Boot Camp, French Canadian style: that’s what Jean-Francois Caissy is presenting to his audience in his new documentary First Stripes. He’s saying a lot in his film. A critic or two who saw it in Berlin have already pointed out gender differences. There are the harder working female recruits and then the rebelling men. Which is a valid reading, mind you. However I think Caissy’s showing a country that’s starting to put its military foot forward. He’s also closing up on the us the general cracks within that facade. There are many scenes where the chiefs discipline the new recruits.
Boy, do they need discipline. Again, the movie shows both the advances and the setbacks of or folks in uniform. It uses a lot of montages of the recruits during class. They’re learning how to use all the equipment they need on the field. The close-ups of these soldiers are not glamorous, subverting, occasionally, the fetishistic eyes in which we view the military. Also, part of me still wonder why these recruits are still wearing green camouflage until I looked up the reason (Africa). During all of these grueling training sessions, the chiefs’ booming voices are omnipresent and intimidating.
This is the third movie I’ve seen this year about military training. The consensus is that it’s not as traumatizing as it was a generation ago. However, Caissy still uses some shortcuts in the total experience of portraying the training process. There’s the score’s sparse use of classical music that aims to be both satirically dry yet awe inspiring. Depicting, in general, the boys club in the military is both damning and valorizing. Despite these problems, there’s still the chiefs’ message to the recruits that they’ll be facing a complex enemy. Caissy, thankfully, doesn’t filter that out in this film.
First Stripes premieres on April 28 at 8:15 PM at the Innis Town Hall. It’s also showing at the Scotiabank Theatre at noon on both April 30 and May 5.