The Noise of Engines mammoth lakes film festival

The Noise of Engines writer-director Philippe Grégoire recalls watching a sex scene during a film at a festival, and feeling like the director was trying to shock the audience.

That got him thinking.

“Is this really shocking today, people having sex?” Grégoire thought. “This is part of normal life, but some people are still offended by it.”

Grégoire’s directorial debut The Noise of Engines, which just had its West Coast premiere at Mammoth Lakes Film Festival, tells the story of a young border agent named Alexandre (Robert Naylor) who is placed on a temporarily leave for having sex with one of his co-workers.

When he returns home, two police officers pinpoint Alexandre as their prime suspect in a string of bizarre incidents in which graphic sexual cartoons are distributed about town. To make matters more peculiar, Alexandre’s face is featured prominently in these cartoons.

The Noise of Engines never shows the audience the graphic cartoons, because Grégoire wanted to avoids the empty shocks.

Alexandre’s odd fit as a border agent comes from Grégoire’s own experiences growing up in the town Napierville, on the U.S.-Canadian border in Québec.

“When you’re in Canada, and you grew up very close to the Canada-U.S. border, when you apply for a student job, they say, ‘Oh, you’re very close to the border. So this is where you’re going to work,'” Grégoire says.

This led to a “totally weird” situation where Grégoire found himself as “the only film student working for Customs,” he says.

“You shouldn’t ask me to do that kind of job, I’m not the right person for it,” Grégoire recalls thinking. But after 14 days of training, he was checking passports at the border.

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Years later, when he was developing the story for his first feature film, he thought, “What is it that makes me different that I could write about?” he realized that not many directors had spent time as a youth working on the border.

He had his story.

The Noise of Engines, written and directed by Philippe Grégoire, premiered Saturday at the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.

Main image: Tanja Björk is Aðalbjörg in The Noise of Engines.