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Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

Love And Savagery ; 2009

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Posted by Maddy

Director: John N. Smith
Actors: Allan Hawco, Sarah Greene
Country: Canada, Ireland

A Newfie rock enthusiast walks into a bar in Ireland in 1969. He falls in love with the local waitress who unfortunately is destined to be a nun. Their relationship shakes up the sediment that the town is resting on. Ba domp domp. All joking aside the new film Love and Savagery, an Irish/Canadian collaboration is nothing more than a series of clichés and tropes making the film void of any sort of punch as my punchline.
The film, based upon the novel of the same name by Des Walsh is an attempt at a star crossed love story but ends up lumbering along predictably. Charismatic Canadian poet and rock nut Michael (Allan Hawco) travels to Ireland to trace his roots and view the vast foray of limestone that surrounds the scenery of the small town he’s staying in. There he meets, and quickly falls for the sweet barmaid at his inn Cathleen (Sarah Greene). The two quickly bond, including one instance when she asks why his accent is so like hers and he responds “my people are from here” reinforcing their deep instant connection. Unfortunately Cathleen is destined to be a nun and Michael’s intervention is causing antagonism amongst the town folk. The two gaze at each other across the landscape longingly while Michael does his best to avoid being beat up by the locals. The film progresses predictably: Cathleen is pressured by her friends and family, Michael is persistent, the two go off to an island together which causes tongues to wag, something awful happens and the two are driven apart.

It is astounding how formulaic this film is. Michael’s best friend shows up at some point, who is as jolly, bearded and rotund as they come. Cathleen’s stern uncle glowers at her for her decisions not understand what she is feeling. The wise Mother Superior watches sagely the doomed romance in front of her, advising when she can. The pressures of religion and society versus that of true love are what keep these two kids and the film going. Cathleen cannot be with him due to a promise she made to her dying mother and Michael gives her very little credit for her religious choices, constantly coming when he’s not supposed to. It is difficult to vouch for their sincerity, but that might be the immediate connection they have and the series of clichés they use to describe their feelings for one another – at one instance Cathleen describes him as someone she has felt that “she has known for a very long time.”

John N. Smith certainly has an eye for scenery as his camera pans across the vast Irish landscape, which is later mirrored in the shores of Newfoundland. Outside of that the film is generic and often forced, though that might be due to what little interesting material they all had to work with. The film flirts with elements that could cause some interest – the relationships of Newfoundlanders and the Irish in contrast to Canada and England, tensions between desire and faith, any ancient Celtic tradition involving rocks all of which are skirted for the oldest love story and certainly the most over done. The film is certainly competent and is far from any sort of cinematic disaster, but is so dull and trite that one wonders what the point of it all was. The poet interacts with a creature that can never be his and ends up becoming inspired, only to remain in sadness by the end. One can only wish that the film had its own unrequited love in order to have inspired it to be marginally interesting. This film is as dull as the rocks the characters walk on and features a love story treaded on by too many leaving the surface smooth and thoroughly dull.

Scanners ; 1981

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Posted by Maddy

Director: David Cronenberg
Actors: Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Michael Ironside
Country: Canada

What to say about Scanners.
I would be hard pressed to say that it’s an overlooked masterpiece. That it’s a horrific crime that critics have not looked upon this film with the admiration it deserves. It is certainly not, but most standards, an outstanding piece of cinema.
But my god, do I ever love it.

David Cronenberg began his career within the depths of what has now been termed as “body horror.” The grotesque images that filled his filmed reflected the fear of disease (for the AIDS crisis was rampant when his career began) and mortality within society. Grotesque images of human bodies became a staple of this film maker’s repertoire and themes of corruption among big business and drug companies echo throughout his work. Initially reviled for Canadian tax payers were horrified that they tax dollars were going to his graphically violent and sexual earlier films such as Shivers and Rabid, Scanners does not fall far from the tree.
Less of a horror film and more on a science fiction bent the film Scanners is about, well, scanners – people who have telekinetic powers. They can find each other in any situation, though doing so may drive them mad, control other and even inflict physical harm upon others. The most infamous scene of Scanners is one of a man’s head exploding – occurring within the first ten minutes of the film setting the tone for the rest of it.
Various scanners, as they are referred to, have been contacted and ideally commissioned by ConSec, a company hoping to use them as a weapon. After a disastrous introduction with the public, the company falls apart leaving only Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), a psychopharmacist to clean up the remains.

The public introduction was disturbed by the villainous Darryl Revok (played by the villainous Michael Ironside) who single-handedly sabotages the efforts of ConSec and scars the audience both in the film and the ones watching them. Revok is building his own army of scanners and will kill any scanner who refuses to join. Dr. Rusk quickly commissions his most recently found scanner Cameron Vale and uses him to find Revok and shut down the organization. Revok’s army of scanners is powerful, but they are no match to Vale’s powers, or his dead pan acting. Vale teams up with the beautiful Kim Obrist, another scanner, and the two of them track down Revok and find out the source of all this mayhem.
It appears that the cause of all of this is a drug Ephemerol which at the beginning of the film is used to mute the powers of a scanner but is later to be revealed to have been given to pregnant women – drawing a direct parallel to the horror stories of thalidomide. Vale throughout the film discovers the secret history of scanners, his own past and his ‘shocking’ connection with Revok and Ruth.
It’s easy to say this film isn’t good – the acting is not realistic (whatever that means), the special effects are over the top. But I don’t think the film would work any other way. If Vale, played by Stephen Lack wasn’t wooden, if Dr. Ruth wasn’t ridiculous, if the telekinetic battle scenes did not involve spontaneous combustion and melting eyes, if the plot twists were over the top than it would not be what it is. The film works because of its flaws and adds to the artifice of the film. There are always attempts to mask the film making within the film in mainstream cinema.

More revolutionary cinema flagrantly disregards that rule specifically drawing attention to the film making process. I would not call Scanners an art film or claim that it’s intentionally drawing attention to the artifice of filmmaking, but it does not attempt to mask it. Obviously this film is not based upon a true story, nor does it have the funding to even appear ‘realistic.’ So it doesn’t try to. But it works, for the better in my opinion, because of it. This film would no where be as good as it is if it took itself seriously. It is a science fiction film made with a modest budget. And it works within it’s limits to create something awesome with exploding heads in it. There is always something to be said for a sincere film that revels in its artifice and fictionality. Scanners is one of those films, and a real Canadian gem.

IMDb Link: Scanners
Where to buy: Amazon.com