Tuesday, 31 March 2015


Greg Klymkiw Interviews the legendary director
the sequel to his much-beloved Hope and Glory
at Electric Sheep Magazine. Read it by clicking HERE

Monday, 30 March 2015


Greg Klymkiw and Tony Burgess
share pulls from a jug of Peninsula shine
and discuss writing, aliens and EJECTA,
the latest screenplay from the writer of
Read on by clicking HERE

Sunday, 29 March 2015

CANADIAN FILM FEST 2015 WRAP-UP: THE FILM CORNER ACCOLADES as selected by your most Holy and Reverend Greg Klymkiw

CANADIAN FILM FEST 2015 WRAP-UP: THE FILM CORNER ACCOLADES as selected by your most Holy and Reverend Greg Klymkiw

Okay, so the festival is wrapped.

I saw all the features - some of them more than once.

I know the Awards Jury have made THEIR picks……

but here are MINE:

Best Music - Lena Dabrusin, Stewart Yu, SHOOTING THE MUSICAL
Best Cinematography - Walter Pacifico, BEN'S AT HOME
Best Editing - Mike Reisacher, BEN'S AT HOME
Best Supporting Actor - Casey Margolis, SHOOTING THE MUSICAL
Best Supporting Actress - Susan Kent, RELATIVE HAPPINESS
Best Actor - Bruce Novakowski, SHOOTING THE MUSICAL
Best Actress - Mary Krohnert, NOCTURNE
Best Screenplay - Joel Ashton McCarthy, SHOOTING THE MUSICAL
Best Director - Joel Ashton McCarthy, SHOOTING THE MUSICAL

Saturday, 28 March 2015

BEN’S AT HOME / PRETEND WE’RE KISSING - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - Two Oddball Canuckian Romantic Comedies unspooling at 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto

Two Oddball feature length comedies are on view during the final day of the 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto and those so inclined, will be served up a nice buffet of wonky yucks. TWO MOVIE REVIEWS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE - GOOD DEAL, EH?

Ben's at Home (2014)
Dir. Mars Horodyski
Starring: Dan Abramovici, Jess Embro, Schnitzel, Jim Annan, Inessa Frantowski, Craig Brown, David Reale, Rob Baker, Kimberly-Sue Murray, Emma Fleury, Ruth Goodwin, Sarah Booth

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Call it a generational thing, but I have a hard time believing and/or giving two hoots about Ben (co-writer, co-producer Dan Abramovici), a 30-year-old loser who's so broken up over his girlfriend leaving him that he decides to never leave his apartment again and only communicate with people via social media and/or deigning to interact with them when they choose to come over to his place.

At the risk of sounding like my father, which, to my horror, I seem to be doing more and more with each passing year, my initial response to this sad sack's supposed dilemma would be thus:

"So what, bud? In my day healthy young men didn't mope around. They'd either turn into stalkers and/or grab some pussy in North End Winnipeg's Green Brier Hotel Beverage Room. Plenty of fish in the sea, sonny boy. Go out and get fucked."

I reiterate, though, it's gotta be some kind of a generational thing. After all, one of my keystone pictures as a kid was The Graduate wherein Dustin Hoffman not only got to boff pretty Katherine Ross, but her mother as well (Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson). These days, though, keystone titles for kinder, gentler sissy boys might well be movies like Ben's at Home.

Luckily, the picture is snappily directed by Mars Horodyski who manages to get Abramovici to lay off on the self-pity enough that we occasionally find him engaging. As well, Horodyski and her key creative team more than make up for the picture's potential to slide into a vanity piece for its leading man. Visually, the blocking and compositions always make the most of the primarily interior single set, the cutting expertly keeps the forward movement all fresh and breezy, whilst the gorgeous lighting and camera work at times feels too good to be true, but true enough it is.

Another bonus is that the screenplay populates the film with a variety of rich supporting characters, all of whom are far more engaging and interesting than Ben himself. Given that he's such a loser, one wonders why any of them would bother having anything to do with the guy (after all, he's planning to miss his best friend's wedding - the LOSER!!!), but again, the film is so well directed that the camera eye and perspective allow for the relationships to work as well as they do and soften the reprehensibility factor infusing the title character. As well, the film is superbly cast in these supporting roles and not a single actor is anything less than thoroughly engaging, especially the massively talented David "Someone Give This Guy More Starring Roles" Reale as Ben's brother and the sassy, sexy Jess Embro as the delivery gal who falls for Ben the whiny lug.

Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention the finest performance of all, the multi-talented Schnitzel as Ben's most loyal companion and ultimately, the best bedfellow a single feller could ever want. I mean it - the BEST a fella could ever really want to share his sack with.

It's a generational thing.



Pretend We're Kissing (2014)
Dir. Matt Sadowski
Starring: Dov Tiefenbach, Tommie-Amber Pirie, Zoë Kravtiz

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Dov Tiefenbach is one of Canada's finest actors. His delightful, clipped, slightly nasal twang coupled with his ability to fit virtually any role like a comfy old hand-knit sweater (the kind with buck n' doe images emblazoned upon it), makes him a clear candidate to entertain by merely reading the nutritional contents of a Captain Crunch box. Luckily, he has more to do than that in Pretend We're Kissing. Writer-director Matt Sadowski provides Tiefenbach with a solid leading role that offers a myriad of opportunities for him to delight us.

