- Mongrel Media
A boisterous paean to Montreal’s club scene, Saved by the Belles is an urban epic whose glitter belies its warm heart and has in fact a strong documentary orientation—not the least because it’s based on a 1998 incident when an amnesiac young man showed up in the Montreal after-hours landscape and the queer community took him to its heart. Touma shapes over-the-top nonprofessional performances by gender illusionists, “cyberpunk fag hags,” wide-eyed boy nymphets, hookers and cynical bisexual impresarios into a rather classical tale of coming out/coming of age: a young everyman named Chris/Sean finds community, his repentant homophobe father, and himself. Star Sheena/Brian Warren Charbonneau (who also co-wrote) does a creditable run as a black Divine with feelings and vulnerability, and the rest of the gang are also inspired. Touma’s dernier cri music video background, evident in the never dull visual and audio flair and stunning design, doesn’t hide the film’s place in the Waters/Warhol/Morrissey genealogy of marginality, and there are lots of queer Montreal ancestors as well, from Il était une fois dans l’Est to Montreal Main. But in contrast to those glum ancestors, this generation’s update set within the 2002 Divers-cité parade is very upbeat. Some of the individual sequences stand on their own as truly inspired, such as an interlude set in an all-night veterinary clinic for clubbers. The concluding ice-blue dreamlude in which the two halves of Chris/Sean are married is a fine wedding set-piece that uncannily ended up with its finger on the pulse of the nation when the film premiered in 2003.