Of all of Quebec’s major gay artists, theatrical wunderkind Robert Lepage is perhaps the least politically gay. His first three adaptations of his marathon theatrical productions, as Peter Dickinson has argued (2005), involved considerable straightening out of characters and situations: Le Confessionnal (1995, Genie best picture and director), Le Polygraphe (1996), and Nô (1998). Whether or not the straightening process involved simply compression or also sanitization, the first two furthermore tackled the ideologically tricky theme of queer suicide. Nevertheless Lepage’s universes of shifting historical times and transcultural spaces seemed very queer in many ways: Le Confessionnal has become one of the more enigmatic, meaty works of the international queer canon.
After Polygraphe, the frothy Nô was high camp from beginning to end, with its requisite queer joke scene leaving no more bitter an aftertaste than all the péquiste, fédéraliste, and FLQ jokes. Lepage’s fourth feature Possible Worlds (2000), a British co-production based on another author’s play for the first time, was his coldest, straightest work, though beefcake detectors go off intermittently. La face cachée de la lune (The Far Side of the Moon, 2003), another Lepage theatrical adaptation, continued the director’s habit of matter-of-factly incorporating queer references and characters with little interest in sexuality as a theme in its own right, but this time there are additional resonances: Face is the most autobiographical of his films and the queerest one since Confessionnal. Lepage himself plays both of two brother protagonists, one a space theory geek who has a female “ex” but is apparently asexual despite strange behaviour with his brother’s lover in a sauna he is “trying out.” The other brother is a pompously unsympathetic guppy weather man “who happens to be gay but no big deal.” The lover Carl is more interesting, a bodybuilder covered below the shoulders in piercings and tattoos, but above the shoulders is a Quebec City civil servant bureaucrat. Perhaps it’s political after all.