GREG KLYMKIW - THE CURMUDGEON OF CINEMA
Greg Klymkiw’s 35+ years in the movie business include journalism, screenwriting, script editing, producing iconoclastic work by Guy Maddin, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Alan Zweig, etc, 14 years as senior creative consultant and producer-in-residence @ Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre, nurturing international recognition for prairie post-modernist films with his guerrilla campaigns as the Winnipeg Film Group’s Marketing Director, writing for Film Corner, Daily Film Dose, POV, Phantom of the Movies' VIDEOSCOPE, Electric Sheep UK - a deviant view of cinema, Take One Magazine, Cinema Canada & he's currently completing 3 new books about cinema. He's the subject of Ryan McKenna’s 2013 documentary "Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story". At last count Klymkiw had seen over 30,000 feature films. GUIDE TO RATINGS: ***** Masterpiece/MasterpiecePotential **** Excellent ***1/2 Very Good *** Good **1/2 Not Bad ** Whatever *½ Poor * Raw Sewage. If a film is not up to earning 1 star, it will earn at least: 1 Pubic Hair. If, God forbid, the movie is worse than 1 Pubic Hair, the absolute lowest rating will be: The Turd found behind Harry's Charbroil and Dining Lounge.
PLEASE NOTE: AS OF JULY, 2014, THE FILM CORNER'S STAR RATING IS LOCATED AT THE END OF THE REVIEW.
Monday, 15 September 2014
Dir. Dan Reed
Review By Greg Klymkiw
In a strictly Orwellian sense, the preponderance of closed circuit surveillance footage is not only creepy, but it's clearly the very thing which proves how little privacy any of us have. There's something very wrong with being monitored by camera from every vantage point no matter where we are. Then again, public spaces are not private and as such, none of us have anything we can object to if we choose to avail ourselves of such spaces. At least this is how the proponents of said Big Brother eyeballing of our every move will always argue. The greater public good, they say, will always trump personal desires for privacy - especially in terms of both crime detection and prevention. However, when the perpetrators of said crimes have no intention of surviving, how necessary is it?
Such must certainly be the case with the scumbag cowards of the Somalian terrorist group Shabab who, one year ago, marched into the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya and began to gun down innocent civilians in the name of Allah, or whatever screwy reason they had to do so. Caught on over 100 mall surveillance cameras in addition to cel phone cameras, the amount of footage which exists with respect to this act will never be a deterrent to such mindless acts of violence and it's doubtful there's even a good reason for its existence in terms of crime solving. These idiots continue to dive into these sickening, moronic actions dreaming of virgin conquest in an afterlife or whatever dopey, boneheadedly ignorant belief systems they've allowed themselves to swallow in order to justify their brutal violence.
Without this footage, however, we would not be privy to filmmaker Dan Reed's harrowing HBO documentary Terror at the Mall which is clearly an important document of this heinous event. On one hand, Reed's film superbly blends the existing surveillance (and private cel phone) footage with post-event interview footage of survivors identified in said footage. On the other, it feels like a carefully mediated testament.
First and foremost, though, the film is a document of incredible acts of heroism, sacrifice and an examination of the thought process of normal human beings under the duress of armed assault in the unlikeliest of places. Surely for this reason alone, the existence of such footage has served an important historical purpose. In spite of this, does not such footage profane the memory of those caught digitally who are seen cowering in terror, running madly in panic and/or cut down by the bullets of the terrorists? Is this stealing of their images somehow not, as many cultures believe, a theft of the souls, the spirits, the inherent humanity of the victims?
These are worthwhile questions.
One other element with respect to the "creep factor" of surveillance footage is the specific aesthetic of it. There's nothing especially human and most often, not mediated by the perspective, or, if you will, the hearts, hands, eyes and minds of humans. The footage is raw. It is what it is - cameras perched, usually from God's eye view (the notion of which is especially creepy). It's an otherworldly perspective - a purely digital mapping of events. Reed clearly understands this and if anything, his superbly chosen juxtaposition of real-life interviews with the surveillance footage does apply a sense of humanity to the proceedings - one that is as humane as it is clearly the work of a genuine film artist. If I had one minor quibble, it's that the scope of this film is so large that I almost didn't want it to end. This, of course, is probably a compliment rather than a quibble, but the fact remains that the film could well have survived a substantially longer length, yet still delivered the goods with the same power.
What finally remains for us in Terror at the Mall is the horrific experience of knowing we are seeing actual footage of terrorism and that what Reed is most interested in, is ultimately, courage. There is fear, to be sure, but in many ways, true courage can only be borne out of fear and one ultimately must salute Reed and his team for giving these people a voice in light of actions that will be seared upon them forever.
And perhaps, that very thing emblazoned upon the minds of the victims is the very thing that will never leave our consciousness so that we might all be ready and prepared to face the worst this mad world has to offer us and, in turn, to realize it's okay to be scared.
For out of fear, comes courage and from courage, comes life.
The importance of this production cannot be stressed enough. Terror at the Mall is, finally, must-see viewing for everyone - adults and children. (My own little girl was deeply moved by this experience in ways that only kids can be moved.) So screw whatever crap you were planning to watch on TV as this terrific film is being broadcast. Nothing that's on can come close to how your life and those you love will be touched by the subjects, events and themes of this picture. It'll be an hour out of your life, but one that will contribute a lifetime of thought and consideration.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
Terror at the Mall premieres on HBO and HBO Canada in North American broadcast territories. Check your local listings for dates and times.
Friday, 12 September 2014
After its triumphant 1985 world premiere at TIFF, a Canadian film distribution company called Norstar Releasing signed the film for world wide sales. The deal came with a $100,000 guarantee which would be payable no later than 18 months after the first date of the film's theatrical release. This was just the impetus director John Paizs needed to redress something that was nagging at him. In spite of the accolades, he didn't like the ending and knowing $100K would eventually be paid, he rewrote, reshot and recut the entire final 20 minutes and fashioned the film into what we all know and love today.
Months, then years, passed by. Norstar Releasing was making money on the film in the home video market via a poorly transferred, retitled VHS American version, as well as substantial pay-TV and free-TV broadcast sales. NO theatrical release was forthcoming. As it turned out, there was no specific clause in the contract which guaranteed ANY theatrical release. The result? There was NO LEGAL NEED to pay the $100K until such a release would trigger the said payment.
In my then-capacity as Director of Distribution and Marketing for the Winnipeg Film Group, I poured over the deal made long before my tenure there began. I engaged in the aggressive move to visit the Norstar offices in Toronto and examine their books. Sadly, all was on the up and up - save for the scumbag deal its filmmaker signed in good faith. This was long before the days of VOD and digital downloads. If you signed a distribution deal, you automatically assumed there would be a theatrical release. At this point, I aggressively lobbied an independent movie theatre in Winnipeg, where the film was made, to secure a theatrical playmate. Even then, Norstar tried to dissuade the movie theatre from showing the film, but luckily, perseverance won the day and the film was slated for release - in ONE THEATRE.
