Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The 25th Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2015 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - An Absolute Must-See of the Festival: LIMITED PARTNERSHIP ****


Limited Partnership (2014)
Dir. Thomas G. Miller

Review By Greg Klymkiw

For a married couple to live in fear of being torn apart by fascist government officials, 24 hours a day, everyday, for over 40 years is absolutely unfathomable to me, but Limited Partnership, Thomas G. Miller's powerful, gut-wrenching portrait of love under attack comes about as close as any film could to putting one in the shoes of those innocents who experienced prejudice, hatred and cold, calculated castigation.

This is not some Third World country (though these days, that's open to debate) or blood-thirsty dictatorship (though these days, that's open to debate) or, say, Russia (never open to debate). What we experience in this film happened within a democracy (though these days, that's open to debate), the leading world power (though these days, that's open to debate), the land of the free (though these days, that's open to debate), the home of the brave (though these days, that's open to debate), the United States of America (never open to debate, but the country hides its hatreds a teensy-weensy bit better than Russia).

It's a beautifully crafted documentary with a superbly edited narrative arc. If it were a drama, screenwriting gurus like Syd Field and Robert McKee would be slavering over it. Ultimately though, it happily wanders enough off the beaten path that one never feels the picture is, in any way, shape or form a run-of-the-mill exercise. In fact, the movie slowly takes you surprise with its tone and structure. At first, you're following along, feeling like you're watching a decent "journalistic" style TV doc about an interesting subject, but all that dissipates as director Miller plunges you into the thick of his deftness and artistry as a filmmaker and soon enough, you're torn apart and dazzled - in equal parts - by his eventually "silent" filmmaking which leads you on the journey of its subjects to the point where you're so involved that you feel their emotional roller coaster ride to the very end.

Most people will have a cursory knowledge of the tale; two men, one American, one Australian, meet in the early 70s within a happening L.A. gay bar, fall madly in love and later, hightail it to the glorious "Centennial State" of Colorado (with the coolest flag in all America).


A forward-thinking clerk in Boulder, is issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and our couple, the quiet, gorgeous, smoothly textured Filipino-born, American-raised Richard Adams and hunky, square-jawed, flamboyantly erudite Australian Tony Sullivan (Adams reminds me of 90s HK superstar Simon Yan whilst Sullivan seems a perfect cross between Russ-Meyer-Roger-Corman stalwart Charles Napier with healthy dashes of Richard Harris) get hitched - legally.

Like, Hello! This is over 40 years ago.

However, when the couple applies to make Aussie Sullivan a naturalized U.S. citizen, they are denied - OFFICIALLY - on the grounds that they "have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots."

So in spite of being legally married, the federal government refuses to recognize it and thus begins a harrowing 40+ years battle which, under the helmsmanship of director Miller, plays out as both a tremendously moving love story and an edge-of-the-seat political thriller.

This is an important film and an absolute must-see for its subject matter as well as its filmmaking prowess. It's also worth noting that films like this would not exist without the very brave support of American public television genuinely independent voice [ITVS] and its [i]ndependent lens series. A few things in America are good.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4 Stars

Limited Partnership is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

3 Movies playing at the 25th Anniversary Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2015 that I saw at other film festivals - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw of THE AMINA PROFILE ****, GUIDANCE *** and A SINNER IN MECCA ****

The Amina Profile (2015)
Dir. Sophie Deraspe

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Set against the turbulent backdrop of war-and-revolution in contemporary Syria we meet Sandra Bagaria, one hot French-Canadian babe in Montreal and Amina Arraf, one hot Syrian-American babe in Damascus. They meet online. They're young. They're in love. They're lesbians. Okay. That's it. Go see the movie.

READ THE FULL REVIEW of The Amina Profile from Hot Docs 2015 HERE

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** Four Stars

The Amina Profile is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.


A Sinner in Mecca (2015)
Dir. Parvez Sharma

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I think filmmaker Parvez Sharma (A Jihad for Love) wins the grand prize, hands-down, for making one of the bravest films of this or any other year. Sharma is a deeply devout Muslim and required, as all able-bodied Muslims are, to make the pilgrimage to Mecca (The Hajj) in Saudi Arabia at least once in his life. The time for him is now. He needs to affirm his faith by making this Holy journey, but he also needs to address a deeply personal conundrum of conscience. Has he been a good Muslim? Is he a good Muslim? Can he continue to be a good Muslim? Sharma, you see, is gay.

READ THE FULL REVIEW of A Sinner in Mecca from Hot Docs 2015 HERE

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** Four Stars

A Sinner in Mecca is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.

Guidance (2014)
Dir. Pat Mills
Starring: Pat Mills, Zahra Bentham,
Laytrel McMullen, Alex Ozerov, Kevin Hanchard, Tracey Hoyt

Review By Greg Klymkiw

David Gold (Pat Mills) is a loser. He's a former child star reduced to taking non-union voice gigs, the latest of which he gets fired from because of his haughty, petulant, pretentious attitude. This is bad news because he's way behind on his share of the rent and on the verge of being turfed. He's got serious drug and alcohol problems and he's so deeply in the closet he won't even admit to himself that he's gay. Oh yeah, he's been diagnosed with late-stage skin cancer. None of this phases our hero. For us, the audience, it's one hell of a good deal because Guidance (the feature debut of writer, director and star Pat Mills) is all about David's hilarious decision to bamboozle his way into a job he's not qualified for, but thinks will be perfect for him. Cribbing from a child psychologist YouTube guru, David lands a cushy dream job that will not only pay well, but give him a chance to help teenagers which, for utterly insane reasons, he believes he'll be good at. He becomes the new Guidance Counsellor of Grusin High.

READ THE FULL REVIEW of Guidance from TIFF 2014 HERE

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** Three Stars

Guidance is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.

Friday, 22 May 2015

The 25th Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2015 - Two Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - WHAT WE HAVE (Ce qu'on a) ****, FOURTH MAN OUT ***

Visiting and/ or living away from major cosmopolitan centres and seeking out or simply being born and existing within small towns or even mid-sized cities is so often a great combination of escape, solitude, natural beauty and the kind of simplicity of pace which offers considerable solace, allowing for growth and exploration that might not be possible in places like New York, Toronto, Paris, London and/or other similarly sized metropolises.
On the flip side, however, such seemingly bucolic environs can also be rife with small-mindedness, repression, ignorance and mind-numbing boredom. Two films playing during the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival have such worlds as their backdrops. Here are two reviews of gay-themed pictures set against backdrops of the smaller kind.
What We Have aka Ce qu'on a (2015)
Dir. Maxime Desmons
Starring: Maxime Desmons, Alex Ozerov, Jean-Michel Le Gal,
Roberta Maxwell, Kristen Thomson, Marie-Eve Perron, Johnathan Sousa

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Talk about a change of pace. Maurice (played by writer-director Maxime Desmons) has left Paris to live the expatriate life in, uh, North Bay, Ontario. There's some gorgeous bush up there, but the town itself is a major shit hole. Canadians will know it as the hometown constituency of Mike Harris, one of the country's biggest right-wing scum buckets, a former ski instructor and golf course manager turned politician who, with his fascist "Common Sense Revolution" did a fine job dismantling much of the social welfare, education, health and cultural life of the country's biggest province and in particular, due to a forced amalgamation, the city of Toronto. Harris's constituents comprised some of his most avid supporters. Great place to live, eh.

