To call your movie “Genèse” (“Genesis”), as the rising French Canadian director Philippe Lesage has, takes a healthy ego. So does abruptly abandoning your main narrative line nearly two hours in, sans explanation, to revisit a character from another movie you made that few people saw. (It’s called “Les Démons,” and Film at Lincoln Center is helpfully showing it alongside “Genèse” through Aug. 29.)
But “Genèse” is unusual enough that those gambits seem bold rather than foolhardy. The film may be maddening as a character study, and it could damage an ionizer with its air of self-importance, but its experiments in form and tone are highly original.
The bulk of “Genèse” centers on two half-siblings who are never overtly introduced to us as such, Charlotte (Noée Abita) and Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin). They cross paths perhaps twice. The picture’s organization feels more musical than dramatic. Its two “movements” open with raucous singalongs of the same tune. Elsewhere, the lugubrious pop song “Outside” by the Montreal band TOPS becomes a motif.
Guillaume, who resides at a boys’ boarding school where even the staff seems given to macho peacocking, struggles to reconcile his feelings for his male best friend. (The confessional speech he delivers to his English class is almost as wild a gesture for the movie as it is for Guillaume.) Charlotte calls it off with a boyfriend who undermines her, then turns to a man so callous that he appears willing to cheat on her mid-date.
But a plot description could never capture the film’s peculiar rhymes and interludes. That “Genèse” feels difficult to reduce is to its credit.
Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 9 minutes.