18 months passed. The trigger to pay had come and gone. Though the money was due, Norstar was still not coughing up. I called the Toronto office of Telefilm Canada, the national film financing agency which, at the time had a distribution program that actually funded Canadian distributors to offer guarantees to Canadian films. The head of distribution at Telefilm at the time was Ted East, a film distributor and producer who provided a very sympathetic ear when I explained how a Canadian company fucked over John Paizs. Mr. East poured over his agency's policy and discovered he could put money into Norstar's pocket to pay the filmmaker who was deeply in debt for a film that many loved, but most had not seen. The money was finally paid. The debts were erased.
Still, the film languished. Norstar eventually sold all its titles to Alliance Films. When Alliance Films became Alliance-Atlantis, the library simply moved over. When the "Atlantis" portion went the way of the dodo, Alliance Releasing continued to maintain the library. At one point, a great indie home video company in the United States, known for its small, but very cool catalogue of cult items, contacted Paizs. They wanted to release a super-deluxe DVD version of Crime Wave. When Paizs contacted Alliance, he was given the run-around. The company fucked the dog on the generous Fantomas offer until eventually, they rejected it. Alliance, it seems, was planning to dump huge swaths of its catalogue into a package deal with some dubious entity in the United States. Sadly, the Fantomas deal was not the only offer made to handle Crime Wave over the years to both Norstar and Alliance. All offers were rejected.
Eventually, Alliance was swallowed up by eOne Entertainment. This is where Crime Wave currently languishes. Thankfully, Steve Gravestock from the Toronto International Film Festival was able to provide funding for an all-new 2K digital restoration of Crime Wave and it is now being premiered at TIFF 2014 in conjunction with the launch of Jonathan Ball's new scholarly book about the film.
This is great news! Still, something was nagging at me. Given the film's reputation, would it still be sitting in the vaults? I sent a note to President of E1 Films Canada, Bryan Gliserman, and asked the following questions:
1. As your company inherited the rights to this film, what are e-One's plans to redress the wrongs perpetrated upon this masterpiece of Canadian Cinema by the previous companies holding the rights?
2. What are your feelings about the recent TIFF-initiated-and-funded 2K restoration?
3. Will there be a proper theatrical platform re-release in Canada?
4. Are there any discussions about a deluxe, extras-packed commemorative Blu-Ray?
He has yet to respond. He's a busy man.
Here's the bottom line:
Companies all over the world have tried to cut a deal with the right-holders prior to eOne, but continually hit brick walls as those Canadian conglomerates sat on it. The irony is that the Canadian taxpayers, via the aforementioned kind and magnanimous gesture on the part of Ted East when he was an official with Telefilm Canada, contributed a whack of dough to pay the filmmaker a guarantee that the original company tried to screw Paizs out of. If this hadn't have happened, Paizs would still be on the hook for finishing funds rightly owed to him.
Bryan Gliserman is a mensch.
I doubt, HE, as the president of a company as powerful as e-One, and the Canadian branch, no less, would ever think about screwing over a masterpiece of Canadian Cinema. He's one of the true pioneers of distribution in Canada and it might be the best thing in the world for this picture that it's found a home with someone like him. He's the real thing. I personally never put faith in any government or corporate entity, but from time to time, INDIVIDUALS within them step up to the plate - like Ted East when he was at Telefilm, Geoff Pevere when he first supported Paizs in the early years of TIFF and Steve Gravestock in TIFF's current era - there have always been human beings who all had faith in this film.
So too, I believe, will Bryan Gliserman. I have faith that he'll do something about the woeful state of affairs that's beleaguered this film for three decades. Crime Wave, with a mensch like Gliserman manning the control panel, will no doubt soar to the heights it deserves.
In the meantime, feel free to read my review. I've never written about Crime Wave before and frankly, I doubt anyone will be able to top Geoff Pevere's brilliant piece (pictured above) that he originally wrote many years ago in Cinema Canada, but for what it's worth, here's my take.
|HARK! Your script doctor might wish to sodomize,|
murder and in so doing, teach you the real MEANING
of the word, "TWISTS!"
Dir. John Paizs
Starring: Eva Kovacs, John Paizs, Neil Lawrie, Darrell Baran, Jeffrey Owen Madden, Tea Andrea Tanner, Bob Cloutier, Donna Fullingham, Mitch Funk, Angela Heck, Mark Yuill, C. Roscoe Handford
Review By Greg Klymkiw
In 1985, Jay Scott, the late, great Toronto Globe and Mail film critic, renowned and beloved the world over, wrote in his review of Crime Wave after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (then called the Festival of Festivals):
"...if the great Canadian comedy ever gets made, John Paizs might be the one to make it.”
We're one year shy of thirty years later and nobody has yet made the "great Canadian comedy", though writer-director-star John Paizs gave it a damn fine run for the money with his drawer-filling, knee-slapping, near-heart-attack-inducing, Campbell Scott-starring 1999 satire of 1950s science fiction Top of the Food Chain (aka Invasion!). No matter, though. Scott never did review Paizs's 1986 version of Crime Wave. Still, taking mild criticism in Scott's review to heart, Paizs completely rewrote, reshot and recut the entire last half hour of the film.
If Jay Scott had been given the chance to review this version, if the film had actually been released, I suspect Scott's line would have been: "John Paizs has made the great Canadian comedy!"
There's no doubt about it.
|Some Quiet Men are Nice! Others are INSANE!!!|
Even more, perhaps?
Whatever the final tally actually is, and it is way up there, the fact remains that each and every time I see the film, I'm not only howling with laughter as hard as I did when I first saw it, but absolutely floored by how astoundingly brilliant and original it is. This is a movie that has not dated and will probably never date. It's a film that has inspired filmmakers all over the world and not only is it the crown jewel in the "prairie post-modernist" crown - coined and bestowed upon it by film critic Geoff Pevere - but it's a film that paved the way for Guy Maddin, Bruce McDonald, Reg Harkema, Lynne Stopkewich, Don McKellar, Astron-6 and virtually any other Canadian filmmaker who went on to blow the world away with their unique, indigenous cinematic visions of a world that could only have been borne upon celluloid from a country as insanely staid and repressed as Canada.
Borrowing from all his favourite childhood films - sleazy, garish crime pictures, technicolor science fiction and horror epics, weird-ass training/educational films, Roger Corman, Terence Fisher, Kenneth Anger, the Kuchar Brothers, Elia Kazan, Orson Welles, Walt Disney, Frank Tashlin, film noir, Douglas Sirk, John Ford (!!!) and yes, even National Film Board of Canada documentaries - John Paizs made one of the most sought after, coveted and beloved cult movies of the past thirty years.
