Denys Arcand’s Love & Human Remains (1993) — based on the play Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love by Brad Fraser, who adapted the play for the screen — is an oddity. It’s one of those movies that generated a flurry of interest and controversy (it had to be cut to get an R rating) when it first appeared and then just more or less vanished without even a home video release (at least in the US). I simply bumped into the film on the Sundance Channel in the late ‘90s. I’d never even heard of it. (Movies from Sony Pictures Classic did not play in Fort Pierce, Florida — or in Asheville at that time.) I’m not even sure why I watched it — except the title was intriguing — but I did, and was fascinated by the film’s strangeness and the complex interweaving of its characters and their lives. More than that, however, I was impressed by the fact that it turned out to be one of those movies that you can’t honestly get the feeling of until you’ve seen the whole film. I can easily imagine someone watching half or even three-fourths of Love & Human Remains and finding it unpleasant — maybe even pointless — and dismissing it. Seeing the entire film is another matter. The whole of the movie is more than its individual parts might suggest.
The story centers on David (Thomas Gibson), an ex-child TV star (well, Canadian TV) from some show called The Beavertons. He’s gay and shares an apartment with his ex-girlfriend Candy (Ruth Marshall), a book reviewer who seems to have a disastrous love life. David divides his time between Candy and his childhood best friend Bernie (Cameron Bancroft), who Candy cordially detests. He also has a friend named Benita (Mia Kirshner), a professional dominatrix with psychic powers. David works as a waiter at an upscale restaurant where his supposedly 18-year-old (really 17-year-old) busboy Kane (Matthew Ferguson) has developed a kind of star-struck crush on him. Off to the side in all this is an anxious lesbian, Jerri (Joanne Vannicola), who is in love with Candy. And there’s a bartender, Robert (Rick Roberts), with romantic designs on Candy, too. Plus, there’s a serial killer prowling the streets of Edmonton while all this is going on, which adds a level of desperation to an already pretty desperation-soaked scenario. (It also attempts to add a level of mystery, but the mystery is fairly easily penetrated.) The strange thing about all this is that it somehow manages to turn itself around to become an immensely hopeful film that’s more sweet-natured than the individual (and sometimes snarky) elements suggest.
The Asheville Film Society will screen Love & Human Remains Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther.