Social Hygiene

Director Denis Côté / 2021 / Canada

Denis Côté’s witty, theatrical battle of the sexes turns social distancing into an exercise in mutual estrangement.

Antonin stands hangdog in a field, bemoaning his layabout life, as five women berate him from a healthy distance: his sister, his estranged wife, his mistress, a tax official, a motorist he has wronged. All the women want Antonin to change, but he wants to be left in peace. And the camera watches everything in calm stillness.

Prolific indie filmmaker and MIFF regular Côté (A Skin So Soft, MIFF 2017; Boris Without Beatrice, MIFF 2016) forges on with his offbeat interrogations of masculinity and alienation, this time in a much more explicitly stylised form – and one that garnered him the Berlinale Encounters Best Director award. Humorous and deadpan, Social Hygiene skewers the long history of male entitlement through sardonic, time-period-crossing verbal duels that play out like French classical theatre. Emerging from the cinema, you’ll surely have fun dissecting what this all means (with sufficient COVID-safe spacing, of course!).

“Playful, studded with amusing observations … and an intellectually ticklish example of responding to filmmaking limitations with invention and droll wit.” – Variety

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