Canada, Fuck Yeah!!
A quiet weekend pushing forward two small screen director seasons – I’m currently revisiting the lesser known works of Walter Hill and Jacques Tourneur with mixed results – has been accompanied with some further research into Toronto and the wider phenomenon of Canadian cinema. Often eclipsed by the behemoth cultural production centres of New York and Hollywood the county has nevertheless bred its own idiosyncratic voices, many of whom are in operation on the world cinema stage in this challenging new millennium for the art form. Sure like many filmmakers and talents around the world any emerging talent tends to get sucked into the Hollywood maelstrom once they have made their mark with an attention grabbing picture, bled dry by the forces of corporate production and subsequently thrown to the wolves should they not acquiesce to the demands of the all-powerful cultural cartel. But some directors, actors and associated talents have carved successful careers within their own creative and subjective demands, as well as hosting the worlds second largest film festival after Cannes. So in terms of Canadian figures of note let’s begin with the obvious;
Can someone please remind me why I’m going to the same country that this lunatic lives in again? I think creepy David has been slightly off the boil recently following the disappointments of A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis , but like many filmmakers with forty years under his belt the critical and commercial attention tends to ebb and flow, with those early inventive and deeply subversive body horrors being accompanied by the likes of The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash, Videodrome and The History Of Violence as the nodal points of his continually fascinating career. It’s quite a ‘body’ of ‘work’ don’t you think?
Atom Egoyan gravitates more to the art-house crowd than the blood thirsty sickos, but he’s also not afraid to get under the skin in less literal ways, with his meditative, chilly psychosexual dramas and thrillers which provoke a rather bleak vision of modern man and woman at the mercy of animal instincts neutered within society. He gained international attention with the astonishing The Sweet Hereafter which propelled him beyond admiration of the cinephile circles, and also the calmly measured Exotica which I must revisit before September. I quite liked his recent movie Chloe which you can get a taste of above, as another psychological mediation on love, sex and lust he’s certainty fond of a rhythm method.
I’ve never quite come to grips with Guy Maddin. His personal, essay films are quite striking and compellingly made, but I just don’t tend to connect with them on an empathic level, despite the artistry and heartfelt love he pours into his works. He’s a major figure in world cinema given his genre bending documentaries / essays / historical reflections / love stories, I’m in no doubt that the failings lie with me and not his skills.
Denys Arcand is the French Canadian favourite among the intelligentsia, probably best known for 1989’s Jesus Of Montreal which brought this specific strain of subtitled cinema to international recognition. The best I can synopsise the handful of films I’ve seen is he’s like a slightly more frosty Almodóvar with his sexually charged, lightly frivolous examinations of middle class foibles and hypocrisies, above is his best critically regarded film The Barbarian Invasions which I first caught a few years back.
One of the nasty little secrets of Canadian cinema is that they harbour a mouldering skeleton in the closet, as it was Bob Clark’s 1974 Black Christmas which hesitantly followed 1960’s Psycho and a number of Italian giallo atrocities, paving the way for the modern American slasher with John Carpenters franchise formulating Halloween escaping from the asylum another four years later to carve a place in cinema history. Actually there are a number of fondly regarded horror pics of this era which many assume are American when in fact they were bloodily birthed north of the border, including both the original Prom Night and My Bloody Valentine.
Whilst we’re on genre cinema I do like to keep a close eye on the career of Vincenzo Natali, sure he’s never quite made a ‘great’ film but his CV boasts genre favoured episodes such as Splice and Cube which project deeper potential promise, and it seems that his Neuromancer project is slowly being streamed to the next crucial stage of production. Mark my words, if they fuck up the translations of these formative books of my youth along with that suspicious sounding Winters Tale adaptation I won’t be held responsible for my actions. In any case his new film Haunted hit SXSW back in March to mixed reviews, and given his heritage I’m assuming it will get a slot in the wildly popular Midnight Madness strand of Tiff.
And finally something a little more contemporary, an incredible sequence from the immensely powerful Incencdies which you may recall garnered a best foreign language Oscar nomination a few years back. So here we are, a few potential obstacles have been eradicated which gives me carte blanche to book my flights next week, more importantly the inaugural press conference launch is on Tuesday which I will be following due to the magic of the Internet, I’m jolly excited to see what this years programme contains and will be posting a synopsis of the top dozen or so must sees toward the end of the week….