Taking on the lead role of Steven Penny, Paizs created a character who is hell-bent upon writing the greatest "colour crime movie" of all time. He boards in the attic above a garage owned by a family of psychotically normal Winnipeg suburbanites whose little girl Kim (Eva Kovacs) befriends the reclusive young man. Every morning, she rifles through the garbage where Penny has disposed of his writings and as she reads them, we get to see the gloriously lurid snippets of celluloid from the fevered brain of this young writer. These sequences are scored with gusto, dappled with colours bordering on the fluorescent and narrated with searing Walter Winchell-like stabs of verbal blade thrusts. Via Kim's gentle, non-colour-crime-movie narration, Steven is innocently described by her like all those serial killers who people say after their capture, "Gee whiz, he was a really nice guy."
Indeed, Steven Penny inhabits Kim's words like a glove:
|THE TOP!!!! FEW MEN REACH IT!!! WILL YOU?|
As the film progresses, we see more and more of the film Steven is trying to write, but his creative blockages become dire. He even locks himself up for weeks, his room becoming so foul and fetid that rats are even scurrying upon his immobile depression-infused carcass. Kim must take the bull by the horns and indeed finds salvation in the back of a magazine ad in "Colour Crime Quarterly". It seems that one Dr. Jolly (Neil Lawrie), a script doctor, exists in Sails, Kansas.
He, Kim insists, is what Steven needs. Dr. Jolly himself provides comfort to burgeoning young screenwriters that what they really need are the one important thing he can provide:
Unbeknownst to anyone, Dr. Jolly is a serial killer who lures young screenwriters into his den of depravity to sodomize and murder them. Dr. Jolly's goal is to truly show young men the meaning of the word:
As a filmmaker, Paizs leads us on an even more insane journey than we've been on and the final twenty minutes of the film delivers one of the most brilliant, hallucinogenic and piss-your-pants funny extended montages you'll ever experience. John Paizs then teaches us the meaning of the word:
Twists indeed, You'll see nothing like them in any film. Crime Wave is one of the most dazzlingly original films ever made. If you haven't seen it, you must. If you have seen it, see the picture again.
And again, and again and yet, again.
That's why they call them cult films.
THE FILM CORNER RATING:
Crime Wave, not to be confused with the Coen Brothers/Sam Raimi debacle with the same title from the same year has been lovingly restored in a 2K digital transfer courtesy of Steve Gravestock and the Toronto International Film Festival.
You can see it at Tiff 2014, For tickets, date and time, visit the TIFF website cy clicking HERE.
Hopefully, if a proper home entertainment deluxe Blu-Ray is ever made, the "original" 1985 Crime Wave will be included on it. I love that version for very different reasons. It's perverse, extremely DARK and most delightfully of all, it features backwoods inbreds bearing the names "Ol' Mum" and "Ethan". The original version also has a much better shot of the young, hogtied screenwriter in Dr. Jolly's motel room. The scene is meant to be a taste of what's in store for Steven Penny when he meets up with the sodomy-loving script doctor. The actor in the original version, Jon Coutts, one of Paizs's best friends and part of the production team, has such a beautiful, pert ass and baby-flesh skin that many people thought Jolly had a very young, teenage boy hogtied and ready for Hershey-pronging. Mostly, it was the idiot distributor who screwed Paizs over who objected the most strenuously. The "new" version, alas, replaces the sweet, silky, lithe young NAKED body of Mr. Coutts with only his bare back and a pair of jeans. I know what I preferred. You?
Finally, SHAME on the TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL for not doing a major profile in conjunction with this special TIFF initiative. If only to honour the late Jay Scott, this could have been an amazing opportunity for it to provide the kind of content any important newspaper of record would be pleased to report on.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I produced John Paizs's early short films. I also appear in Crime Wave as a Dog Breeder with the great line of dialogue: "I come a hundred miles to breed this here bitch!" as I mistakenly point to my wife instead of the dog. Enjoy!
C. Roscoe Handford & Greg Klymkiw
CRIME WAVE by John Paizs & THE EDITOR by Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy make perfect TIFF bedfellows!
Crime Wave by John Paizs & The Editor by AdamBrooks/MatthewKennedy is the IDEAL Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2014) Double Bill. Too bad nobody thought of scheduling them back-to-back in the same venue. No matter. See Crime Wave on Friday, Sept. 12 @ 9pm in TIFF Bell Lightbox #4, then see The Editor on Saturday, Sept. 13 @ 6:15pm in Scotiabank #4 and PRETEND you watched them back to back. Read my review of Crime Wave HERE and my review of The Editor HERE and go see BOTH great films from God, the Father of Prairie Post-Modernism and His only begotten Sons.
Thursday, 11 September 2014
|A babe and bloddletting. Not much else.|
Dir. Jaume Balagueró
Starring: Manuela Velasco
Review By Greg Klymkiw
The terrific Spanish horror franchise [REC] has proven to be a consistently entertaining regular dose of zombie-infection madness since the first instalment burst upon the scene in 2007. The simple premise had babe-o-licious reporter Manuela Velasco and her crew following a rescue team into a decrepit Barcelona apartment complex where they're beleaguered by crazed zombies. The found footage conceit made perfect sense and worked beautifully. Though the second instalment was decent, it felt like more of the same until the terrific third feature in the series which transposed us to a yummy blood spattered wedding that cleverly utilized wedding video footage. Alas, [REC]4 is the supposed final chapter, but it's a pale shade of what preceded it.
This time round we find ourselves stuck on a research ship with a whack of scientists conducting gruesome experiments to find an antidote for the infection. Onboard is Velasco, plucky and kick-ass as per usual, plus we get a few laughs out of the Dementia-afflicted matriarch from the [REC]3 wedding. Our heroine, it seems, is carrying the gloopy-gloppy slithering parasite which is the infection's host. Complications predictably set in and the antidote is far from ready to go. Needless to say, the infection begins to afflict crew members and in no time we've got an all-out zombie-fest aboard ship. There's also the threat of a ticking time-bomb in the form of the ship's possible destruction in case the experiments go completely out to lunch.
It's a fair enough premise for this sort of thing, but the movie feels worn and tired-out. There's plenty of gore, but the scares and tension never adequately materialize since the movie is afflicted with a been-there-done-that "quality". Worse yet, the found footage approach has been pretty much jettisoned, but for some reason, the whole movie is shot in the annoying and unjustifiable shaky-cam-herky-jerky ADHD-afflicted editing for absolutely no reason. The style feels sloppy and not-well-thought-out, resulting in plenty of yawn-inspiring moments.
Those looking for gruesome violence will not be disappointed, but anyone seeking genuine thrills and chills will feel they're simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The movie bombards us with so much sound and fury that it finally adds up to much ado about nothing, save for bloodletting and not much more. The only positive note is the wonderful Velasco who is, as always, gorgeous and certainly worth eyeballing for ninety minutes.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** Two-Stars
[REC]4 is unspooling at TIFF 2014 in the Midnight Madness series. Visit the TIFF website HERE.
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
|A whole lotta spiffy-dressing|
Frenchmen in spiffy cars,
living in spiffy digs
and being spiffy,
adds up to a whole lotta nothing.