Plopping the character of a gay man with a mysterious past and an undetermined future into this miasma of pettiness and intolerance would almost be enough to let rip in a dramatic paint-by-numbers fashion. Luckily for us, though, the film succeeds well beyond those trappings. This deeply moving, compelling and complex movie places the thematic concerns of identity in isolation - one which is self-imposed on an emotional level and yet another within the realm of physically being isolated in a world lacking most of the comforts and conveniences of a cosmopolitan existence.

Maurice decides to offer his services as a personal French-language teacher/tutor and one of his first customers is the mother (Kristen Thomson) of the sensitive teenage boy Alain (Alex Ozerov). This older man and young lad hit it off as friends almost immediately. Alain's britches are obviously going to be too big for the popcorn stand of North Bay and Maurice has clearly been around the block a few times. It's a relationship which offers both of them what they need. Maurice discovers someone who needs him, while at the same time, allows him to exercise his natural (though submerged) proclivity towards helping those who need it the most.

There's a strong sense that Maurice sees himself in Alain while the boy sees a gifted teacher, friend, father-figure and just the right kind of individual to crack his shell of potential. There is a problem, here. Teacher and student begin to develop an admiration for each other which could possibly veer into dangerous territory, especially since Alain is on the cusp of discovering his burgeoning sexuality. Maurice, of course, attempts to engage in sexual relations with the few closeted members of North Bay's gay community, but they want more, they want love. Maurice has a lot of love to give, but he's clearly suppressing it and of course, where he needs to keep it in check is in his relationship with Alain.

There are clearly very kind and intelligent people who live in this community of repression, but a community bound in constraint already carries serious baggage. Maurice himself already has his own "baggage" to deal with. At one point, Maurice gets involved with the local community theatre company and he wins the title role of Harpagon in Molière's immortal satire "The Miser". Given the complex relationship in the play twixt a father and son as well as the obsessive nature of both (though to completely opposite ends), writer-director Desmons subtly parallels the play with his relationship with Alain. In so doing, he fashions a labyrinthine series of layers below the simple outward shell of the story which yields a deeply rewarding experience.

He also elicits tremendous performances from his cast (including himself in a gorgeously restrained turn). Alex Ozerov handles his role as the young man with sensitivity and maturity, but is most of all blessed with the considerable talent to allow an audience to connect with his character while also displaying natural gifts as a screen actor. The camera loves him and with the sure hand of director Desmons, Ozerov is clearly well on his way to commanding the sort of attention reserved for only the very best.

Jean-Michel Le Gal as the theatre company's stage manager produces a healthy balance between yearning and the capacity for deep love. Kristen Thomson is especially piquant as Alain's mother - she manages to capture that perverse small town blend of naiveté, repression and openness. As someone who's lived in his fair share of small towns and big old small towns masquerading as cities, I'd say I found her performance so spot-on that it bordered on scary. In this small, but vital role, Thomson exudes the qualities of every doyenne of small town mediocrity that I've ever had the personal displeasure to encounter.

This is all as much an attribute of the film and filmmaker's powers of observation as anything. He carefully places his subjects on slides, clips them within an inch of their lives to the mount and sharpens his lens so that we not only see and experience what he does, but are given enough opportunity to formulate our own perspective. At least he lets us believe that which, of course, is what great filmmaking is really all about.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4 Stars

What We Have (Ce qu'on a) is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.


Fourth Man Out (2015)
Dir. Andrew Nackman
Scr. Aaron Dancik
Starring: Parker Young, Evan Todd, Jon Gabrus,
Chord Overstreet, Kate Flannery, Jennifer Damiano, Jordan Lane Price

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Shot in and around Albany, though set in a somewhat more generic version of a small burgh in upstate New York, Fourth Man Out proves to be a solid bromantic comedy about four longtime twenty-something pals of the working class persuasion who've spent their many years together doing what bros do: watching ballgames on TV, playing poker and hitting the local watering holes to nail babes.

They're all on the cusp of potentially needing to grow up, but there's the pull of why grow up when there's way too much fun to be had? Then again, they might even realize that growing up doesn't mean giving up their manly fun and games. Like most straight buds in small towns or big-old-small-towns-pretending-to-be-cities, these guys would, in more enlightened ancient cultures be fucking each other, but closets these days are deep in these contemporary environs and like the Chester See song says: "Brrrrrroooooooooo-mance, nothing really gay about it."

So what happens when one of the buds has been hiding his gay lifestyle from both his family and his buds? Furthermore, what's going to happen if he comes out? Well, as it turns out, nothing too serious, really. All the usual stuff in comedies like this make their familiar, comfortable appearance: the buds seem cool, make loads of ass-fuck-dick-suck jokes, until the time comes when they need to learn everything possible about being gay so they can accept their bud and grow up in the meantime. The straight pals actually become walking, talking, living, breathing expounders of all that's gay, albeit from their well meaning, but still stereotypical standpoint.

Yup, this is basically a situation comedy in feature length form and though it's rife with cliches, the whole thing is damn well played, often extremely gosh-darn-low-brow funny and even has a major sweet tooth going on. The movie doesn't have a sophisticated bone in its body (though its indie veneer suggests it has plenty), but its heart is in the right place and in spite of the picture's slightly machine-tooled quality, most audiences will enjoy a pretty fun and sparkling night at the movies.

Besides, I've not seen sausage fellatio in a movie in sometime. All the more reason to recommend it.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3 Stars

Fourth Man Out is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

EISENSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO: 25th Anniversary Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2015 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Greenaway dallies with biopic like some Ken Russell wannabe.


Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015)
Dir. Peter Greenaway
Starring: Elmer Bäck, Luis Alberti

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This cellar-dwelling Ken Russell wannabe biopic of Sergei Eisenstein, the famed Soviet filmmaking genius and chief cinematic propagandist for Communist and Stalinist totalitarianism is replete with a wide variety of stunning visuals, but really does nothing to cast a light upon either its subject's work, career and sexuality.

How much of this dull, overwrought Greenaway nonsense you can take will mostly be determined by just how much Peter Greenaway you can hack. All others can stay at home and rent some Ken Russell movies instead.

No matter how outrageously rife with historical deviations (and nutty visuals) Russell's biopics were, I always loved how he plunged to the very roots of his subjects' artistry and not only captured the spirit of the work, but did so by presenting how the said work inspired him. Russell's films were as personal as they were cheekily respectful, not as oxymoronic as you might think, since his delightfully perverse sense of humour added the necessary frissons to reinterpret and/or re-imagine the artists' work.

It was a delicate balance and one Russell didn't always successfully achieve, but his best films were genuinely insightful, thought-provoking and yes, outrageous. For example, I always loved Russell's interpretation of Gustav Mahler's conversion from Judaism to Christianity in Mahler when he created the astonishing set piece of the title character leaping through flaming hoops adorned with the Star of David as Cosima Wagner in pseudo Nazi regalia, complete with what appear to be chrome hot pants, cracks a circus whip like some Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Valkyrie.

