A working-class French Canadian family, headed up by a headstrong father obsessed with the music of Patsy Cline and a son obsessed with David Bowie, forms the backbone of Jean-Marc Vall?s new film, C.R.A.Z.Y. Based on the memoirs of the film’s co-writer Fran?s Boulay (who struggled to come to terms with his own homosexuality), C.R.A.Z.Y. is a coming-out story with a difference.

Son number three, Zachary was born on Christmas Day. In his mother’s eyes, he was special and had a gift. However, while he was only too happy to parade that gift as a badge of difference, he refused to equate it with being gay. His father had his doubts and so began the tug of war between father and son and a search for identity outside the usual gay stereotypes.

Jean-Marc Vall?says he was attracted to Boulay’s story because of the father-son relationship.

That was the beauty of it, he says. When this guy told me his story, that’s when I thought, listen, I’m going to make a film about your life. This is too beautiful, what you’ve been through to finally have a father.

Under Vall?s direction Zachary’s (Marc-Andr?rondin) coming out plays second fiddle to his damaged relationship with his father (Michel C?/a>). Only when that relationship is repaired, largely at the instigation of the father, can he accept his sexuality. It’s an interesting shift of focus that pits the internal struggle against external relationships, Vall?explains.

Zach’s internal fight to be who he is was something beautiful to work with, he says. But this film is not just about coming out, this film is about an internal fight. This guy doesn’t want to be like that, he doesn’t want to be gay.

C.R.A.Z.Y. is set over three decades with Zach’s teenage years falling squarely in the 1970s. It’s a daggy era of loud fashion and even louder glam-rock music. In sorting out his identity, Zach finds solace in the music of an androgynous David Bowie. One of the more memorable scenes features Zach with Ziggy Stardust face paint, miming to Bowie’s Space Oddity. Vall?says Marc-Andr?rondin is a phenomenal actor.

When I saw the dailies of the Space Oddity scene, I knew he would become a big movie star, he says. There’s too much talent in one person.

In recreating the 1970s, C.R.A.Z.Y. depicts an era where everybody smoked. It’s hilarious by today’s standards, where lighting up anywhere in public is considered a social evil. But apart from faithfully recreating the values of French Canadian middle-class families, there’s a point to Vall?s pro-smoking stance.

It was a way to put more sensuality into the film, he says. The way the males hold the cigarettes, the way they smoke, there’s something sexy about it. Every time Zac smoked I cranked the camera up from 48 to 60 images per second to emphasise the sensuousness. I wanted this kid to be sexy, to have sex appeal -“ and the cigarettes were helping.

With its timid depiction of sexuality and a storyline that plays on is he or isn’t he uncertainty, C.R.A.Z.Y. is bound to attract criticism, especially from commentators who prefer their coming-out stories delivered cut and dry. In reality, coming out is a messy business that is as much about family and friends as our own acceptance. With that in mind, C.R.A.Z.Y. hits the mark beautifully and is well worth a visit.

-” Melbourne Star