Dir. Cédric Jimenez
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Céline Sallette, Benoît Magimel
Review By Greg Klymkiw
In 1971 director William Friedkin knocked the world on its ass with The French Connection, a film that even now has few equals in the genre of crime and cop thrillers. Based on the real-life adventures of New York detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso, Friedkin brought the hard-hitting grittiness of a documentarian and the sheer kinetic virtuosity of a razzle-dazzle showman to detail one of the biggest drug busts in American history for the silver screen. One would think, based on Friedkin's great film and the solid, but unexceptional John Frankenheimer sequel French Connection II, that on the other side of the pond in Marseilles, our Gallic law-enformement officials were doing little more than eating cheese and drinking fine wine. Well, it's over forty years later and a new motion picture has come along to prove that there were indeed law enforcement officials on the French side who did a little something to break the case.
The Connection (known in France as La French) might as well be about eating cheese and drinking wine. At 135 plodding minutes, this is one of the most dull crime pictures made in, well, let's say over forty years. Focusing upon the spiffy, snappy dresser of a prosecuting magistrate (Jean Dujardin) and his attempts to nail an untouchable drug kingpin (Gilles Lellouche), director Cédric Jimenez mounts a slick, but empty cat and mouse affair that places most of its emphasis upon back room dealings and occasional forays into the drug trade underbelly. Jimenez tosses a whole lot of herby-jerky handheld camera work and occasionally quick cutting to let us know we're not watching a movie about well-dressed Frenchmen eating cheese, but it's all for nought. The Connection is an endlessly talky, convoluted and predictable low-key policier that only proves one thing - Americans did it first and better and if anything interesting or exceptional happened in this case on the French side, other than the ingestion of curds and grape, this is not the movie to prove it. If anything it puts a blight on an otherwise noble tradition of French crime pictures by being so boring.
THE FILM CORNER rating: * One-Star
The Connection is a Seville/eOne/Drafthouse release playing the Gala slot at TIFF 2014. Visit the TIFF website HERE for further info.
Tuesday, 9 September 2014
Dir. Martti Helde
Starring: Laura Peterson, Mirt Preegel, Tarmo Song, Ingrid Isotamm, Einar Hillep
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Those who are not familiar with the refrain "a terrible beauty is born" in William Butler Yeats's immortal poem "Easter, 1916" are best advised to seek it out and hold it dear. Those who are familiar with it need, in these dangerous times, to rediscover it and also hold it dear. Those who see Martti Helde's haunting film In the Crosswind will experience a heartbreakingly evocative piece of cinematic poetry that not only has the potential to bring Yeats's poem to mind, but in and of itself, is a film of uncompromising hope, sadness and horror. It is indeed a clarion call that we must also hold dear.
In 1941, the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were besieged by Russians intent upon ethnic cleansing. Thousands upon thousands of innocent people were rounded up and shipped to Siberian concentration camps. Given that Russia (the "Soviets") had annexed these states by force a year earlier, their goal was to remove all anti-Soviet "elements" from these countries. Russia's experience and intent has never known restraint in such matters. Only a decade earlier they butchered ten million Ukrainians during the mass genocide of ethnic cleansing known as the Holodomor. Given the smaller numbers of Balkan "agitators" than in countries like Ukraine, the Russians chose mass deportation, incarceration and forced labour - a much better deal for Russia than going to the trouble of mass murder.
As Helde's stunning film proves, though, Russia orchestrated a different form of genocide here - one that was both cultural (targeting many intellectuals and artists) and cruel in that it imposed a mass-living-death upon these people. Using the actual diary of one survivor of this outrage, Helde tells the story of Erna (Laura Peterson) who is separated from her husband and forced to live in foul, unsanitary and exploitative conditions with her daughter. Using the moving words from the diary, we experience happier times, inner thoughts and poetic ruminations of our lead character. Conversely, the film, via the same diary entries, recounts the horrendous rounding up and separation of families, the crowded boxcars, the sickness, the starvation and the exploitation/coercion/rape of women ("fuck me and you'll get bread for your child"). These entries are so rich and beautifully written that we get a strong sense of what has precisely been removed from these countries by the dictators intent upon Russifying those are left as well as parachuting in Russian immigrants to take the places of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
Visually, Helde makes the extremely brave decision to render everything in sumptuously photographed images with delicate lighting, astounding compositions, fluid camera moves and bathing it all in black and white - sometimes high contrast, but more often than not, allowing for shades of grey, white and lovely, almost fine-grain detail in the blacks. Making suffering "beautiful" is the ultimate ironic choice, but it goes much further than that - the visual beauty allows us to experience the indomitability of the human spirit and is finally the thing that gives the film its heart, which is in sharp contrast to that spirit decidedly lacking in the Russian oppressors.
Braver still, Helde tells his story using living pictures of the narrative events. Sometimes intimate, at other times sweeping and expansive, the principal actors and background extras are all positioned in still life renderings of the physical actions as the off-camera words and both source and background music carry the internal movements of this piece. Using tableaux to tell a story cinematically is not only indicative of sheer bravery on the part of an artist, but it also serves to capture the participants. There's a notion amongst many cultures that photographs have the power to steal one's soul and metaphorically, the power of this notion is not lost on us as we watch the film about a whole generation that was captured by Russians in order to break their spirit.
The other important element of the film's visually gorgeous qualities brings us back to the poem by W.B. Yeats who wrote about the dichotomy of Irishmen slain by their British oppressors and how this tragedy was indeed the clarion call needed to keep the struggles going at any and all costs. In this sense, Helde's film is indeed reflective of the terrible beauty of the images he has captured.
Furthermore, this film is - as a film - a similar clarion call. One only needs to look at the 20th Century history of Ukraine in relation to its recent history. Russia is under the thumb of a dictator as foul as any of its Czars and the butcher Josef Stalin. Vladimir Putin is determined to restore Russia to its former glory. This time, though, there will be no pretense of a "Soviet" state. His goal is to create a "NovoRussia". Putin is starting with Ukraine, but if it's not stopped, it will not end with Ukraine. Many of the Eastern European countries, including the Baltics, are populated with huge numbers of ethnic Russians. Putin has declared that ALL Russians, no matter what country they live in are Russia's responsibility.
Watching Helde's terrific film, we're not only reminded of Russia's past assaults, but forced to acknowledge the reality that it can happen again.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
In the Crosswind is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival 2014 in the Contemporary World Cinema programme. For tickets, times, dates and venues, be sure to visit the TIFF website HERE.