Playing a Canuckian Toronto version of a Woody Allen-like schlemiel, Tiefenbach is a surplus-store-attired nutcase who lives with a semi-moronic agoraphobe who offers all manner of ill-conceived advice. When he meets the girl of his dreams, he's decidedly noncommittal due to the fact that he can't get the sound of his voice out of his head. His thoughts rule him with an iron fist and one of the more clever elements in Sadowski's script and Tiefenbach's terrific performance is the interplay between our leading man, his thoughts and everything/everyone around him.

He's kind of like a schlubby James Franciscus in Beneath the Planet of the Apes being mind-dorked by the sound of telepathic mutant voices in his head, only they all sound like his own voice.

Pretend We're Kissing has one major spanner in the works. The picture is fraught with hideous dollops of magic realism and whimsy, to which I personally must draw the line. One's total enjoyment of the picture is partially dependent upon just how much whimsy can be bravely stomached.

Thankfully, the movie has Tiefenbach to rescue us from anything too egregious and as such, offers up one of the best reasons to see it.


Ben's at Home and Pretend We're Kissing play Toronto's 2015 Canadian Film Fest.

Friday, 27 March 2015

QUEEN AND COUNTRY, THE WONDERS, THE RESURRECTION OF A BASTARD, ON THE TRAIL OF THE FAR FUR COUNTRY, THAT GUY DICK MILLER - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - A ridiculous number of first-run offerings yields a bumper crop of delights

5 movies
All screening this weekend
All yield first-rate entertainment!
5 Film Corner Film Reviews for the price of 1:

Queen and Country (2014)
Dir. John Boorman
Starring: Callum Turner, David Thewlis, Caleb Landry Jones, Richard E. Grant, Tamsin Egerton, Vanessa Kirby

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In 1987 John Boorman (Deliverance, Point Blank) delivered his sweet, funny and happily (as well as sadly) nostalgic Hope and Glory, the autobiographical journey of Bill Rohan, a young lad growing up in London during the Blitz and his subsequent adventures when moved out to the country for safety. One of the strangest and most delightful aspects of Boorman's picture was how it focused on a boy and his chums discovering that their bombed-out city had transformed into one big playground. Tempering this were the more sobering realities of life, love, family and yes, even the realities of war when they creep into Bill’s view beyond his mere child’s eyes.

It's now 25 years later and the 82-year-old Boorman delivers a sequel, Queen and Country. Bill (Callum Turner) is now a young man and he's been called up for two years of mandatory military service to dear old Blighty. Much to the chagrin of the regiment's commanding officer (Richard E. Grant), he forms a veritable Dynamic Duo with his cheeky, irreverent chum Percy Hapgood (Caleb Landry Jones) in which the lads wreak considerable havoc in the barracks - from basic training through to the end of their short military careers.

The lads' chief nemesis is the humourless, mean-spirited, borderline psychotic, stiff-upper-lip and decidedly by-the-book Sgt. Major Bradley (David Thewlis) who proves to be the bane of their existence. That said, the boys turn those tables quite handily and indeed become an even huger bane of Bradley's existence - pilfering the beloved regiment clock, ignoring protocol during typing lessons (YES! Typing lessons!) and eventually using "the book" to gain an upper hand over their superiors.

The humour and events are mostly of the gentle and good-natured variety - from Bill courting Ophelia (Tamsin Egerton) a beautiful ice-Queen with a dark secret, to Percy wooing Dawn (Vanessa Kirby), Bill's sexy sister during a happy leave-time in the country where the entire Rohan family joins in the thrill of unboxing a television set, madly attempting to get the roof antenna reception just right and gathering round the flickering monochrome cathode ray images which capture the coronation of the young Queen Elizabeth.

There is darkness to Boorman's tale, however, and though our characters are far away from the explosive Hope and Glory rubble of the Blitz, the very real and scary prospect of being called up for active duty in Korea looms large. As well, the horror of war slowly creeps into the character of Bradley when eventually the shenanigans perpetrated upon him reveal why his mask might not be as firmly affixed as anyone thinks.

The final third of the film is imbued with one emotional wallop after another including a court martial, harrowing trips to a veterans' hospital, military prison and finally a very sweet and deeply moving tribute to both love and cinema.

Queen and Country is a lovely, elegiac capper to the long, illustrious career of a grand, old man of the movies. That said, I desperately hope Mr. Boorman has it in him to deliver one final instalment in the early life of Bill Rohan. We've been treated to the Blitz, post-war England and now, I do think an excursion into the Swinging 60s is in order.


Queen and Country is currently in theatrical release in Canada via Search Engine Films and in the USA via BBC Worldwide America.


