Long regarded as Montreal’s most impoverished neighbourhood, Centre-Sud is home to a wide cross section of cultures and people. Many residents are bound together by their life below the poverty line, creating a largely nonjudgmental environment where addicts, sex workers, the elderly, children, and the unemployed can live together in relative harmony. A proud lifelong resident of the neighbourhood in the process of raising a family there, filmmaker Danic Champoux sets out to make a look at what he explains to be the nobility and positive lessons learned through poverty with A Centre-Sud Tale, but the results are decidedly uneven.
Champoux (Self(Less) Portrait)has found plenty of intriguing subjects to profile in his look at life in the hood, including his own mother, a sex worker with AIDS, and a woman who makes a living entertaining people by singing with a Transformers mask on. Most are tied together in that they live on pensions or welfare. As a look at the people in one’s neighbourhood and how they survive the hazy days of summer, it’s pretty good, but lacking in depth.
The film stumbles every time Champoux’s overall lack of focus shows. Whenever he narrates his own work to wax rhapsodic about the neighbourhood, the film grinds to a pretentious halt. It’s also unclear throughout if he’s trying to make a work of art, social activism, a personal diary, or something more metaphorical. The ideas clash about and distract, but at least it’s a game attempt to reclaim the image of a maligned section of Champoux’s city.