Monday, 8 September 2014
|THE EDITOR - Udo Kier, lovemaking, and a virgin bending over in the|
triumphant new Astron-6 production that presents
more than a few things you don't see everyday!
|Great giallo must have babes screaming.|
Dir. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy
Starring: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Paz de le Huerta, Udo Kier, Laurence R. Harvey, Tristan Risk, Samantha Hill, Conor Sweeney, Brent Neale, Kevin Anderson, Mackenzie Murdock, John Paizs
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Okay, ladies and gents, strap-on your biggest vibrating butt-plugs and get ready to plop your ass cheeks upon your theatre seat and glue your eyeballs upon The Editor, the newest and most triumphant Astron-6 production to date and easily the greatest thrill ride since Italy spewed out the likes of Tenebre, Inferno, Opera, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Beyond, Strip Nude For Your Killer, Don't Torture a Duckling, Hitch-Hike, Shock, Blood and Black Lace, Twitch of the Death Nerve, Kill Baby Kill and, of course, Hatchet for the Honeymoon. You will relive, beyond your wildest dreams, those films which scorched silver screens the world over during those lazy, hazy, summer days of Giallo. But, be prepared! The Editor is no mere copycat, homage and/or parody - well, it is all three, but more than that, directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy have done the impossible by creating a film that holds its own with the greatest gialli of all time. It's laugh-out-loud funny, grotesquely gory and viciously violent. Though it draws inspiration from Argento, Fulci, Bava, et al, the movie is so dazzlingly original that you'll be weeping buckets of joy because finally, someone has managed to mix-master all the giallo elements, but in so doing has served up a delicious platter of post-modern pasta du cinema that both harkens back to simpler, bloodier and nastier times whilst also creating a piece actually made in this day and age.
What, for example, can anyone say about a film that features the following dialogue:
BLONDE STUD: So where were you on the night of the murder?
BLONDE BABE: I was at home washing my hair and shaving my pussy.
|A TRUE Giallo Hero MUST sport a stylish|
FRANCO NERO moustache!!!!!
To the uninitiated, Giallo is the Italian word for "yellow". Its cultural significance is derived from pulp novels published in Italy with trademark yellow paperback covers. Giallo films are the cinematic expression of this literary tradition. The stories usually involve a psychopath (often wearing black gloves and other costume-like elements to hide his, and sometimes her, identity) who stalks and murders babes. All other kills are strictly of the opportunistic variety and usually include anyone who gets in the way (expected or not) of the killer's motives/quarry.
The movies are splashed with globs of garish colour, replete with cool jarring camera moves like quick pans, swish pans, zany zooms and a delightful abundance of shock cuts. The narrative ingredients will almost always include a hero whom everyone thinks is guilty, a few red herring suspects, disloyal and/or uppity wives, sweet young things to tempt cuckolded hubbies and detectives who are almost always on the wrong trail (some are decent-enough dicks), others well-meaning and others yet, are boneheads rivalling the Order of Clouseau. Studs and babes are de rigueur. Nudity and sex are almost always the norm. This is a world we ALL want to live in. (If "we" don't, "we" are dullards.)
Into this time-honoured tradition comes The Editor. Its deceptively simple plot involves Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks, with the greatest Franco Nero moustache since Franco Nero). A once-prominent film editor who accidentally chopped four of his fingers off and now sports four hooks in their stead, covered by a stylish flesh-coloured, finger-shaped slipcover-like glove. His handicap, more often than not, forces him to edit with one hand.
Working for a sleazy producer, our title hero eventually becomes the prime suspect in a series of brutal murders perpetrated one-by-one against the members of the film's cast. The salient detail is that all the victims have had four of their fingers chopped off. If any of them had actually survived, they, like Rey, would suffer the indignity of being referred to as "the cripple".
To complicate matters, Rey has fallen head over heels for his beautiful, young assistant editor, but he tries to resist seducing her, even though at one point she demands, "Make me a woman." Rey, however, points out their age difference: "You are just a little girl. Play with the boys your own age."
Besides, he's locked into an unhappy marriage with a sexy, but spiteful has-been actress (Paz de le Huerta) - a harping shrew who openly cuckolds Rey. At one point, she admits to having eyes for one of the lead actors in the film Rey is editing. Our hero snidely quips, "What would you do if he died?" Wifey is outraged by his mind games and responds: "I would cry. I would cry. I would cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry, cry," and then adds, ""I would cry. I would. I would never, ever stop crying, you stupid cripple!"
Detective Peter Porfiry (Matthew Kennedy, also sporting a Nero 'stache), is hell-bent on finding the killer and upon first laying eyes on Rey, he suspiciously asks, "Who's he?" The sleazy producer makes a most gracious introduction: "That's the cripple, the editor." Porfiry, a lusty swordsman with a penchant for slapping his eager women on the face when they talk back, dogs poor Rey at every step. This is not the ideal situation for our hero since he has to keep editing around all the actors who keep getting murdered. Still, he handles the stress as well as could be expected and when he inadvertently lets an amusing comment slip out, the Producer happily announces: "Good one, Ray. I knew it would be fun having a cripple around."
As bodies pile up, Porfiry slaps together a brilliant undercover idea and manages to get his junior detective (Brent Neale) onto the film as the editor. Hapless Rey is being replaced by an Italian version of Jethro Beaudine. The producer tries to let Rey go graciously. "Honestly Ray," he says, "I thought it would be fun to have a cripple around, but I was dead wrong."
The Editor has all the makings of a horror classic. The writing is always sharp and delightfully mordant, the cinematography is first-rate - capturing all the near-fluorescent colours of gialli, the special effects are outstanding (and wonderfully over-the-top), and the musical score is a marvel of aurally rapturous 70s/80s-styled sleaze. Though the film appears to have a bigger budget than previous Astron-6 titles like Manborg and Father's Day, it's lost none of those pictures' independent spirit.
|FUCHMAN, (from "Father's Day"), right, is up to his old shenanigans, left.|
Hell, we even get teased with a cameo by Mackenzie Murdock in the role of Fuchman ("ch" naturally pronounced like "k") the Daddy-Sodomizing serial killer of Father's Day. And speaking of actors, the cast of The Editor is to-die-for. Brooks is a terrific schlubby hero, Kennedy is suitably, sexily smarmy, the gorgeous Tristan Risk is a Giallo scream-queen incarnate, Brent Neale is galumphingly hilarious as the junior cop, Conor Sweeney (as per usual) dazzles us with his stunning pretty boy looks and utterly astounding ability to play a terrible actor and among many other astonishing thespians delivering spot-on work, the movie features Udo Kier, the greatest actor of all time, as a demented psychiatrist.
|Giallo fans will recognize the source of these specific images in "The Editor".|
|John Paizs' CRIMEWAVE|
the FATHER of Astron-6
Among other Winnipeg practitioners of the art of paying homage to genres and being the thing itself, the crazed Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital, Archangel, Careful, My Winnipeg) is also part of this tradition.
Consider John Paizs as God the Father of Astron-6 and Guy Maddin as the collective's Uncle Jesus Christ.
|Chainsaw VS. Conor Sweeney, Axe VS. Tristan Risk|
Who will Survive? What will be left of them?
Brooks and Kennedy via the Astron-6 collective in Winnipeg have joined the ranks of the very best filmmakers to smash through the traditional boundaries of the medium and create work of genuinely lasting value. Best of all, though, The Editor is probably the coolest film you'll see this year and one you'll want to partake of again and again and yet again. Cult classics never die. They get better and better.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars Highest Rating
The Editor is enjoying its World Premiere in the Midnight Madness series programmed by the brilliant Colin Geddes at the 2014 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2014). For tix, times, dates and venues, visit the TIFF website by clicking HERE.