A close second to this pantheon of Russell's loving insanity is, for me, the sequence in The Music Lovers when Richard (Dr. Kildare) Chamberlain as Tchaikovsky, explodes the heads off everyone in his life with cannon balls with the 1812 Overture raging on the soundtrack.

I will accept all this heartily.

Alas, Greenaway delivers the equivalent of a few wet farts in this tradition.


Nothing so inspired occurs in Eisenstein in Guanajuato. Greenaway chooses to focus on the time Eisenstein spent in Mexico and essentially squandered his opportunity to make an epic feature film which Stalin himself gave his blessings to. Most of the film is devoted to Elmer Bäck's mildly entertaining nutty performance as he spouts endless bits of florid dialogue, discovers the joys of shoeshines, the heavenly experience of showering (as he cocks his buttocks saucily and swings his dinky about with abandon) and, of course, sodomy.

Yes, Greenaway does not disappoint here. Sergei's anal deflowering is genuinely worth the price of admission. Alas this delicious set piece is buffeted by far too much flouncing about, presented with triple-paned homages to both Eisenstein and Abel Gance until our mad hero is tossed out of Mexico, but not before donning a death masque and racing into the infinite behind the wheel of a roadster.

Heavy, man.

I'm not sure what I was supposed to take away from any of this movie in terms of what made Eisenstein tick nor, frankly, what Greenaway himself admires about one of the true masters of film art. All I really know is that Greenaway continues to make "purty pitchers" and has it in him to craft one lollapalooza of a sodomy scene.

Well, maybe that's enough.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** 2 Stars for the movie, **** for the sodomy

Eisenstein in Guanajuato is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

HELLMOUTH - Interview twixt Greg Klymkiw andScreenwriter-Extraordinaire Tony Burgess AND a BLU-RAY/DVD Review byGreg Klymkiw of the Raven Banner presentation of the Anchor BayEntertainment Canada release of the John Geddes film HELLMOUTH

INTERVIEW
twixt GREG KLYMKIW and
HELLMOUTH writer TONY BURGESS

PREFACE:

Foresight Features, an independent south-western Ontario film production company headed by Jesse T. Cook, John Geddes and Matthew Wiele has, in a few short years, ascended to the throne of genre film supremacy in the land of beaver, maple syrup and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the leader of Canada's Nazi Party. These three 30-year-old gents who love horror movies as much, if not more than life itself, have an unholy alliance as filmmakers with writer Tony Burgess. Foresight's three latest insanely imaginative and scary genre pictures have tantalized genre fans the world over during the course of a short year-and-a-half period.

Hellmouth, Septic Man and Ejecta, all spring from the diseased brain of Tony Burgess, one of Canada’s most celebrated science fiction and horror novelists and screenwriters. He also wrote the source material and screenplay for Bruce McDonald's scary-ass Pontypool.

The last time Mr. Burgess and I met was to discuss Ejecta.

Now, the matter at hand is Hellmouth.



PULL, MEAT DRAW and PINCOCKS
During our Ejecta chat, my fantasia included Burgess treating me to some fine pull from a still near Collingwood when I went down to the ass-end of the Bruce Peninsula to meet with him in Stayner. Pull is, of course, the key ingredient in the creative collaborative process between Burgess, Cook, Geddes and Wiele. This time, my deepest imaginings, spurred on by my frequent semi-comatose blood sugar crashes, have me suggesting that Tony haul hissef the fuck up to the northern-most tip of the Bruce where I hang my shingles. I want Burgess to have a taste of some great pull from these parts, but to also join me at the Meat Draw in our local Royal Canadian Legion. Burgess would, in this hallucinatory miasma within my cerebral cortex, query me on the matter and I would explain thusly:

"We purchase several raffle tickets at $1.00 per ticket. We want to get to the draw at least two hours in advance and space the ticket purchases out prior to the drawing of the lucky numbers. This allows for a decent spread of lucky numbers, ensuring at least one win and ideally, more than one."


Here Burgess will require clarification to the following query. Are we doing the interview sometime within this two hour period prior to the draw at the Legion or will we be saving it for when we visit Ma Pincock and her boys for some pull in the bush? I would, of course, affirm that pre-meat-draw was indeed a good time to do the interview as we'd be able to consume vast quantities of cheap Rye in the company of malcontent veterans who'd quietly gaze into whatever jar of liquor sat before them and mutter: "Well, what can you do?" This fantasia of mine also has Tony holding a barbecue the next day and wondering if he'll be able to win what he needs instead of having to buy it, wherein I'd explain:


"Spread upon the pool tables will be a wide array of meats - everything from prime rib roasts to a package of wieners, and in between there will be steaks and briskets of every imaginable grade and cut. Sometimes there will even be exotic fare like headcheese, tongue, hoof and all manner of juicy viscous innards. The animal of choice is cow, but there will, on occasion be pig, lamb, buffalo, horse, black bear, deer, peacock, emu and chicken. We will have, during the preceding two hours, an opportunity to peruse the offerings and make detailed lists of our favourites in the order which best reflects our individual and/or collective meatly desires. Ideally, we want our lucky number to be called as early in the proceedings as possible. It will allow us first pickins from the pool tables. Most people in this hallowed spot will immediately snatch up the prime rib roast. As the numbers are called, the most prime choices are secured by the happy winners until all that's left are the dregs. As for the pull, it's gonna
follow in the bush with the Pincock brothers and their Ma who works the still and generates the mother's milk from a very old family recipe. Ma is practically a Rhodes Scholar of shine preparation, but the boys weren't blessed with her smarts."

I'll mention that we'll meet the boys at the Meat Draw because they purchase their tickets as a team quite early-on in the proceedings. "Don't sweat it," I can assure Tony. "We usually breathe a sigh of relief when the Pincocks are selected early on. They're not going to choose any prime rib or steaks. They always go for the fucking wieners."

I furthermore recount an especially salient example of the Pincock brothers' collective lack of grey matter. One time, during a job burning off a huge pile of brush, they decide not to wait for a raging wind storm to die down. During the gale force tempest, Curly, the eldest Pincock brother, gets a might impatient as he's right afeared they'll be late for the Meat Draw. Fetching a plastic milk jug full of gasoline from the back of their half ton, Curly pops the cap to toss a spray of fuel in the direction of the smouldering fire just as a huge breeze blows in his direction. As the first splashes of gasoline hit the fire, the wind carries a blast of flame back into Curly's face. Grasping the still-half-full plastic milk carton of gasoline, it explodes in his hands. Whilst his younger brothers, Enoch and Harold also go up in flames, Curly gets it the worst, running back to the half-ton, burning to a crisp and screaming - not an especially good idea as there were several milk jugs full of gasoline in the back of the pickup, a full tank of gas in the truck itself and several barrels of Ma Pincock's fine home brew.

