filmmakers Jean-Pierre Lefebvre and Robert Morin, and noted Polish theatre director Téo Spychalski. Lefebvre - one of our best-known auteurs - plays Jean-Paul, a washed-up writer toiling in a soul-destroying job as a government functionary. How frustrated is he?

Well, he sits down at his computer to write and the only words that come out are: "I have nothing to say. I'm already dead."

Morin's Michel is also in a deep funk. He has lost his job outside Montreal and has come to the big city to try to find another.

Then there's Jacek, played by Spychalski. He's an old friend of Jean-Paul's from Poland who has come here with his nephew Janusz (Alex Bisping) and, rather incredibly, he seems even more depressed than the other two guys. He is kept awake at night with visions of the apocalypse, of worms eating out eyeballs and rivers over-flowing. He despairs of a generation that reads only of kids flying around on broomsticks and constantly lashes out at his nephew as if all the ills of today's world are the younger man's fault.

So, where are the chuckles, you might well ask. Good question. They are there, like in the comedy of the absurd sequence in which a teen guy goes home with a girl, wakes up the next morning, heads to the dep to buy breakfast and returns, only to realize all of the homes in this faceless suburban housing development look exactly the same and he can't decide which doorbell to ring.

You also have to like a film that makes the act of playing Wii look like one of the most terrifying things in the world. The three directors-turned-actors are terrific. They do such a good job of playing totally believable depressed guys that you'll think twice about becoming a director.

It's filmed in gorgeous black and white, and Galiero shows a real talent for crafting intriguing soundscapes. All of which makes you think that this guy could really do something interesting with a film built around a story with a bit more meat on its bones.