The Wonders (2014)
Dir. Alice Rohwacher
Starring: Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Alba Rohrwacher, Luís Huilca Logrono, Monica Belluci

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Director Alice Rohwacher displays such love for all the tiny details of traditional farm life in rural Italy that we slip into the slow delicate rhythm of each day and come to view even the most mundane actions in her second feature film The Wonders with breathtaking awe and excitement.

One thing we cannot miss, however, is the crumbling ancient farmhouse, the endless dirt and dust, often grey, cloudy skies and the filthy decrepitude of the honey extraction lab where the film's central character, young teen Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) expertly plies the trade her stern father Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck) has encumbered her with; the family is comprised of four daughters and lacking a son, she is Dad's "natural" heir to the family business of beekeeping. Our gaze is so fixed upon every meticulously rendered action involving the bees and honey that we almost want to dismiss the clear visual signs that subtly symbolize a way of life that is sadly dying.

If you ever wanted to know how honey is brought to your table, the film is so infused with a sense of neo-realist style that there's an almost direct cinema documentary approach to the scenes of beekeeping. One of the most fascinating scenes involves the retrieval of a colony of honey bees that have swarmed. It's presented, as all the farm life scenes, as directly related to both character and drama. Here we really see and understand how brilliant Gelsomina is as a beekeeper, in spite of her innate desire to break free of the shackles of rural life. Upon discovering the empty hive, she's the one who leads the way to the escaped bees with a quiet intensity. Once she expertly locates them, Rohwacher trains her lens upon an almost nail-bitingly suspenseful scene in which Gelsomina climbs up the tree to where a veritable mound of bees, thousands upon thousands of them, have affixed themselves in the shape of a traditional oval hive to a branch high up. Wolfgang is not far behind with the open, empty hive while Gelsomina kicks at the branch repeatedly and waves the startled bees towards the box her father holds upwards which, the bees hightail into for safety and security. (Now I know what to do with my own daughter the next time we have a swarming amongst our hives. I'm sure she'll be thrilled. Or, maybe not.)

In spite of the film's measured quality - actually, even because of it - the central conflict the family faces is being shut down by local health authorities for running an old-fashioned honey extraction lab which does not conform to the standards of the bureaucracy. Bringing it up to snuff will cost a small fortune and the family is dirt poor. Though they're getting a small amount of extra money when Wolfgang insists they take in a young juvenile delinquent (Luís Huilca Logrono) as a ward, it will hardly be enough. However, the lad proves to be a decent added pair of "male" hands and to Dad's chagrin, a definite romantic interest for his burgeoning young lady of a daughter (whom he insists is still a child in spite of grooming her and forcing her to work as an adult).

Gelsomina is far ahead of her father's limited curves and even has plans to save the farm. Though Dad objects, she is inspired to enter her family in "Countryside Wonders", a cheesy reality-TV show searching for the most impressive traditional rural farmers. Enchanted by the gorgeous, gaudily-attired, Fellini-like host of the show (Monica Belluci), our plucky teen protagonist goes ahead and secretly enters the family anyway.

The film is full of stunning images, though none of them are of the picture-postcard variety. Captured on real Super-16 film stock, there isn't a single frame of picture that is not tied to the drama (albeit of the muted kind). Rohwacher continually dazzles us, but there's one set-piece in her beautiful film that is as magical and moving as any that have been captured in the grand history of Italian Cinema - the reality TV-show itself and the family's participation in it; especially a haunting, moving and almost-heartbreaking performance in which the family's juvenile delinquent ward whistles a strangely mournful tune as Gelsomina, often in extreme closeup opens her mouth to allow actual bees to slowly clamber from within and to walk gently upon her beautiful face.

There aren't a lot of films out there right now which qualify for instant classic status, but The Wonders, winner of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix, most definitely does.


The Wonders is currently in theatrical release via FilmsWeLike.
The Resurrection of a Bastard (2014)
Dir. Guido van Driel
Starring: Yorick van Wageningen, Goua Robert Grovogui, Juda Goslinga, Jeroen Willems

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I've seen plenty of crime pictures in my time, probably more than most. As such, I've probably seen every conceivable act of violence concocted by filmmakers and/or reproduced from reality. I thought I'd seen everything, but until seeing graphic novelist/artist Guido van Driel's feature debut The Resurrection of a Bastard, I had never seen a criminal remove someone's eyeball through the intense suction of a vacuum cleaner's hose.

I'd say my life is now relatively complete.

This, by the way, is not the only shocking display of ugly, brutal carnage in van Driel's grim and darkly (at times, screamingly) funny existential crime picture, but the real joy in the work is found in its atmosphere of viciousness.

We follow two stories presented in slightly skewed order which eventually converge to yield a staggering conclusion. The primary tale involves Ronnie (Yorick van Wageningen), a (mostly) poker-faced strong-arm debt-collection thug for James Joyce (Jeroen Willems), a scumbag, guitar-picking drug kingpin. Much of the film involves Ronnie and his sad-sack right hand man (Juda Goslinga) as they drive about the Dutch countryside (where most of their activities take place) and the film slowly reveals the reasons behind the vicious thug's neck brace and his almost ethereal comportment.