As Tony will, no doubt, beg me to stop, I add, "Have I mentioned the box of dynamite in the back of their half-ton? The Pincock boys use it when they go fishing as it's much easier to set charges in hand-crafted waterproof containers that explode in the clear blue of Lake Huron, allowing for hundreds of stunned fish to float to the surface, so the Pincocks can just handily scoop them up into their boat." I add gravely, "It's a miracle Curly Pincock and his brothers lived to tell the tale. We're all thankful they survived, though. Someone has to choose the package of wieners at the Meat Draw and better the Pincocks than any of us. Besides, their inbreeding guarantees their early departure from the Legion once they win so as they can hit the backwoods for a weenie-roast. And you know what? If the Pincocks win tonight, we'll settle in with those boys in the bush, guzzle back Ma's pull and maybe even have some hot dogs with 'em."


THE INTERVIEW

Klymkiw: Hellmouth is replete with cool graveyards. One of my favourites was this old graveyard south of Winnipeg where tucked in a little grove behind an abandoned church was a kiddie graveyard with weathered headstones that had stone carvings of lambs and pudgy babies with wings. What is your favourite graveyard and why?

Burgess: There's a graveyard on a little dirt road hidden on Rainbow Valley Road north of Edenvale. Tiny white church, more of a shack on the grounds. It is maintained by the Clearview gravedigger known locally as Crackerjack. I had to do an author photo for an article in The Walrus [Magazine] so i got Crackerjack to find me a freshly dug grave to stand in. He obliged.


Where the fuck did the idea of Hellmouth come from?


Now that's a good question. It's not really an idea - more like a bizarre wishlist that director John Geddes asked me to realize. He had very specific story elements and environs that looked at first like an angry clog of random irreconcilables. I was quickly charmed by his conviction and so executed, to the best of my ability, his peculiar vision. John approaches story quite unlike anyone...wide and passionate, without cynicism or irony, but self aware - he often mentioned Ed Wood, not as a joke we could make, but as a film maker with no distance from his own material - Ed Wood as a way of believing in things. It felt to me like we could make something original and truly outsider.


I loved Ed Wood's movies as a kid. Even then they seemed distinctive to me. When people started making fun of him the the 80s, it kind of pissed me off. Can you describe the writing process on Hellmouth?


It involved a lot of cognitive dissonance and pure story telling - a bit like a tunnel vision - which fit perfectly with John's idea of a parallel world made of whole plastic. Everything behaves in a figurative landscape, a busy meaning-making sketch, that reaches in an authentic way to an honest nothing.


Was pull involved in the creative process?


Always.


Does evil seek out those who are lonely or is evil a natural manifestation born out of loneliness?


I have no idea.


Sorry for the eggheadedness, but Stephen McHattie's character in Hellmouth is alone, lonely and eventually he's facing hell. In Taxi Driver, Travis says: "Loneliness has followed me my whole life. I'm God's lonely man." For some reason I could not get this out of my head while watching Hellmouth. Why? Is that MY sick shit or yours or a combination of the two?


Well, this is as much [director] John Geddes as me or you. He was looking at Richard Matheson and one of the great films about isolation - The Incredible Shrinking Man. There was an experience we were chasing: not so much the films of Ed Wood, Richard Matheson or Hitchcock, but the person watching them. In the middle of a Saturday afternoon or the wee hours of Sunday morning, the viewer is alone and completely open, perhaps not even knowing the name of the film. When it reaches out to say something or do something, the lone viewer experiences a kind of belief they couldn't have acheived sitting beside someone. It falls outside. It is a movie you started watching half way through and maybe you fall asleep before the end, but for the rest of your life it has this unprocessed life in your memory. If it meant anything it was probably that it was real, like a dream is, and you didn't see it - it happened to you.


What was it like collaborating with Geddes? How does he differ from the other Foresight sickos?


They are all different and very respectful of that. The most striking thing about making Hellmouth was the way John lived the post production day and night. An ENORMOUS amount of work went into how it looks. John had to become a religious madman for two years. I mean, no one has made a film in the way this one was made, and no one ever will again. Ever.


I loved the weird-ass cool look of Hellmouth - dare I say it? Post-modern? Is this something that was part of the writing or is it strictly the sick shit of Geddes in translating your words to the screen?


We had the look in mind from the beginning. Early on I was trying to gauge how far I could go with the visuals and there was simply no limit. Can I have a demon lick the door open? Yep. Can we giant hellmouth swallow Julian Richings? Yep. And on and on. We watched lots of films to get a sense of how this would look and really, it was about using CG effects as if they were cheap practicals from Ed Wood's studio backlot.


I love being plunged into a world of horror that is hugely influenced by the post-war ennui of film noir. Was this a conscious approach on your part?


Oh yes, absolutely. That and shamed, smudgy modernism, and its loss of noise.


Stephen McHattie. How present was his visage and bountiful talents in your mind during the writing of the screenplay?


Oh he was always there, for sure. In fact, when we were trying to figure out how to construct the Barda at the end (CG? Big latex? A robot? An actor?) Stephen said `lemme me do it' and he was amazing, injecting a whole other layer of smoke to the story. Stephen has the incredible ability to occupy illogical spaces between what should make sense.


The gaping maw of hell as envisaged in medieval art and literature seems a natural bedfellow for the kind of ennui that plagues McHattie's character and the world of the film. Why? Is this a natural bedfellow for you? For all of us?


I have always loved the Hellmouth. Especially as a big creaking stage machine on the Elizabethan stage. So heavy and noisy for a figure. The hellmouth as stage prop is the perfect object for what we were doing: the thereness of practical effects combined with the not thereness of generated image.


I can envisage franchise potential for all the stuff you write for Foresight. Further exploration of the Septic Man, Richings in Ejecta and McHattie in Hellmouth, all seems natural to me. Any thoughts or discussion with you and Foresight on this?


We have talked about that, yes. In fact, me and Ari Millen wanna make a TV show based on our characters [from Hellmouth] Harry and Tips. Kinda Lenny and Squiggy as directed by Buster Keaton.


Shit, the Pincock Boys are here. Let's go look at the meat with them. I'll introduce you.


Sounds good.


HELLMOUTH - THE REVIEW

Stephen McHattie, a babe-o-licious ghost,
creepy graveyards, the jaws of hell itself,
Bruce McDonald & Julian Richings in tow,
plus super-cool retro imagery fill the drawers of
HELLMOUTH
Hellmouth (2014)
Dir. John Geddes
Scr. Tony Burgess
Starring: Stephen McHattie, Siobhan Murphy, Boyd Banks,
Julian Richings, Bruce McDonald, Ari Millen, Tony Burgess

Review By Greg Klymkiw

To both the living and perhaps even the dead, old graveyards are as comforting as they are creepy. Screenwriter Tony Burgess seems to understand this better than most and with Hellmouth, he's crafted one of the most deliciously insane horror treats of the new millennium. Superbly and imaginatively directed by John Geddes and delivered to us by Foresight Features, the visionary company of (mad)men from Collingwood, Ontario, this is a first-rate mind-penetrator designed to plunge us deeply into the hallucinogenic properties inherent in Hell itself.