HEY YOU! If you want to buy any of the following movies, click directly onto the Amazon links below and keep-a-goin' until you checkout. All sales and ad-clicks on this site assist greatly with the ongoing maintenance of The Film Corner.
|Russia's continued oppression of Ukraine batters|
the most vulnerable members of society.
Dir. Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Starring: Yana Novikova, Grigoriy Fesenko, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy, Ivan Tishko, Alexander Sidelnikov
Review By Greg Klymkiw
One of the most appalling legacies of Russian colonization/dictatorship over the country of Ukraine has, in recent years, been the sexual exploitation of women (often children and teenagers). Add all the poverty and violence coursing through the nation's soul, much of it attributable to Mother Russia's tentacles of corruption, organized crime and twisted notions of law, order and government, that it's clearly not rocket science to realize how threatening the Russian regime is, not only to Ukraine, but the rest of Eastern Europe and possibly, beyond.
Being a Ukrainian-Canadian who has spent a lot of time in Ukraine, especially in the beleaguered Eastern regions, I've witnessed first-hand the horrible corruption and exploitation. (Ask me sometime about the Russian pimps who wait outside Ukrainian orphanages for days when teenage girls are released penniless into the world, only to be coerced into rust-bucket vans and dispatched to God knows where.)
The Tribe is a homespun indigenous Ukrainian film that is a sad, shocking and undeniably harrowing dramatic reflection of Ukraine with the searingly truthful lens of a stylistic documentary treatment (at times similar to that of Austrian auteur Ulrich Seidl).
Focusing upon children, the most vulnerable victims of Russia's aforementioned oppression, this is a film that you'll simply never forget.
Set in a special boarding school, writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, paints an evocative portrait of students living within a tribal societal structure (literally as per the title) where adult supervision is minimal at best and even culpable in the desecration of youth. Living in an insular world, carved out by years of developing survival skills in this institutional environment, the kids have a long-established criminal gang culture and they engage in all manner of nefarious activities including, but not limited to thieving, black marketeering and pimping.
Slaboshpytskiy's mise-en-scène includes long, superbly composed shots and a stately, but never dull pace. This allows the film's audience to contemplate - in tandem with the narrative's forward movement - both the almost matter-of-fact horrors its young protagonists accept, live with and even excel at while also getting a profound sense of the ebbs and flows of life in this drab, dingy institutional setting. In a sense, the movie evokes life as it actually unfolds (or, at least, seems to).
The violence is often brutal and the film never shies away from explicit sexual frankness. We watch the beautiful teenage girls being pimped out at overnight truck stops, engaging in degrading acts of wham-bam without protection, perpetrated against their various orifices by truckers who shell out cash for the privilege of doing so. As well, we experience how the same girls are cum-receptacles for their fellow male students, delivering blow-jobs or intercourse when it's required.
On occasion, we witness consensual, pleasurable lovemaking, but it always seems tempered by the fact that it's the only physical and emotional contact these children, of both sexes, have ever, ow will ever experience. Even more harrowing is when we follow the literal results of this constant sexual activity and witness a necessary, protracted, pain-wracked scene wherein one young lady seeks out and receives an unsanitary and painful abortion.
While there are occasional moments of tenderness, especially in a romance that blossoms between one young boy and girl, there's virtually no sense of hope that any of these children will ever escape the cycles of abuse, aberrant behaviour and debasement that rules their lives. The performances elicited by Slaboshpytskiy are so astonishing, you're constantly in amazement over how naturalistic and reflective of life these young actors are, conveying no false notes with the kind of skill and honesty one expects from far more seasoned players.
The special circumstances these children are afflicted with also allows Slaboshpytskiy to bravely and brilliantly tell his story completely though the purest of cinematic approaches. Visuals and actions are what drive the film and ultimately prove to be far more powerful than words ever could be. Chances are very good that you'll realize what you're seeing is so wholly original that you'll ultimately sit there, mouth agape at the notion that what you're seeing on-screen is unlike anything you will have ever seen before.
Try, if you can, to see the film without seeing or reading anything about it. Your experience will be all the richer should you choose to go in and see it this way. Even if you don't adhere to this, the movie is overflowing with touches and incidents in which you'll feel you're seeing something just as original. The Tribe evokes a world of silence and suffering that is also perversely borderline romantic, a world where connections and communication are key elements to add some variation to a youth culture that is as entrenched as it is ultimately constant and, frankly, inescapable.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars, highest rating.
The Tribe is being distributed in the USA and Canada via Drafthouse Films and Films We Like. It's enjoying its North American premiere in the TIFF Discovery series at the Toronto International Film Festival 2014. For tix, times and venues, visit the TIFF website by clicking HERE.
Sunday, 7 September 2014
Dir. Andrew Lau, Andrew Loo
Screenplay: Michael Di Jiacomo
Executive Producer: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Ray Liotta, Justin Chon, Kevin Wu, Harry Shum Jr, Shuya Chang, Geoff Pierson
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Some pictures bring a solid pedigree to the table so that you're pretty much guaranteed a mega-quality product. Revenge of the Green Dragons is registered to an extremely prestigious stud book (the gold standard of registries in animal husbandry). One half of the picture's directing team is the prolific dynamo who launched the 2002 Hong Kong crime hit Infernal Affairs and its prequel and sequel, which, in turn, eventually yielded the American remake The Departed, Martin Scorsese's longtime-coming Oscar-winner as Best Director. Here, adding to the pedigree, Scorsese also serves as Executive Producer of this sprawling saga of Asian gangland warfare in New York during the 1980s. Alas, "pedigree" in the case of this new film is best linked to animal husbandry rather than anything else since Revenge of the Green Dragons is a mangy, drooling dog that's more of the mongrel rather than purebred variety.
There isn't a single original element in this ploddingly familiar tale of childhood immigrants who grow up as members of a powerful mob dynasty. Michael Di Jiacomo (whose own dubious pedigree is linked to a few obscure indie pictures) is the purported writer of the dull screenplay which trots out the usual blend of mixed loyalties, betrayals and excuses for competently-helmed sequences involving a surfeit of gunplay - none of which has much impact since the characters aren't even interesting enough to be called cardboard cutouts. The movie is full of expository narration, all meant to infuse the picture with a sense of history and epic sweep, but serving little more than to provide opportunities for posturing and over-scored, lame-duck montages of the most bargain-basement-Scorsese kind.
Ultimately, Revenge of the Green Dragons proves that no matter what the pedigree, aberrations are always a distinct possibility. This one is especially hobbled and deformed. It doesn't even have a particularly engaging spirit so it can be pitied. This one's fair game for euthanasia. And speaking of assisted suicide, the film features an especially egregious misuse of a pasty, disinterested Ray Liotta (Henry Hill from Scorsese's Goodfellas) who somnambulistically shuffles through the proceedings as an FBI agent who, on paper, is intent on breaking the mob, but in practice just looks like he needs another drink or snort.