The other tale involves Eduardo (Goua Robert Grovogui), a recent immigrant to Holland who is trying to build a new life and fulfil his dream of becoming a car mechanic like his father. Mostly, though, he's trying to forget the horror of the unspecified African nation he's fled from as a political refugee. We get a salient clue as to what this gentle man with haunted eyes left behind. When a friendly cab driver asks him about his father, Eduardo reveals that his Dad is now dead from, "Chop, chop, chop." (Given all the extreme violence in the film, this is, in fact, one of the most powerful expressions of it.)

Both men have pain and regrets. One has had a near death experience which is eerily reproduced, the other has more than likely experienced one. What we experience of the latter character are the implications of a literal (or even figurative) resurrection.

In one case we see a man whose viciousness gives way to contemplation, in the other, a gentle man whose pain explodes during a scene involving the cruel killing of a rat. Both men find each other in a place of seeming solace, but rustling with the leaves of despair.

While The Resurrection of a Bastard might occasionally veer too deeply into art-house reverie and utilize a couple of too-obvious nods to Quentin Tarantino, there is no denying the film's power and the fact that it signals the arrival of a brilliant new voice in filmmaking.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3 and-a-half Stars

The Resurrection of a Bastard is currently in theatrical and VOD release via Syndicado.

On the Trail of the Far Fur Country (2014)
Dir. Kevin Nikkel

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Canadian filmmaker Kevin Nikkel has achieved what might be considered an impossibility with his film On the Trail of the Far Fur Country. Literally following in the footsteps of groundbreaking filmmakers almost a century earlier, he presents a stirring document juxtaposing the lives of northern Aboriginal people then and now.

In 1919, Harold Wyckoff was hired by the then-mighty Hudson's Bay Company to shoot footage for a feature film to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the company's building blocks, the fur trade in northern Canada. The company had been granted one-twelfth of the world's available land to carry out their business from 1670 onwards. The land was not really "available" since it was essentially stolen from the indigenous nations living upon it, but such is the history of Canada. This rich, powerful British firm, self=proclaimed as "The Company of Adventurers" built itself on the backs of indigenous labour. The film was, in fact, meant to be a glorified advertisement for the company to inspire sales and settlement of lands the Canadian Government essentially stole to grant to a major corporation. (Again, not much has changed in Canada on that front.)

There was, however, another theft looming - aesthetic thievery of the HBC's film which, unlike the eventual thief, at least went out of its way to present title cards in the Inuit language.

The result of HBC's efforts was The Romance of the Far Fur Country, a groundbreaking motion picture which was comprised of footage Wyckoff and an assistant shot during a perilous, arduous journey years before Robert Flaherty would shoot and release Nanook of the North (often considered the first documentary of its kind, but actually pre-dated by Wyckoff's film). In fact, Wyckoff's shooting techniques were so ahead of their time that Flaherty pretty much ripped many of them off for his much more famous and somewhat spurious "document" of "Eskimos". Even though Wyckoff's film is fraught with numerous instances of ethnocentrism and stereotyping, he genuinely sought to capture life as he saw it and, unlike Flaherty he did not overtly manipulate footage to tell the story he wanted to tell, but utilized techniques of cinema that he was experimenting with to capture narratives that were unfolding naturally.

In 1920, the HBC presented Wyckoff's stunning images, captured in sub-zero conditions on nitrate film stock and early, primitive (by today's standards) cameras. The movie was released throughout Canada in major centres, often accompanied by a full orchestra. Sadly, Flaherty's film stole all the thunder a couple of years later. As the Hudson's Bay Company shifted their focus from the fur trade to a huge chain of department stores, Wyckoff's film was lost to the sands of time. Over twenty reels of original film were shoved into Britain's National Film Archives (eventually the British Film Institute) who wisely made a protection master of the film, but still kept everything buried in the vaults.

Nikkel, however, has found a fascinating way to honour both Wyckoff and the indigenous peoples who lived as they were captured on film. Following Wyckoff's trail as closely as possible, Nikkel recreates footage, shoots in the same locations and most importantly, brings footage of Wyckoff's film to screen for all the contemporary children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of those captured in the pioneering filmmaker's lens.

Watching real people who, for the first time in their lives are seeing images of their ancestors is deeply and profoundly moving, as are the comments of young contemporary Native peoples describing the exploitation, colonization and assimilation forced upon the forefathers and how the wilful theft on the part of the Canadian Government, their lies and deceit, continue to this very day.

Nikkel has made a very engaging and important work. I do wish the musical score had not felt so stereotypically spare in that way documentaries even now fall back on and though Nikkel's narration is superbly written and rendered, I do also wish the voiceovers of Wyckoff's letters and journals had been presented in a much-less hammy fashion than they are here. These are, finally, minor quibbles. Nikkel's film is a vital document which captures historical, anthropological and aesthetic details which shed light upon a period of Canada's history that is, in the overall scheme of things, so close and yet, so far away.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-half Stars

On the Trail of the Far Fur Country is currently playing in specialty venues, including the mini-festival "DOCUMENTING THE ART OF EXPLORATION VII" presented by The Arts & Letters Club of Toronto and The Explorers Club of Canada on March 28, 2015. The film is released via The Winnipeg Film Group.