When I was a kid (who'd not grown out of childhood) during the late 70s and early 80s, I programmed a movie theatre devoted almost exclusively to cult and genre films and Hellmouth is exactly the kind of picture I'd have been playing during midnight shows in the 70-year-old 600-seat former-neighbourhood-cinema-turned-Porn-emporium-turned-arthouse in the wasted-west-end of Winnipeg (just round the corner from famed cult director Guy Maddin's boyhood home and his Aunt Lil's beauty salon which eventually became the studio for his first bonafide hit film, Tales from the Gimli Hospital). It's this very personal observation which proves to me, beyond a shadow of any doubt, just how universal Hellmouth is. The narrative is rooted in a strange amalgam of 40s film noir and the controversial early-to-mid-50s William Gaines period of the late-lamented and utterly demented E.C. Comics. In this sense, the madness that is Hellmouth has yielded a classic horror movie for now and forever.

And lemme tell ya, this ain't nothing to sneeze globs of bloodied snot at.

Charlie Baker (Stephen McHattie) is a tired, old grave-keeper living out his last days before retirement in a long-forgotten graveyard still maintained by a rural municipality with a certain pride in its historical legacy. As the film progresses, however, the legacy goes well beyond its commemorative value. Mr. Whinny (Boyd Banks) is a slimy, local bureaucrat who demands Charlie curtail his retirement plans to preside over an even older graveyard a few miles away. Charlie reminds Whinny that his own days are numbered due to a rare, degenerative brain disease, but the cruel, taunting administrator will have none of it and threatens to fire Charlie if he doesn't do his bidding (and thus flushing the retirement package down the toilet). Bureaucrats are just like that, especially if they work for Satan.

Alas, poor Charlie has little choice in the matter and is forced to make an odyssey across the dark and stormy landscape of this rectum-of-the-world township where he meets the mysterious babe-o-licious Faye (Siobhan Murphy). Swathed in form-fitting white, dark shades and blood-red lipstick, Faye hooks Charlie immediately into her plight and he becomes the unlikeliest knight in shining armour.

Grave-keeper Charlie Baker will, you see, soon do battle with a formidable foe at the very jaws of Hell itself.

Burgess's writing here is not only infused with imagination, but the archetypal characters, hard-boiled dialogue and unexpected turns taken by the tale create a solid coat hanger upon which director Geddes can display the stylish adornments of cool retro-visuals as well as all the eye-popping special visual effects splattering across the screen like so many ocular taste buds.

The mise-en-scene is not unlike the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez approach to the world of Sin City, but here, the rich monochrome, dappled occasionally with garish colours, seems even more suited to the genre of horror rather than neo-noir. Geddes guides his superb cast through the minefields of a gothic nightmare with the assured hand of a master, eliciting performances that play the more lurid properties of the characters blessedly straight (McHattie, Banks and Murphy), thus allowing occasional explosions of over-the-top, though never tongue-in-cheek thespian gymnastics from Julian Richings and legendary director Bruce McDonald.

Crypt-Keepers and Grave-Keepers have long been a staple of horror, but usually, they're not treated as characters, but as "hosts" to deliver anthology-styled tales of terror (not unlike the classic Amicus production from the 70s such as Tales from the Crypt). As a feature film, Hellmouth gets to have its cake and eat it too. However, given that Charlie Baker is a living, breathing character, Foresight Features might actually have a property here worth revisiting - either in feature-length prequels, sequels and/or standalone "presents" tales of other grave-keepers. Better yet, there might even be a terrific continuing anthology series for the likes of Starz with Charlie involved week-to-week as an actual participant and storyteller. God knows the creative above-the-liners are more than skilled and up-to-the-challenge and Stephen McHattie, one of the best character actors in the world would be the ideal star.

Just a thought from a middle-aged old exhibitor, film buyer and movie producer . . .

Getting back to my personal rumination of those halcyon days when I programmed cult movies, it's with all respect that I reveal now that Hellmouth is the kind of picture we used to fondly refer to as a "head film". Like the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo), Slava Tsukerman (Liquid Sky), David Lynch (Eraserhead) and so many others during the "Golden" Age of cult cinema, Hellmouth is ideal viewing for those who wish to ingest copious amounts of hallucinogens prior to and during their viewings of the film. That said, like all terrific "head films", the movie itself is plenty hallucinogenic and ultimately requires no added stimulants.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

Hellmouth is being distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada in a gorgeously transferred DVD and BLU-RAY combo pack. The photography, sound and effects in this film are so astonishing that both formats have been worked to the outer limits of their capabilities to render a first-rate product. My only disappointment is the lack of extras on the discs, however, it does include trailers for Foresight's Septic Man and Ejecta.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

THE VATICAN EXORCISMS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - MockDoc a Smelly Crock o' Poo


The Vatican Exorcisms (2013)
Dir. Joe Marino
Starring: Joe Marino, Piero Maggio

Review By Greg Klymkiw

This is a mock-doc that really wants us to think it's a doc and not a mock-doc, but as either, it's so unmitigatedly awful, that it really doesn't matter what the purported filmmakers want us to believe because the only thing that keeps us watching is to see just how awful a movie can get.

I'll admit the title hooked me. Hell, I'm always happy to watch anything involving exorcism at least once and the notion of Vatican exorcisms had me chomping at the bit. I'll also admit I never judge a DVD by its cover, but when I got the screening copy, my eyes bugged out with anticipation when I saw the deliciously disgusting image of an albino-like demon with shrivelled skin, sores and other viscous details.

Anchor Bay will, no doubt, sell a crapload of DVDs at Wal-Mart based on the cover alone. I'm hoping that "People of Walmart.com" will have some choice shots of some real toothless doozies showing too much ass-crack from their pants falling down as they gaze intently at the cover artwork. Kudos to the Anchor Bay marketing team, but Jesus, this movie stinks.

Joe, a "filmmaker" informs us he's making a documentary about exorcism. In fact, he informs us about everything. He tells us he's going to meet his crew. A few seconds later, he does. Standing in front of a church, he informs us he will be going inside and, guess what? He does. He tells us he's going to be interviewing a real live exorcist from the Vatican. Wouldn't you know it, he does.

At one point during the aforementioned interview, the priest asks Joe what he wants of him. (It appears the priest isn't too smart.) Joe replies that he wants to meet the Devil.

"And so you shall," answers the priest.

If I'd been in a charitable mood, that moment would at least have elicited a few unintentional guffaws on my part, but by then, the picture had been so rank, I was compelled to do little but stare slack-jawed at my TV set. (Apologies for not thinking to take a selfie of that moment for your edification.)

The rest of the film includes endless scenes of Joe talking to the camera in his hotel room, always telling us what we just saw, in case, uh, I guess, we didn't see it, in spite of the fact that we did. (Sometimes, when he's in his hotel room, he makes a point of telling us that's precisely where he is.)

He also talks into the camera about what he's going to do the next day or in the next shot. Lo and behold, it happens and then he can talk to the camera again to describe what we just saw.

And what do we see? Not much - just several tediously lame exorcisms which supposedly increase in intensity (but don't) and, no surprise, Joe gets possessed by Satan. And yes, he tells us all about it.

Then he disappears.

His wife helpfully tells us he has, in fact, disappeared, though we already know this. Then the movie ends and we wonder who actually finished the film. His wife? Or Satan?