It'd be great to see a good, kick-ass hybrid of Asian and American criminal shenanigans. This, is not it.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star
Revenge of the Green Dragons is a Special Presentation at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and distributed in Canada via VVS Films. For tix, times and venues, visit the TIFF website HERE.
Saturday, 6 September 2014
|To see Maidan is to see a great film.|
To see Maidan as a Ukrainian is to
experience a series of epiphanies.
Dir. Sergei Loznitsa
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Part of me wishes I could just respond to this great documentary as, one supposes, it should be - as a stunning, stirring work of film art that adheres to the tenets of direct cinema by simply focusing upon three key months of the revolution in Ukraine from late 2013 to early 2014. And make no mistake, Maidan, by Sergei Loznitsa is a grand achievement of the highest order. Other than occasional inter-titles describing the historical context in a simple, fact-based manner, Loznitsa allows his exquisite footage to speak for itself.
Using long takes, beautifully composed with no camera movement, the film captures key moments, both specific historical incidents and deeply, profoundly moving human elements. As such, the film evokes stirring and fundamental narrative, thematic and emotional sensations which place us directly in the eye of the storm.
The storm, ultimately, is of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovitch's doing. After all, it was he who refused to align Ukraine with the European Union and instead, as a corrupt puppet of Russia, cut a deal Ukraine did not want - to align itself with the pig Vladimir Putin and his desire to swallow Ukraine into Russia.
The film simply records the actions of thousands upon thousands of Ukrainians as they protested in revolt against Yanukovitch and Putin. In the background we hear stirring speeches, but in the foreground we see the real Ukrainian people as they set up camp in the Maidan of Kyiv, Independence Square.
It is in the Maidan that Loznitsa captures moments of peace - often those individuals who are strenuously volunteering to provide warmth, shelter and food to those protestors in need of it - as well as moments of friction and violence as we see Yanukovitch's Gestapo-like police inching ever closer towards the people. One of the most stirring moments is seeing ordinary people smashing the cobblestone in the streets to be hurled towards the heavily armed pro-Russian forces. Most sadly, we see Kyiv burn. And, then there are the shots fired and the public funerals of simple folk who have died as heroes. There is very little in this film that does not evoke tears of both joy and sorrow.
Though some might argue this approach eschews a political perspective, I'd argue strenuously that its direct cinema approach cannot help being political given the subjects and subject matter. That Loznitsa chooses three separate sequences involving groups of people ranging from huge to intimate as they sing the Ukrainian National Anthem and in each case bracketed between highly charged moments detailing the events of the revolution, there is clearly not only a political subtext, but one which feels like it's a choice the filmmaker has indeed made to accentuate the need and importance of this revolution.
The lyrics of the anthem Shche ne vmerla Ukraina have always been translated as "Ukraine Has Not Yet Died", but in recent years, slight modifications from the early 2000s to the original verse written by Pavlo Chubynsky in the 19th Century provide the somewhat more hopeful "Ukraine's Glory has not yet Perished." It is this latter version which we hear within the film and yet, to anyone who grew up singing the original lyrics, there's a sense that no, Ukraine has not yet died.
This brings me to my aforementioned desire to respond to Loznitsa's film solely on an aesthetic level, but the fact remains that it's virtually impossible for me to do so.
As a Ukrainian-Canadian raised within a strongly Ukrainian Nationalist culture, the film's qualities as cinema are accentuated in ways that go much deeper. Anytime I hear the anthem, I soar, but maybe most importantly my own feelings about Ukraine take on an added intensity when I see the events Loznitsa has chosen to capture based upon the following key personal elements:
1. Though I was born in Canada, the first time I set foot on Ukrainian soil infused me with a sense of finally "belonging" to something, some place I'd always imagined, but had not yet experienced fully. This only intensified as I spent more time in the country - including, I must add, Eastern Ukraine, where much of the current strife now exists.
2. My apartment in Kyiv was a mere half-block away from the Maidan. Seeing all the locations I'd become so intimately acquainted with and have such fond memories of (including the McDonald's with its strange cyrillic menu items pronounced as "Beeg Mek" or "Da-bl Chees-boorgoor"), forced me to experience Loznitsa's film with the added emotions of one who lived there for an extended period and had come to recognize and love something that became all too real.
Witnessing these events as captured by Loznitsa is a moving document of human solidarity in the face of corruption. Witnessing them as a Ukrainian, however, is to experience every beat, word and action as a series of epiphanies. Maidan is a film that places the revolution in the broader context of what is happening in Ukraine now, but in its simple, beautiful and staggering way, it is a film of considerable importance as it expresses how we must all choose revolution when the criminal actions of very few affect the lives of the majority.
Maidan screens at the Toronto International Film Festival in the Wavelengths series. For further information, visit the TIFF 2014 website by clicking HERE.
RED ARMY and FOXCATCHER - TIFF 2014 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Canada vs. America: The Politics and Propaganda of Sports in Gabe Polsky’s Red Army and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher - My latest "Colonial Report (on Cinema) from the Dominion of Canada" column in the super-cool UK film mag "Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema"
|The politics and propaganda in American Sports|
The politics and Propaganda in American Cinema
Dir. Gabe Polsky
Dir. Bennett Miller
Canada vs. America: The Politics and Propaganda of Sports in Gabe Polsky’s Red Army and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher
By Greg Klymkiw
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2014) report in my latest "Colonial Report (on Cinema) from the Dominion of Canada" column in the super-cool UK film mag "Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema" Here's a couple of snippets to whet your appetite:
Foxcatcher, one of the most exciting American movies of the year, very strangely employs propagandistic elements within the narrative structure provided by screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, which, in turn, the director Bennett Miller superbly jockeys in his overall mise-en-scène. Astonishingly, the filmmakers manage to have their cake and eat it too. By offering a detailed examination of propaganda within the context of American history and society, as well as a mounting an ever-subtle critical eye upon it, Miller might continue to add accolades to his mantle in addition to the Best Director nod he copped at Cannes.
Gabe Polsky’s feature length documentary Red Army is as much about the propaganda machine (of Cold War Russia) as it is pure propaganda unto itself, by placing undue emphasis upon the rivalry between America and the Soviet Union on the blood-spattered battleground of ice hockey competition. Polsky has fashioned a downright spellbinding history of the Red Army hockey team, which eventually became a near-juggernaut of Soviet skill and superiority in the world. In spite of this, many Canadians will call the film a total crock-and-bull story. While a Maple Leaf perspective might provide an eye more sensitive to Miller’s exploration of the propagandistic gymnastics of American blue blood powerbrokers, there is bound to be more than just a little crying foul over Polsky’s film.
Read the FULL article by clicking HERE
Red Army and Foxcatcher are Mongrel Media releases.
|Guidance Counsellors are NOT cool.|
This one most definitely IS.
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 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. David Gold becomes the new Guidance Counsellor of Grusin High.