That Guy Dick Miller (2014)
Dir. Elijah Drenner
Starring: Dick Miller, Roger Corman, Francis Doel, Joe Dante, John Sayles, Allan Arkush, Mary Woronov, Corey Feldman, Zach Galligan, Lainie Miller, Belinda Balaski, Gilbert Adler, Tina Hirsch, Ernest Dickerson, Jonathan Haze, Larry Karaszewski, Julie Corman, Fred Dekker, Steve Carver, David Del Valle, William Sadler, Robert Forster, Jonathan Kaplan, Jack Hill, Adam Rifkin, Fred Olen Ray, Chris Walas,

Review By Greg Klymkiw

He's been in over 200 movies.

His career has lasted over 60 years.

We all know who him.

He's "that guy".

You know, when you're watching The Terminator and Schwarzenegger visits the gun shop, who's behind the counter? "That guy." Then there's the wiseacre, know-it-all owner of the occult bookstore in The Howling who chews out the legendary "Famous Monsters of Filmland" publisher Forrest J. Ackerman for browsing, but also provides a wealth of knowledge about lycanthropy. Again, it's "That Guy". And, of course, there isn't a kid alive who doesn't know the legendary character of Murray Futterman from Gremlins, but most of them don't know his name. He's simply "that guy" whom they seen in everything.

This is a supremely entertaining and good-natured documentary portrait of a genuinely great character actor whose arrival was signalled in early and immortal roles in two classic 60s Roger Corman pictures, first as Walter Paisley, the nebbish "artist" in Bucket of Blood and the hilarious flower gourmet who brings his own salt shaker to add flavour to the petals he devours in the Little Shop of Horrors.

As the title of the doc clearly states, he's "That Guy Dick Miller".

The film is a who's who parade of the best, brightest and greatest genre filmmakers and actors, all extolling Miller's virtues, sharing great behind the scenes adventures and telling a whole whack of personal stories. And there's Miller himself - amiable, intelligent, sharp and funny - a real mensch among mensches.

He's accompanied by his longtime, still gorgeous and sexy wife Lainie Miller (you might remember her as the stripper who catches Dustin Hoffman's eye in The Graduate). She loves him to death and the feeling is clearly mutual. One of the film's highlights is seeing this absolutely perfect couple in their august years, interacting with each other as if they'd met only yesterday.

It's a fun and informative picture which not only sheds light on Dick Miller, the man, but also serves as a fascinating history of six decades of cinema. So load up on some soda pop, beer and lightly salted flowers, sit back, relax and enjoy the delightful film-clip-packed ride with one of the most important, vital forces in American Cinema.


That Guy Dick Miller is currently playing at the MLT Carlton Cinemas in Toronto via Indiecan Entertainment.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

SHOOTING THE MUSICAL - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Humanity takes centre stage! Absolute Must-See at the 2015 Edition of the Canadian Film Fest in Toronto!

Shooting the Musical (aka After Film School) (2014)
Dir. Joel Ashton McCarthy
Starring: Bruce Novakowski, Chris Walters, Rebecca Strom, Lisa Ovies, Rory W. Tucker, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Casey Margolis

Review By Greg Klymkiw

After film school, the talented young filmmaker Maximus Park managed to generate one highly revered short film after another and became the esteemed, multi-award-winning darling of the avant-garde. Having just completed the writing of his first feature-length screenplay, "Now They Are Nothing", he sits in front of his computer screen, wracked with emotion, trying desperately to hold back tears until he is able to, through pain-wracked gasps, inform us that he's just swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills. This one last Maximus Park film, a Photo Booth video selfie, allows him to declare that his script is an elaborate suicide note and that, soon, very, very, very soon, he'll be dead.

Powerful stuff! A powerful opening to a powerful motion picture - so powerful that it delivers a whole new dimension to the word "powerful". I daresay, it might even be on a par with the subject of actor Perry King's immortal line of dialogue in Richard Fleischer's Mandingo when he opines, "But Pappy, that Big Pearl, she be powerful musky."

That's pretty goddamn powerful!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, finally, a picture of importance and delicacy blesses the silver screen. In fact, I'm compelled to state unequivocally that no film in recent memory has come even close to the sensitivity displayed in Shooting The Musical, a stunning tribute to love, friendship and artistry of the highest order.

So please, I respectfully ask - nay, demand - that Yasujiro Ozu, Jean Renoir, Francois Truffaut and all the other purported humanitarians of cinema, to just up and move right the fuck over.

Writer-director-editor Joel Ashton McCarthy is indie cinema's new gunslinger in town and he's locked and loaded his picture to splooge the nutritious buckshot of human kindness and understanding, square in the puffy, oh-so-concerned faces of all movie-goers expecting taste and restraint.

