A couple of disturbing notes from the CanCon wilderness.
1. Decided to go back to my stomping grounds at the Film Reference Library and watch myself more Canadian movies. Specifically, Canadian films made from the mid-sixties to about 1980, when the groundwork was still being laid and things were up for grabs. There were Quebecois films to see, and hybrid documentary-fiction hoo-has: specifically, things beyond the big names in the CanFlick canon. Unfortunately, a little digging unearthed two unpleasant surprises:
a) most of the Quebec movies were crusty VHS tapes...that were unsubtitled. Nobody in English Canada had cared about them to begin with, and the intervening years had made them more obscure- and nobody was filling the gap with DVD releases with plentiful extras. So a whole avenue of Canadian film (and by all accounts, the superior avenue) was cut off due to apathy.
This left me with the Anglo features. Of which I made the second unpleasant discovery:
b) Aside from the big names, there are about eleven titles from that period in the library. Not an exaggeration. And this is the premier place in Toronto, if not Canada, to do film research. So an entire, crucial period of Canadian filmmaking is more or less lost to human eyes.
But that's not as bad as what happened next.
2. Discovered the minor Canuck thriller The Pyx at my local alternative video store. I was disappointed, however, to find that the print they had secured was disastrously bad: sometimes even broken frames could be seen, and the fading of the image was disconcertin. I was annoyed for a minute, but then decided that that was the luck of the draw.
But then later I wondered: was it? Films as mediocre (or worse) than The Pyx had gotten the royal treatment from major studios- but it was The Pyx that got the bum's rush. And I realized: there is nobody owning a Canadian film library (or more likely, individual sources dribbed and drabbed from here and there) who had the resources to fix up the negative and strike a minty-fresh print. I made a second realization: this is what happens if you're a Canadian film. You get forgotten no matter how good, or good enough, you might be.
Faithful readers of the site know of my annoyance with standard Canuck film practice. But the way to fix what you don't like is to understand it. You have to watch and study; to see what tendency comes from where and how we wound up in this mess. At present, it is next to impossible for someone to get a complete impression of our country's cinema- it sits mouldering in a vault, a little more deteriorated every day, on its way to at best neglect and at worst total disintigration. And if we lose touch with what is about to disintigrate, we lose the ability to understand it and change its course.
We will continue on our one-way ticket to irrelevance if we burn the Library of Alexandria. And I don't see a way to stop it. If anybody has ideas on how to stave off disaster, I'm all ears.