What do you get when you combine a rotund Buddha-esque protagonist with seemingly mystical powers, a lush island resort and a talking giant octopus?
All You Can Eat Buddha–a quiet and strange French Canadian film that works as an engaging (and open to interpretation) religious or spiritual allegory.
The flick is Montreal-based filmmaker Ian Lagarde’s feature directorial debut and it’s not for everyone. In fact, several people at the mid-afternoon TIFF screening walked out (or perhaps they took their bags and sweaters to the washroom and I just didn’t notice their return because I was too invested in the slow-burn cinematic experience?).
The film unfolds slowly, mimicking the leisurely appeal of the unidentified island it’s set on. The movie opens with portly solo traveller Mike (Ludovic Berthillot) getting off a bus at the Palacio Hotel, a quaint island resort with attentive staff, rustic suites, a relaxing pool and a stunning view of the ocean.
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Mike, a diabetic man of few words, spends his days floating in the pool and over-indulging at the resort’s airy restaurant. After he encounters and saves a beached giant octopus from certain death, the film becomes significantly more surreal and bizarre (albeit not in a bad way).
After choosing to stay on the resort indefinitely, Mike somehow convinces a severely depressed woman to begin eating again, seduces multiple female characters simply by existing (which baffles a shapely but mildly sinister resort employee who slowly goes mad), resurrects a dead man and becomes an involuntary religious icon for another man stunned by his miracles.
He also communicates quite regularly with the octopus he saved.
When Mike’s voracious appetite becomes less fulfilled and his body begins to break down, so, too, does the island he now calls home.
An open-ended and arthouse-y tale about a reluctant messiah or spiritual figure, the unique offering is anchored by strong but understated performances, a languorous but interesting plot and the absence of any kind of overbearing churchiness.
Who is Mike? What is the meaning of this strange allegory?
That’s all up to you to decide.
Like I said, it’s not a film for everyone. But I genuinely dug it.
If you want to see a strong Canadian-helmed feature, it might be worth it to somehow get your hands on this funky little spiritual tale.