Yes, your glop-greedy faces will be lovingly desecrated with the dripping goo of McCarthy's cinematic ejaculate - especially, when after the on-screen death of young Maximus Park, we're introduced to the stiff's roommate Adam Baxter, who makes a surprise visit, frantically requiring his pal to kindly lend him some weed. He speaks and acts with the kind of delicacy one expects in friendships rooted in deep respect, and upon discovering that Maximus is "passed out", Adam procures a felt pen and lovingly etches a penis, replete with a grotty ball sack and pubes on his pal's face.

Yes, we've all done this at one point or another in our lives, only we probably haven't actually desecrated (wittingly or unwittingly) the face of a recently-deceased corpse.

Adam is also a filmmaker, though less celebrated than Maximus since his post-film-school desires are in the realm of making commercial films which, he suspects he'll probably never get a chance to make since he lives in Canada where more emphasis is placed upon indigenous art film purveyors and where many of the officially government financed non-art-films merely purport to be commercial, but are, more often than not, pathetic, pallid and revoltingly twee versions of what Canadian financing bureaucrats think is commercial. However, being a hustler, liar and opportunist, several key attributes for any filmmaker to have, he hides the contents of the suicide video, rewrites his old pal's script, rallies together a cast, crew and financing based upon exploiting the memory of his deceased roomie, then proceeds to make his own version of the Maximus Park screenplay.

He bravely, callously and delightfully sets out to make a musical about a high school massacre that makes Columbine and all other bloody mass killings in educational institutions look like by-law infractions of the parking ticket order.

Shooting The Musical (formerly known as After Film School) is one of the most outrageous, offensive and laugh-out-loud comedies ever made. Framed within a mockumentary approach (which happily adheres to the genre), McCarthy's picture is a triumph of the kind of fresh, skewed and utterly insane filmmaking that the best Canadian films are known for in the international arena.

The film is never played as a spoof and/or sketch comedy, but successfully adheres to its genuinely satirical and darkly comedic roots. The performances are pitched perfectly with the talented assemblage of bright young actors playing a variety of roles perfectly straight. Leading man Bruce Novakowski as the charmingly sleazy director Adam is a revelation and then some. The camera loves him, he's got an impeccable sense of comic timing and delivery and most of all, he embodies his scumbag character with all the qualities that allow us to root for his otherwise reprehensible behaviour throughout.

The movie is so full of surprises (including a magnificent shocker of a supporting cameo role) that I'm loathe to ruin it for an audience by regurgitating them here. Suffice to say, that Shooting The Musical has its share of familiar and not-so familiar targets of what life is genuinely like for the myriad of unemployed/unemployable graduates of film schools the world over. If the movie has anything in it that irked me at all, it's an opening title card which attaches a quotation from Mark Twain that reads: "The secret source of humour is not joy but sorrow. There is no humour in Heaven."


This title card is so completely unnecessary that it feels like a cop-out excuse to give audiences permission to laugh. That might not have been the intent, but that's how it comes off. (As well, the production company logos are so funny and offensive, that they too come across in a similar fashion to the Twain quote.) If there's any justice in the world, the filmmakers will relegate the Twain quote and the two production company logos to the end of the film, so an audience can laugh as heartily as their mouths are agape at some of the picture's more delectably offensive elements are.

Yes, this is a genuinely abhorrent, repugnant, reprehensibly repulsive shock-mock-doc that's as surprisingly (occasionally) sweet as it is nauseatingly, screamingly, shockingly, knee-slappingly and hysterically laugh-filled. And guess what, the biggest non-surprise of all is that the picture is happily bereft of the most grotesque credits of all: "Produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada".

The Film Corner Rating: **** 4 Stars

Shooting The Musical screens at the 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

NOCTURNE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Creepy Canuck Thriller needs agood, clean shave.

Nocturne (2014)
Dir. Saul Pincus
Starring: Mary Krohnert, Knickoy Robinson, Laytrell McMullen, Andrew Church, Celine LePage, Ian Downie, Marcia Bennett

Review By Greg Klymkiw

When we first meet Cindy (Mary Kronhert), we think she's an inmate in an asylum. Several extreme closeups revealing a pencil etching bizarre doodles, papers and file folders tumbling from a desk, a cardboard cup of coffee tipped over with its contents cascading through the drinking hole in the plastic lid, more sounds of pencil scratchings, no doodles now, just numbers entered tentatively upon a ledger, beautiful, but oddly cloudy green eyes, at first lit, as if in a dream, by what appears to be candlelight, then another ECU of the same eyes at a different time and place, awash with the same fluorescent glow prior to the dream shot, pensive looks, no movement save for the eyes, this way and that, then finally an over the shoulder POV through a window and revealing sterile industrial carpeting, office furniture, yellow sticky notes.

No, we're not in an asylum, but we (as well as Cindy) might as well be. Even though no windows appear in the space to reveal the time of day, we feel like it's deep night. If anything, it appears we're in an office devoted to data entry and no other humans, save for that of young, handsome Armin (Knickoy Roninson) at a desk, as if in a trance.

