Sophie Bédard Marcotte’s L.A Tea Time may just be one of the most bewildering Canadian productions in recent memory. Part documentary, part cutting edge experimentation, the film is almost like visual collage. Sprinkled with numerous characters and faces from across North America, this spiritual journey is in essence one big travelogue. In some ways, this is also the edgiest vlog ever made, where the initial conflict begins with the hunt to meet famed director Miranda July. What follows is a journey of friendship and self-identity, though the great Canadian and American plains. Though sometimes, nice scenery doesn’t always cut it. With the exception of the plethora of fanfare for the aforementioned key subject of the film (Miranda July), Marcotte’s social docu-experiment comes short in any real narrative or impactful depth.
For a film featuring so many unique subjects, the crew haphazardly piece scenes together in order of chronological location. From the departure of the winter-barren Montreal landscape to the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, the film only loosely focuses on the very few characters who appear on the journey. Ranging from a thick-accented guitar playing Tourist trap owner to the a supposed voice cameo from the great filmmaker Chantal Akerman, the material never comes together in any sort of meaningful or cohesive way. It’s especially strange regarding the lack of any real substance, due to how there could have been a clear approach to comment on international identity, and more so the ever shifting radicalized perspective and psyche of Marcotte’s crew as they travel across the country.
On a visual scale, this is an immaculate production. With the panoramic views and the additional VFX effect of the pink faze and the seamless opening credit montage of what appears to be a set of cutouts inspired by the journey, it’s impressive what can be pulled off with a little creativity and imagination. There’s always a sense of humor lingering throughout each frame in L.A Tea Time; whether it’s the bizarre framing of it’s subjects or the ultra-meta direction. A particular gag regarding copyright which is featured a few times throughout the film is a hilariously cheeky way to poke fun at right and trade issues found in most micro-budget film productions.
Admirable on a visual scale, though virtually barren in any real substance, what Marcotte provides for her audience with one long static vibe. Sure this “vibe” can be aesthetically pleasing and has it’s occasional moments of clever direction, though the journey to the final destination is already bloated to begin with. Again, as long as you’re expecting one long travel vlog with an unlikely pairing of two bilingual Canadian civilians, then go right ahead. L.A Tea Time may just be the film for you; for the good travel vibes and all.
L.A TEA TIME is now available to stream at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival, as part of Markers program.