I'd normally put my money on Satan, but chances are, he's a pretty sharp dude and would never make a movie so utterly godawful. If you've already bought the movie, you will, at least, have a nice coaster to place drink-poos upon. If you haven't made the purchase, don't bother, unless you're desperate for a new coaster.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: TURD DISCOVERED BEHIND HARRY'S CHAR BROIL AND DINING LOUNGE - For a full explanation and history of this rating, click HERE.

The Vatican Exorcisms is available on Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada DVD. The film is so poorly shot, the transfer can't help. The only extras are a trailer and a laughable Photo Gallery which appears to be comprised of 4 screen captures from the digital tape source.

Monday, 18 May 2015

CHEATIN' - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Noir Meets Opera Meets Pulp Meets Melodrama


Cheatin' (2013)
Dir. Bill Plympton

Review By Greg Klymkiw

A new animated feature film by Bill Plympton is always cause for celebration because nobody, but no-body makes movies like he does. His perverse sense of humour blended with an innate (if not submerged, but always present) sweetness and most of all, his unique visual style, add up to cooler than cool.

Cheatin' might be my favourite Plymptoon yet. It's a deceptively simple romantic comedy: girl meets boy, they fall madly in love, they marry, boy thinks girl is cheating even though she's as loyal as loyal can be, boy doesn't let on that he thinks girl is cheating, boy considers suicide but chooses revolving door infidelity, girl is devastated and doesn't know how to get his love back until she meets a mad circus magician who can transfer her spirit into the myriad of bodies whom the boy is dallying with. Reconciliation seems inevitable. Or is it? Is this mad plan fraught with danger? Yeah, probably.

What Plympton has wrought with this basic (on paper) love story, which then adds an unexpected, but very welcome fantastical twist, is layered with sheer mad inspiration. He blends several shades of genre and storytelling style to render one of the most original films I've seen in many a year. Juxtaposing the seedier elements of middle America like carnivals, roadside gas stations and sleazy motels, with the sun-dappled heaven of green lawns, cozy suburban bungalows, beauty parlours and fancy dress shoppes, Plympton manages to out-Blue-Velvet Blue Velvet by wallowing greedily and happily in the muck of both darkness and light.


Plympton begins his tale with the beautiful, stylish Ella, gorgeously attired in a bright yellow dress and wide-brimmed hat with a long red ribbon wafting across the drooling, enchanted faces of boner-induced men, her face buried deep in a book as she strides forward through the streets and eventually a carnival replete with rides and sideshows. Torso forward, her eyes glued to words on the page seem to naturally propel her. She doesn't at all notice every single man ogling her with eyes popped and fixed upon her with such distraction that they cause all manner of mishaps amongst each other (and raising the ire of their frumpy wives and girlfriends). Barkers try to distract her to partake of their wares and it's only until she is literally hooked and yanked into a bumper car ride does she take her nose out of her book.

Hell, this looks like fun.

She jumps into a vehicle and the bumper madness begins. And here is where love blossoms. Plympton hands us a stereotypical "meet-cute" of such absurd proportions that one wishes every "meet-cute" in every movie could be this insane. Let's not give too much away save for describing the physical elements it involves: a bumper car on its side, a dazed Ella in a pool of water, a snapped electrical cable whipping around and sparking up a storm and Jake, a dreamy hunk who's been unable to keep his eyes off Ella (and she to him) and risks his life to save hers.

It's a meet-cute that yields love gone mad.

This leads to one of the most demented love montages I've ever seen with Jake and Ella crooning the joyous Libiamo Ne' Lieti Calici from "La Traviata" to each other as their bodies whirl about, split apart into various pieces, meld in and out of each other, with gondola rides across massive bathtubs, soaring high in flying roadsters, an entire suburban household coming to life and singing the chorus - items in the refrigerator, slabs of butter, carrots - anything and everything that can morph into a dizzying surrealist melange of cartoon images that leaves both the Fleischer Brothers and Disney's Silly Symphonies way behind like so much dust in the wind.

Seeing Ella spread-eagled and popping out one baby after another into Jake's arms is a fantasy image I suspect I'll take with me to my grave.


Disaster strikes when a jealous dress shop owner snaps an incriminating photo of the innocent Ella and places it in Jake's hands as a means to drive him into her arms. It works. He's so devastated, so heartbroken, that he begins balling Madame Dress-Shoppe and virtually every woman who wants him (and it is a ludicrous number). At one point, a devastated Ella secures the services of a hired killer, but when that goes wrong and the couple's life as lovebirds is doomed to a purgatorial wasteland, she secures the assistance of the grand impresario of magician-ship, El Mertos.

You want unhinged, unbridled, completely preposterous forays into the fantastical? Never fear. Plympton delivers big time since El Mertos has the aforementioned mysterious, dangerous and magical machine that can transport Ella's soul into the bodies of ALL the women Jake is boning in Room 4 of the ultra-sleazy E-Z Motel.


Plympton not only pulls off a miracle of mad romanticism, he does so by blending opera, pulp fiction, film noir and almost Douglas Sirkian-high-melodrama. Not only that, but the entire movie has NO dialogue. It's pure visual storytelling with a knockout soundtrack that includes an astounding original score by Nicole Renaud blended with the previously mentioned piece from "La Traviata" in addition to the heartbreaking Leoncavallo's Vesti la Giubba (sung by Caruso, no less), Ravel's Bolero and King Bennie Nawahi singing the immortal south seas exotica of Muana Keana.

Cheatin' is sheer madness and as joyous an experience as you're likely to have at the movies in these dark days of imagination-bereft cinema. If you live in Toronto, you have just one night, one chance to see it on the big screen.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

Cheatin' plays for one night at The Royal Cinema in Toronto on May 20, 2015. It deserves a longer run than that. Hopefully other independent Canadian Exhibitors will play the film. In the meantime, I highly recommend you buy the DVD from E.D. Distribution in France. They not only released the film properly/theatrically, but now have it on their very distinctive label. Cheatin' is known in France as Les Amants électriques. Order directly from their website. While you're visiting it, you'll notice they have a shitload of Bill Plympton titles. They're gorgeous packages/transfers. I know. I've got 'em all. Browse the site. They have the coolest, most eclectic catalogue of titles one could ever imagine. They're not only the best distributor of wacko art in France, but one of the best in the world. I know. They distribute a bunch of my crazy-ass film productions. Visit the website by clicking HERE.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

TAB HUNTER CONFIDENTIAL: 25th Anniversary Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film Festival 2015 - Review By Greg Klymkiw


Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)
Dir. Jeffrey Schwarz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Jeffrey Schwarz is one of America's stellar documentary filmmakers. He's contributed an important body of work on cinema as well as gay pop culture. With a solid career generating superb specialty product for television and added value materials for home entertainment releases, he's become especially notable for his slickly produced feature documentaries Vito (a profoundly moving portrait of gay cinema historian Vito Russo) and I Am Divine (the lovely, entertaining biographical portrait of everyone's favourite 300 lb. transvestite and John Waters muse).

Based on the hugely successful and insightful autobiographical book Tab Hunter Confidential, Schwarz has another winner to add to his canon of essential work.