They're both in a trance-like state. Cindy is an insomniac. Armen is a somnambulist. As Robert Wiene proved in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, his horrific masterpiece of German Expressionism, somnambulism is super-creepy. If you happen to see a sleepwalker, though, it's impossible to keep your eyes off of them. This is exactly what happens to Cindy. She follows Armen out into the deep night of Toronto, a Toronto that has only looked as malevolent through the eyes of a very few - David Cronenberg, Bruno Lazaro Pacheco, Atom Egoyan and now, it seems, through the eyes of Nocturne's director, editor, producer and co-writer Saul Pincus.

For its first 45-50 minutes, Nocturne is positively spellbinding and you can't take your eyes off the screen. Mostly, we're following Cindy as she follows the sleepwalking Armen. At one point, she takes him back to her place. She's picked up a mess of groceries. Armen seems to have a sleeping predilection for shoving food down his gullet and rather than allow him to do it outdoors and in late night variety stores, he's seated at Cindy's massive dinner table and allowed to chew, munch, slurp and drool to his heart's content.

Cindy feels comfortable enough to remove all her clothing and sit naked at the table with him, uttering gentle sweet nothings such as this eminently, brilliantly and hilarious line of dialogue:

"I like carrots too. They're my favourite."

So long as Pincus keeps us in a strange, dreamy, expressionistic and even a somewhat cerebral Land of Waking Nod, we're convinced, thanks to the masterful visuals, a few first-rate performances (the camera especially loves leading lady Kronhert and there's a knock you on your butt piece of acting from child performer Laytrell McMullen), a mega-queer soundscape, strangely perverse dialogue, occasional cuts that are so breathtaking they feel almost orgasmic, and yes, even a series of haunting animated images, then we do feel that we might be plunged into masterpiece territory.

Alas, as the narrative slowly unravels into a kind of pseudo-Hitchockian mystery, we get a sinking feeling. It's the same feeling I started to get when I first saw Cronenberg's Dead Ringers and the narrative began to place far too much emphasis upon the ingestion of drugs. My response started to be along the lines of, "Oh God, is that all this is?" I started to feel exactly the same way during Nocturne as soon as it became apparent that an elaborate corporate conspiracy and "mere" deadly blackmail scheme was at work instead of, what? Well, to borrow the tagline used upon the original release of David Lynch's Eraserhead, "a dream of dark and troubling things." As long as Nocturne keeps plunging us into a similar world of nightmare and dream logic, a world of sleeplessness and waking sleep, then and only then do we feel like we're in the rare vicinity of a true Master.

Pincus even accomplishes the rare feat of taking us into the light of day and still making us feel like we're in the dark. It's too bad that the light also reveals something far more mundane, far too mainstream and tidy. And then, that the film eventually becomes interminable, running far too long and overstaying its welcome to unspool at a length of just shy of two hours, the movie begins to fall short of its considerable potential.

It's no matter, though. Pincus displays dazzling virtuosity as a filmmaker.

By the time the movie ends, whatever misgivings one might have, it's clear that he's the real thing and that he possesses a unique and strong voice. I'm already breathlessly anticipating his followup picture.

Let's just hope he doesn't feel the need to let the plot get in the way next time.


Nocturne is playing at the 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

BARN WEDDING - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Vacuity takes centre stage in twee trifle.

Barn Wedding (2014)
Dir. Shaun Benson
Starring: Emily Coutts, Kelly McCormack, Brett Donahue, Shaun Benson, Kate Corbett, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Kaleb Alexander, Christopher Hayes, Anthony Ulc

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If the sound accidentally cuts out during a screening of Barn Dance (AKA The Non-Discreet Lack of Charm of the Bourgeousie), the only thing you might hear in the cinema is snoring. This insufferably twee little excursion into the dull, bourgeois lives of twenty-somethings feels like an actors' vanity project and/or showcase piece rather than a real movie. (That said, all the actors acquit themselves well, in spite of the film's overwhelming emptiness and their solid thespian gymnastics might manage to keep a few bums in the seats half-awake.)

The dullsville proceedings involve a group of friends who were once tight, but are now, not-so-tight during the days leading up to a wedding in a barn. Ugh! Yes, a barn wedding! (Personally, I wonder why people don't choose basement banquet halls in motor hotels anymore, but don't mind me, I'm from Winnipeg, eh.) Seriously, though. I hate barn weddings - horrendously fake and phoney wedding locales for urban hipsters with disposable scads of income and/or mommies and daddies with deep pockets. And guess what? The movie promises, in spite of the not-too convincing hurdles that arise, to deliver a barn wedding as a major set piece during the final minutes of this 83-minute movie, which, by the way, feels about 83 minutes too long.

The wedding itself has been rushed in order to take advantage of holding a summer affair in the barn, but is postponed for a relatively dull, real-life reason and, once again, is rushed to do the barn thing in spite of the fact that it will be in the middle of winter. This makes about as much sense as anything in this picture. We are, after all, dealing with sickening bourgeois values. In fact, the entire marriage appears to be an excuse to generate cool snapshots to share on Pinterest and Facebook. Ugh!

