April 05, 2007

CanCon Confidential #2

In the perhaps vain hope that anyone still cares, more of my nationalist cinematic sentiments:

MONTREAL MAIN (Frank Vitale, 1974) ***1/2
Frank Vitale is an American photographer who sojourned in Montreal, hung out with most of the participants of this movie, and for his troubles turned in one of the best films to come out of this country. Vitale essentially plays himself, a sort-of gay photographer who strikes up a friendship (maybe more) with a twelve-year-old boy and winds up censured both by the boy's parents and the gay/bohemian circles in which he runs. It's remarkably sensitive, highly evocative of the 70's milieu, and never once breaks the spell with a misplaced line or a stilted performance. Made all the more remarkable by being largely improvised, and for including the co-writing/acting talents of Allan Moyle, who would wind up making teenpic slop like Pump Up the Volume.

THREE CARD MONTE (Les Rose, 1977) **1/2
The loser-on-the-move archetype of Goin' Down the Road finds its supreme expression in this film about a gambler/drifter and the runaway kid whom he befriends. The film tries way, way too hard to sell its grubby milieu, and thus flaunts the gambling argot, barroom-brawling and bare breasts to the point that it's sometimes clearly artificial. It's somewhat tax shelter-y, and might easily have been much less if more craven sensibilities were at work- but the script seems to have been written out of desire rather than necessity and that counts for a lot. When it sticks with the hidden desperation of its lead, who makes fortunes only to blow them, and who eludes the encroaching suckers only until they catch him- it lucks into a character who's sympathetically pathetic when the chips are down. Not a great movie, but sometimes surprisingly resonant.

RUNNING TIME (Mort Ransen, 1974) *1/2
They actually made musicals in the panic-stricken NFB of the seventies; this one is sort of a Brechtian Harold and Maude with animated superimpositions, which sounds like a swell idea right up until you see the movie. Jackie Burroughs plays an elderly lady who's run off with a longhaired teen David Balser; seems they're both victims of "the system," and are pursued by her son and his father with some vague and out-of-date hippified sentiments. To be sure, it is its own entity, and you're not likely to mistake it for any other movie, but the abuse of chroma-key, bad lyrics and Ryan Larkin's animation never once jells into something credible, believable, or watchable. It's remarkable as a freak (and for costing a million dollars when the NFB probably couldn't spare it) but not as an intellectual or artistic statement. However, it's far more interesting than the other NFB musical that year...

A STAR IS LOST! (John Howe, 1974) 1/2*
...which shows that making a joyous, fun-filled item in that genre might be beyond the kids at the Film Board. I'm told that this item- in which superstar Gloria Glide (Tiiu Leek) is threatened by her stalker on her new musical superproduction at a big studio (shot around the NFB, and looking it) and goes into hiding- was designed to teach English as a second language; all I know is that in any language the film is forced, unfunny, and without home or purpose. Jack Creley has some moments as a flustered, possibly-gay director, but the rest is a total wash.

DON'T LET THE ANGELS FALL (George Kaczender, 1969)***
This unassuming drama from the nascent feature mandate of the NFB took me by surprise: though it's marked by the same suburban anomie that marked the earlier Nobody Waved Goodbye, it somehow seems more merciful and sensitive. The film begins with a sheepish ad man being interviewed for a TV documentary, and then recounts the trickledown of his pointless existence, which includes sleeping around on his wife and transfers to his college-age son, who talks big revolutionary talk but can't deliver the goods (naturally, the school-skipping 13-year-old seems the most genuine). Certain sixties with-it-isms date the piece, but enough of it shines through to make it worth more than a second glance. Written by Canlit icon Timothy Findley; also the first Canadian film to be invited to Cannes.


Bill C said...

This is all very valuable, even if it's not sparking much of a dialogue. I'm seeing a collected volume of these capsules somewhere down the line.

Chad Evan said...

I personally would love to see a Filmfreakcentral version of those encyclopedic capsule-review movie guides (Time Out, Maltin, etc.)

Alex Jackson said...

Suffice it to say that any picture featuring a sped-up version of the "William Tell Overture" is so drunk on its own whimsy that it most likely sucks with a dedicated vigour.



Rick said...

Along with ninjas and pirates, Jesus is a popular target of hipster irony because the idea of throwing such a deadly-serious figurehead into a light of silliness, informality, and kitsch seems automatically hilarious

It seems to have died down, but there was a time if I heard another hipster try out irreverence and reference ninjas and pirates (Chuck Norris or even robots!), I was going to go nuts. I love how the comedic analysis for such humor can be simplified to one sentence.

I wonder if watching The State would hold up now (they still have not released the DVDs) considering Wain, Showalter, Lennon & Co. have since accentuated all of their weaknesses with every new project.

theoldboy said...

Ouch. While the point is certainly correct, hipster irony is at least two thirds of my writing thus far in my life, and Jesus is a common target, even in the writing that I still sorta like. I wrote a script that was a sort of larkish, irreverent spy movie that slowly shifts gears from parody to geniune feeling, a sort of grasping adolescent attempt at imbuing self-consciously ridiculous material with emotional maturity. Someone read a portion and compared my writing to Beckett; unfortunately, he meant that as a way of saying he didn't like it. A major character was a weapons scientist who had, held hostage and kept in isolation, convinced himself that he was Jesus, and of course in twisting my plot around for its own sake it's revealed that he actually was Jesus. Despite its uneven tone and derivative story, there's something about it that still connects with me on a gut level, though it has little or nothing to do with its incorporation of a popular religious figure as the subject of snarky irony.

Rick said...

and place in XX = NT (like in math)

haha : )