Tab Hunter was one of the biggest movie heartthrobs of the 50s, a huge music recording star and a damn fine actor to boot who was groomed by Warner Bros. to make them a lot of money, but seldom allowing him the opportunity to grow as an actor. Gorgeous, blonde, kind-hearted and affable in real life as he appeared on screen, Hunter was, like so many gay actors, forced to keep his sexuality deep in the closet in order to maintain his spot at the top of the box-office.

When he eventually changed agents to assist him with getting more challenging roles, his first talent rep released information to the scandal press about Hunter's brief brush with the law (which had been repressed quite ably) wherein he'd been found in the (gasp!) company of homosexuals. Hunter was so beloved by his studio - Jack Warner in particular - because of the oodles of substantial grosses he pulled in, that even this was reasonably covered over by the powerful studio so he could keep making them money.

Unfortunately, Hunter extricated himself from his Warner's contract to become independent so he could more ably dictate better roles for himself. Without the protection and regular cheques from the studio, he quickly became persona non grata in the industry and was relegated to working in even more slight product than ever before. He eventually stopped working altogether in the movies and became a stalwart on the dinner theatre circuit. It brought in steady money, but was also drudgery in terms of both the travel and non-stop demand of daily live performance in front of thousands of audiences slurping back globs of grotesque comestibles at the all-you-can-eat troughs of this horrendous circuit used to capitalize on actors who were "past their prime".

Eventually, Hunter was back on top as a film cult personality thanks to his great work in John Waters's Polyester and the gay-tinged spaghetti western spoof Lust in the Dust. Again though, he faced obscurity after this brief resurgence and Hunter turned to his first love, horses, and became a master of equestrian competition - something he continues with to this very day.

It's a great story and Schwarz juggles all the balls (as it were) at his disposal to create a significant document of the studio period in Hollywood and the burgeoning years of independent cinema. Perhaps even more meaningful is the frank look at what it meant to be gay in America and Hollywood when homosexuality was not merely frowned upon, but considered criminal deviant activity.

Using a star studded cast of interviewees and the best selection of film clips and archival materials money can buy, Schwarz is also granted unfettered access to Hunter himself. In a series of penetrating interviews, we learn about Hunter's abusive father, loving mother, his devotion to God and the Church, his heartbreaking experience with the nasty repression of Catholicism and, of course, his often scintillating, but secret love life.

On the surface, he was paired up by the studio with the gorgeous Natalie Wood and the two of them were "lovers" in the eyes of the world, accompanying each other to a myriad of events, parties, premieres and pretty much anywhere paparazzi were present to grab fodder for fan magazines. Hunter's recollection of these dates with Wood and other female stars provide deeply loving relationships, albeit of the purely platonic kind (though there is one "straight" story that offers us much in the way of genuine tears).

As for the fellas, we're privy to Hunter's secret relationships with other gay men in the industry, most notably Anthony Perkins; as intense and deep a love relationship one could imagine twixt anyone and yet one which crashed and burned when Hunter was betrayed professionally by Perkins.

Tab Hunter Confidential has anything any movie lover could want, but at the end of the day, it also offers an extremely crucial history of gay life from the 1950s and beyond. It's also worth noting that all the interviews with the celebrity experts are beautifully rendered by Schwarz and deliver a lineup of people who are both entertaining and magnanimous.

The one exception, however, is an interview with Clint Eastwood. I've always admired him as an actor and director, but frankly, he comes across as a complete asshole - at least that was my feeling. Schwarz only keeps this one bit with Eastwood in the film which, suggests to me that Eastwood must have been an even bigger asshole in material that found its way to the cutting room floor.

Then again, some might find Eastwood's remarks funny and the real reason he's represented as such. I don't know. You can be the judge. The movie was so moving, that Eastwood's bit just stuck out like a sore thumb to me.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4 Stars

Tab Hunter Confidential is playing at the Inside Out 2015 Toronto LGBT Film Festival. For further info, please visit the festival's website by clicking HERE.

Monday, 11 May 2015

SPRING - Review By Greg Klymkiw - If "Before Sunrise" w/viscous fluids turns your crank...

When the moon hits your eye
Like a big pizza pie, that's amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine, that's amore
Spring (2014)
Dir. Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Spring begins compellingly enough. Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is a young chef in a local California watering hole who has been tending to his mother's palliative home care whilst she slowly dies of cancer. Once she passes, the only child (his Dad pre-deceased Mom) is not only consumed with grief, but loneliness to boot. Armed with a backpack and small inheritance, he hops on the first outbound plane which takes him to Rome. He eventually makes his way to a small burgh within the watchful burble and huffing/puffing of the volcanic Mt. Vesuvius.

Lava, however, is not the only thing roiling in these parts.

Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling
Ting-a-ling-a-ling and you'll sing, "Vita bella"
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay
Tippy-tippy-tay like a gay tarantella
The young man's loins are a stirring once he lays eyes upon Louise (Nadia Hilker), a babe-o-licious local lassie who also takes a liking to Evan. Given her charm, beauty and eccentricity, we're pretty sure she harbours some kind of secret.

But, no matter. We get to enjoy a fair bit of boinking (including some nice flashes o' flesh) and for all those romantics out there, there's a whole whack o' Before Sunrise-like lovey-dovey-wanderings around the gorgeous terrain.

Evan, however, doesn't get to see what we see. These delights include Louise biting the head off a cat, developing pus-oozing sores and eventually a leisurely sojourn with her pet bunny rabbits leads to a cave wherein she doffs her clothes and scarfs back her cute, furry Leporidae - a kind of Night of the Lepus in reverse.

Yup, something's not quite right in Vesuvius County. Hell is going to break loose.

Will their hearts become one?
Will she eat him well done? That's Amore!
But you know, it really doesn't. We're forced to suffer through a mind-numbing romance twixt attractive twenty-somethings babbling a whole lot of inane dialogue with bouts of viscous ooze exploding Vesuvius-like from the young lady's body and even when she shares her secret (something involving stem cells), young Evan still loves her and keeps moping around, hoping they'll become a real couple someday which, it's revealed, is quite possible, if . . .

"Whatever!" I thought as I kept suffering through this insufferably twee 110 minutes of love. Not once do we feel any real threat to our leading man and those she does kill (aside from cute fur balls) are scumbags anyway, but the only real stakes are whether or not these two will find normal love together.

Someone watching this, I suppose, could care, but not this fella.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** Two Stars

Spring is now playing theatrically via Raven Banner and will soon be released via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada on DVD.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

CRIES AND WHISPERS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Cancer, Bergman Style, on Criterion BD


Cries and Whispers (1972)
Dir. Ingmar Bergman
Starring: Harriet Andersson, Kari Sylwan,
Ingrid Thulin, Liv Ullmann, Erland Josephson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers is enclosed in a thick, deep red membrane; every frame splashed with a kind of sickeningly putrid menstrual blood which has been expunged from some horrific, barren place of hatred and regret, enveloping the pain of its three sisters Agnes (Harriet Andersson), Karin (Ingrid Thulin) and Maria (Liv Ullmann), never allowing the force of healing and relief to take over completely and allow the characters a greater sense of love and fulfillment.

