Michka Saäl

The Snail Position

1998, fiction, 100 minutes, French with English subtitles

Credits        Reviews        Screenings Backstory

 

Synopsis

Myriam turned the page on her family a long time ago. She lives and works in Montreal, and dogsits for her best friend, a jazz pianist, for a little affection. One day, two men — diametrically opposed — shake up her world. A young man who shamelessly steals books and teaches her the snail position and her aging father — still the charming seducer — who does not want to die alone.

 

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Credits

Written and directed by Michka Saäl

 

Image: Arthur E. Cooper

Sound: Pierre Blain, Claude Beaugrand

Sound mix: Thierry Delor

Editor: Natacha Dufaux

Original music: Jean Derome

Production: Les Films de l’Autre

 

With Victor Lanoux and Mirella Tomassini

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Reviews

 

“…The painful theme of father-daughter reunions, which still haunts Michka Saäl, is happily given a light treatment in The Snail Position, a refreshing drama full of humour.

Huguette Roberge, La Presse, November 14, 1998

Photo: Bertrand Carrière

Photo: Bertrand Carrière

The immense edifice of memory

“… a good film that generously expands the viewpoint and enlarges the universal nature of our cinema. A mature work that, through its expressiveness and profoundness, and the singular nature of its reflections, works its subject like a jazz canvas. A film inhabited by unique colours (strengthened by the rich soundtrack of Jean Derome) that breaks apart time as if to redraw the boundaries of its lost soul so it can more easily be reborn.

“The cinema of Michka Saäl invites us to fight against the destruction or the slow agony of things, the denial of memory (even the names of pastries are listed!) and the loss of life force to keep going…  a life that she brings with her, through secret gestures, the ‘immense edifice of memory' so dear to Proust.”

Gérard Grugeau, 24 Images, No. 93-94

The memory of time

“Yes, I liked this film very much, and not only for the soft tone and its images full of secrets and mysteries, like the arrival, superbly shot, of the father arriving in the port of Montreal. The story of Myriam, which fights against immigration bureaucrats for a little more compassion to foreigners, rings true and just.

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“Dedicated to the father, made quickly with a small budget, The Snail Position uses images like a game of mirrors between us and the other, between nostalgia, memories and resentments, without ever falling into the trap of trying to regain an impossible past and a present impossible to build… The images of Michka Saäl evoke the memory of time, the fullness and emptiness that bind, and unbind, all of us… She invites us to fight against the loss of meaning in things, in life, in ourselves.”

Myriame El Yamani, Cinébulles, Fall 1998, Vol. 17, no. 3

The air of truth

“This film is chock-a-block with autobiographical details that give it the air of truth. This franco-Canadian co-production has many qualities that come from elsewhere. From this Tunisia, which each of the characters recall as a lost paradise.

Anne-Marie Baron, L’Arche, No. 493, March 1999

Uneven, but promising

“The film is sometimes heavy handed and the acting uneven, but it asks enough questions and has enough insights to hold an audience’s interest, sometimes even with humour.”

Paul Villeneuve, Le Journal de Montréal, November 21, 1998

 

“A film sometimes heavy handed in delivering its message, but that offers several moments where Saäl retrieves her sense of documentary and lingers on the faces of her heroes, capturing images of weariness, defeat or hope.”

Xavier Leherpeur, Ciné Live, No. 24, May 1999

“An elegant film (despite its modest budget) with several scenes that work well (including one, superb, where Myriam finds her father again) that suggest — despite its faults — an original sensibility and a personal voice. In short, a first feature that is uneven, but promising, that makes us want to see the second.”

Georges Privet, Voir, November 19-25, 1998

 
 

Screenings

2000

Television: CANAL+

 

1999 

Cinéma des Cinéastes, Les 7 Parnassiens, Paris

Festival des films du Monde de Montréal

Festival du Cinéma Méditerranéen de Montpellier

Festival international de Rouyn-Noranda

Journées cinématographiques de Carthage

Festival international du film de Mar del Plata

Festival International du Film de Djerba

Festival International de Cinéma de Figueira Da Foz

Festival Women Make Waves de Taïwan

 

1998

Theatrical release: Montréal, Quartier Latin

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Backstory

Escargot Tunisia Team and Family.jpg

On location in Tunisia

“There were only two of us in Tunisia. I scouted locations, did the casting, the make-up, the costumes and the sound… the director of photography filmed. It was truly a tiny shoot, but I mention it because I’m proud of the images that came out of it,” she says, amused… I try not to make a film about something. That said, it was the first story that ever came to me, but it took six films before I could make The Snail Position.”

Interview with Paul Villeneuve, Le Journal de Montréal, November 21, 1998

People who carries their homes on their backs

“The story is made-up, but it’s easier to talk about people and things that we know. So there are many personal moments in the stories within the story, some situations, the origins of the characters and the fact that they are all snails, which is to say people who carry their homes on their backs. All that comes from my life, or the lives of close friends.”

Interview with Huguette Roberge, La Presse, November 14, 1998