Think of a considerably thinner, more handsome, spiffily-attired and decidedly light-in-the-loafers Jack Black from School of Rock and it all adds up to one of the funniest, sweetest and wonkily outrageous low budget indie comedies you'll have seen in quite some time. David, however, is not an immediate success in his position and it's his approaches to providing guidance to win over his charges that allows for some of the biggest laughs. David eventually becomes the most popular teacher in the school, much to the ire and jealousy of his colleagues - save perhaps for the screamingly fruity gym teacher who keeps trying to out our denial-infused hero and, of course, partake of the "virgin" meat buffet David represents.
Even bigger laughs come from David's sensitivity.
You see, he's all about sharing - sharing wisdom, sharing advice and, uh, sharing booze and drugs. In no time, he actually becomes a very cool, fun and even able role model for the problem kids in the school. However, complications (albeit of the somewhat too predictable variety) arise and his journey is not all preaches and cream.
It is, however, a winner most of the way.
Mills has got terrific screen presence, generates a whole whack of crackling dialogue, elicits a clutch of vibrant performances from his talented, youthful cast and directs with snappiness and flare. At times the film's budget affects our total enjoyment since the movie is almost egregiously light in the population department. I think, though, that most audiences, as even I did, will excuse this niggling detail and just kick back and have one hell of a good time.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars
Guidance is enjoying its World Premiere in the Discovery section of the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival. Visit the TIFF website for fix, venues, times and dates by clicking HERE.
Friday, 5 September 2014
THE CAPTIVE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Creepy Egoyan Thriller NOT @TIFF14, but in Real Movie Theatres
|The fetishization of our greatest fears|
Dir. Atom Egoyan
Script: David Fraser & Egoyan
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson, Mireille Enos, Kevin Durand, Christine Horne, Alexia Fast, Peyton Kennedy, Bruce Greenwood, Aaron Poole, Jason Blicker
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Spanning eight years in the life of Cassandra (Alexia Fast/Peyton Kennedy), a child kidnapped from her father Matthew's (Ryan Reynolds) car while he pops into a roadside bakery to bring home a treat, The Captive focuses upon both the Stockholm-Syndrome-like effects upon the girl and the devastation her disappearance wreaks upon the family and cops looking for some closure (positive or negative) to the mystery. It's subject matter that hits all the chords most of us want to eradicate from our world and as such, perfect material for the masterful Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan.
Egoyan's meticulously complex films have almost always been tinged with creepy thriller-like elements, darkly droll humour and deep humanity buried beneath layers of existential disconnect and deliberate puzzle-like manipulations of time and space. His superb 1999 adaptation of William Trevor's novel Felicia's Journey is still one of the best serial killer movies made in the last two decades. I'd even place it far above such fake "A"-picture studio exploitation items making thrills palatable to the mainstream like Silence of the Lambs and Se7en. Featuring Bob Hoskins' finest performance (ever) as Hilditch, the gastronomically-obsessed and even somewhat banal psychopath, Felicia's Journey struck me as being a kind of demented play on Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy as if that 70s classic had been pumped full of deliciously near-lethal doses of lovely lithium. It was sickeningly terrifying and oddly, deeply moving. I longed for Egoyan to make another thriller and even now wish he'd do nothing but thrillers or maybe even a flat-out horror.
The Captive is nothing if not downright shudder-inducing. Set against the overcast snow blanket of Southern Ontario's Niagara region, the film taps directly into every parent's greatest terror - the disappearance of a child without a single, solitary trace. It's a surefire starting point, but Egoyan and David Fraser's twisted, ominously fetishistic screenplay provides a solid framework for the film to go well beyond merely tapping into the fear everyone harbours. It's as much a genre picture of the highest order as it is a harrowing exploration of faith, family and the soul-sickening sense of hope that drives all those touched by the horrendous violence perpetrated against children.
The Captive's potential to anger audiences (especially, it seems, quite a few boneheaded, know-nothing film "critics") is not unlike that of Lars von Trier's AntiChrist (sans, of course, that film's genital mutilation). I feel strongly, though, that neither film seeks to intentionally raise ire, but rather, to dive into all sorts of places that most people simply don't want to go, places that are so necessary and vital to confront, grotesquely dark corners of existence to reflect upon and/or expose.
The Captive achieves this in two brilliant ways. First of all, Fraser and Egoyan set up a number of familiar narrative tropes of the thriller genre and give them a decidedly shaken, not stirred, quality. What's structurally mundane becomes extraordinarily abhorrent, creepily unnerving. Inherent in both the narrative and the aesthetic are the especially horrendous fetishistic qualities of perspective which place us as observers in the pain of the film's victims/subjects.
Visually and stylistically, Egoyan's rich compositions, supported by cinematographer Paul Sarossy's delicate shadings and painterly dappling of light capture the very essence of white-grey exteriors and the (mostly) clinical interiors. When the visual palette includes warmth, it comes in the unlikeliest of places like the psychopath's lair, the victim's prison, Nicole the cop's (Rosario Dawson) office and, of course, the roadside bakery which is where the horror really begins.
There's so much I admire about this movie. Ryan Reynolds continues to prove he's one of the great living actors and here he taps emotional depths he's yet to uncover - his despair is so palpable we can't help but walk in his shoes. Mychael Danna's score is a marvel - tapping both the moving power and jangling force of Bernard Herrmann. Witness the opening movements of the score - so lushly bucolic, but as the camera slowly reveals more and more snow and bush of the isolated setting, we hear ever-so slight tinges of unease. Then, of course, during moments of pulse-pounding suspense (two sequences during the film's climactic moments in particular had me rendering my fingertips to bloody, pulpy stubs), Danna slams us with everything he's got and then some.
Kevin Durand as the full-on sicko ringleader of an online community of pain-fetishists is slime-incarnate and there isn't a moment he's onscreen that we don't feel like vomiting. His performance is bravely in sharp contrast to Hoskins from Felicia's Journey where the late British bombast actually tapped into human aspects that allowed us to care for him. Durand does something even more difficult, he taps into humanity - and yes, it IS humanity - that we never hope to experience, but indeed exists. This is no Snidely Whiplash villain, but the kind of sick, venal, mind-numbingly banal and even pretentious evil that's finally more the reality of these sick freaks.
Though the film has its share of universal qualities, the manner with which Egoyan explores the dark-net subculture of predators is also rooted in truly indigenous qualities of Canadian culture. The country has long had a history of monsters infused with the vapid desires of such empty vessels as Bernardo-Homolka, Clifford Olson and, amongst many, many others, Dennis Melvin Howe. Unlike Hannibal Lecter, serial criminal psychopaths are not brilliant, they're petty, pretentious and boring.
This, for me, might be the scariest, most sickening element of The Captive. So much pain and wasted time in the lives decent people comes from the actions of a trite, haughty dullard. Thank Christ Egoyan shoves our faces in the faecal matter of this reality. Doing so manages to expose terrible truths and give us one hell of a thrilling ride.
The Captive is in theatrical release across the country via eOne.
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