The film's greatness cannot be denied. It has haunted me for 40+ years and at several points throughout my life, it's been there for me: casting shadows of darkness, revealing depths of despair, exuding feelings of longing and generously displaying its stunning cinematic virtuosity. Much like an old friend who remains just around the corner, or rather, not unlike a monkey upun our collective backs, the film exists to remind us how important it is to grasp whatever sliver-like shards of joy life affords us, lest we become wholly consumed by the sheer misery of it all.

At the film's centre is Anna (Kari Sylwan). She is the heart pumping with lifeblood as opposed to the putrescence of anguish, the expulsion of toxic poison, lying in wait to envelope life and upon discovering there's nothing there, it gushes and sticks to those bereft of kindness and caring.

Agnes has cancer. She's dying. Karin and Maria have come to the family's country estate to preside over the death-watch. Anna is the plump domestic who runs the household and takes care of Agnes. Bergman takes us through the stages of the final agony by deftly providing us with a series of flashbacks which inform the current situation. Childhood for the sisters was sheer joy. They were very close. Their mother (also played by Liv Ullman) is loving, but often seems distracted, if not distant. At one point we see her infused with such utter, quiet sorrow that it seems to inform everything in the film. We learn that Agnes was always the odd, ugly duckling and that she remained unmarried and alone, save for the loyal Anna (whose own child died tragically many years earlier, but to whose picture she examines everyday and prays to with deep devotion).

Karin married a petty diplomat. In spite of wealth and travel, she hates him - so much so, that one night, smelling (no doubt) of the greasy, rancid-looking fish he wolfed down over supper, her husband awaits Karin's conjugal visit, and she privately masturbates with a shard of crystal from a broken wine glass, only to present him with the sight of the blood gushing from between her legs and smearing it all over her almost cruelly lascivious face.

Maria, the most frivolous of the three sisters also married into wealth - a husband with such a weak, spineless demeanour that he seems born to be a cuckold and to be cuckolded. She does what she must and cuckolds him, but unlike his dalliances away from the conjugal bed, she chooses to soil it within their home. Even more sickening is that her primary love interest is the creepy local doctor (Erland Josephson) who coldly presides over Agnes's final days.

Bergman paints a portrait of a family united by blood, but not much else. Whatever love they had for each other in childhood has turned to stone. At one point, Karin lets it all spill out to Maria, who responds blankly to these words tinged with bile:

"Do you realize I hate you and how foolish I find your insipid smile and your idiotic flirtatiousness? How have I managed to tolerate you so long and not say anything? I know of what you're made - with your empty caresses and your false laughter. Can you conceive how anyone can live with so much hate as has been my burden? There's no relief, no charity, no help! There is nothing. Do you understand? Nothing can escape me for I see all!"

Poor Agnes desperately wants her sisters to be with her and touch her in these final hours, but more often than not, they sit immobile in the gorgeous parlour outside her room. What Karin confesses to a Maria who does not bother to challenge the horrendous assertions is enough to prove that the desperate desires of Agnes will not be fulfilled. She'll go to her grave never feeling the love of her siblings.

Finally, it's left to Anna to hold Agnes close to her warm, inviting, motherly bosom. During one unbelievably creepy and nightmarish sequence, after Agnes's final internal combustion of pain followed by her last gurgling croaks of life, she is dead, yet her consciousness remains in her sick room. She asks for her sisters to visit one by one to assist in her spiritual passage to the other side. Here they fail miserably and again, it is up to the servant Anna to offer this solace.

Even Bergman at his most brilliant and despairing, never made a movie like this. Its setting is the most exquisitely furnished and adorned home, yet everything feels untouched, unloved. It's stifling and claustrophobic. The physical beauty of the surroundings are as empty as the hearts of Karin and Maria - both of whom express hatred for each other. Even when they briefly reconcile, it is short-lived.


The pain, the savagery of the cancer ripping the insides of Agnes apart is unrelenting. Bergman lavishes his camera over every detail, the slow movements of Agnes, the rigour she must employ to do the simplest of things like reaching for a glass of water, walking to a window to look at the rays of sun, sitting at a desk to write her memoirs, every stroke of the pen sending jolts of pain into her body and then, in words on the page, describing the pain as well.

Sven Nykvist's cinematography and longtime collaboration with Bergman reaches a pinnacle that could never be matched. We never see outside the windows, only the natural light pouring through them upon the beautiful, but cold and stately physical interior consume our perspective. Worst of all, when the lens attempts to caress the faces of its characters, especially Karin and Maria, all we get is the pain, hatred and regret, ozing from their pores of skin, which we can see in vivid detail.

Some movies are just inextricably linked to your being. Cries and Whispers is such a picture for me. I first saw it at a very young age with my mother. Her sister and my beloved aunt, had experienced a similar death from cancer. The pain we both felt was acute and yet, I remember my mother being affected, not just viscerally, but by Bergman's artistry and the sheer genius of the acting. I lived with the film through repeated viewings over the course of 40+ years. My most recent viewings came during my mother's year-long struggle with stomach cancer and in the weeks after her pain-wracked final weeks and, ultimately, death, I had to see the film even more.

It touches and reminds you of life's fragility and ultimately, the importance of love and forgiveness. In the movie's final moments, we hear a diary entry from Agnes as Bergman takes us out of the dank, sarcophagus-like atmosphere of the blood-red interiors and upon the sumptuous, rolling green lawns of the estate. All three sisters, dressed in white and carrying frilly parasols, gently walk the grounds with the loyal Anna accompanying them. They rush to an old swing, so special in their childhood. They take seats as Anna swings them back and forth. The final words of the film (in a heartfelt homage to Eugene O'Neill's immortal play of familial suffering, acrimony and grief, Long Day's Journey Into Night) have Agnes revealing the following:

"All my aches and pains were gone. The people I am most fond of in all the world were with me. I could hear their chatting around me. I could feel the presence of their bodies, the warmth of their hands. I wanted to hold the moment fast and thought, "Come what may, this is happiness. I cannot wish for anything better. Now, for a few minutes, I can experience perfection. And I feel profoundly grateful to my life, which gives me so much."

We sit, in stunned silence, tears pouring from our eyes, our thoughts turning to all those we've loved and continue to love and we are, ourselves, profoundly grateful for everything in life, which has indeed given us so much - and especially, Ingmar Bergman's hallowed gift us, Cries and Whispers.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5 Stars

Cries and Whispers is available on Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection. It features a wealth of glories for us to be grateful for, including a 2K digital restoration, an introduction by Bergman, shot in 2001, an all-new interview with Harriet Andersson, conducted by Peter Cowie, a video essay by filmmaker :: kogonada, behind-the-scenes footage with Cowie's commentary, a one-hour-long documentary from 2000 entitled Ingmar Bergman: Reflections on Life, Death, and Love with Erland Josephson (2000), exquisite new translation of the dialogue in English for the subtitles, an optional English-dubbed soundtrack (which helps those who don't speak Swedish to watch repeatedly and concentrate on the visual, an essay by film scholar Emma Wilson in the accompanying booklet and a stunning new cover design by by Sarah Habibi ace Criterion artist Sarah Habibi.