The sheer pettiness and inconsequence of these people is even more depressing since it does feel rooted in something fairly realistic in terms of the horrific vacuity which infuses the generation these characters spring from. I tend to avoid people like this in real life since I'm too often compelled to punch them in the face.

What we get for donating 83 minutes of our lives is a clutch of extremely attractive, well-dressed couples (and one single fifth wheel) as the yakety-yak-yakking that spits out of their respective maws about days gone by, the immediate present and especially, the future, drags on interminably from the city to the country settings.

Two of our characters (luckily, both babes) share a secret yearning which could upset the apple cart if it's consummated. We wait, with baited breath for the inevitable to happen and hope we at least get a lollapalooza of a sapphic tumble for the investiture of our precious time on this Earth. Unfortunately the hoped-for coupling is an underwhelming bit of wheel-spinning which matches the rest of the movie's wheel-spinning.

I'm really not sure whom this movie is for, though I suspect there might be more than a few vacuous non-entities out in audience-land who will relate to this clutch of empty vessels. If you happen to be one of them, hey, knock yourself out.

As for me, I was even more disappointed that the music during the wedding reception wasn't provided by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and instead of the horrendous trilling of the exit tune that's there now, a nice segue into:

Well now it's time to say goodbye to all these bourgeois kin,
And they would like to thank you folks fer' kindly droppin' in.
Yer' all invited back next week to this locality,
To have a heapin' helpin' of their hospitality…
Bourgeousie that is.
Set a spell, Take your shoes off.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *½ One-and-a-half Stars

Barn Wedding is playing at Toronto's 2015 Canadian Film Fest.

Monday, 23 March 2015

LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Horror Spoof not scary or funny

Late Night Double Feature (2015)
Dirs. Navin Ramaswaran, Zach Ramelan, Torin Langen
Starring: Jamie Elizabeth Sampson, Nick Smyth, Jeff Sinasac, Colin Price, Caleigh Le Grand, Sandra Da Costa, Brian Scott Carleton, Rich Piatkowski

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The noble tradition of comedy and horror omnibus films has generated a cavalcade of genuinely good and even great pictures - everything from the 1945 Ealing Studio masterpiece Dead of Night to the stylish 70s Amicus E.C. Comics adaptations which yielded the Freddie Francis-directed Tales from the Crypt and Roy Ward Baker's Asylum. These were classy portmanteaus featuring several cool short horror snappers held together by clever wraparound stories.

The 70s saw a new hybrid enter the omnibus arena - perversely dark and lovingly satiric items which attempted to recreate a typical indie TV station's broadcast day. Delivering a variety of commercial, news, gameshows and drama (usually of the exploitation variety) these portmanteaus of hilarity included the immortal John Landis laugh-fest Kentucky Fried Movie and Ken Shapiro's glorious celebration of idiot-box cheese in The Groove Tube. The humour was often played so straight that the humouous jabs came close to the thing being satirized, allowing a window to open upon the social and cultural events of the day.

Late Night Double Feature attempts to climb up a step or two further, but on its way up, it plunges to the nadir of this genre hybrid. It offers us one fateful night in a small town indie TV station which is unspooling “Dr. Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror”, aimed the insomniacs of the Kawartha Lakes inbred country surrounding Peterborough, Ontario

We get to see commercials, trailers, station IDs and host segments involving a mad scientist and a buxom babe sidekick in full nurse regalia. Just below the programming itself, we're delivered a wraparound plot involving abuse, exploitation and eventually, a mad orgy of violence.

On paper, it sounds just fine. In execution, Late Night Double Feature is a nasty, unfunny and incompetent mess which lacks anything resembling style or tone. The trailers and commercials are strictly bottom-feeding spoofs and the two features, “Dinner for Monsters” (involving a chef corralled into preparing a meal out of a dead human body) and “Slit” (an ugly bit of torture porn) are neither scary, nor funny. They do serve up plenty of violence and gore for those craving that and that alone.

The wraparound story is a cliched affair involving the female hostesses's dissatisfaction with the on-camera-and-off abuse she must put up with by the crazed host and the sleazy producer-director of the late night production. The tone of the pieces on-air seems rooted in a never-never-land which exists only for the film itself and the wraparound is obvious and bereft of any narrative interest whatsoever.

Late Night Double Feature has direct-to-VOD written all over it, though frankly, I suspect word will spread quickly amongst the geek brigades about how lame it is that the woeful film will find its way easily enough to illegal torrent downloads for less discriminating fans of gore for the sake of gore.

The movie might think its being clever, funny and fun but that's one of its biggest problems - just conjure up the most denigrating antonyms for the aforementioned words and you'll have a more than apt description for this steaming platter of viscous faecal matter that it attempts to force-feed us with.


Late Night Double Feature plays at the Canadian Film Fest 2015.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

RELATIVE HAPPINESS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Nova Scotian Lard Bucket Looks For Love

Relative Happiness (2014)
Dir. Deanne Foley
Starring: Melissa Bergland, Aaron Poole, Johnathan Sousa, Molly Dunsworth, Jennifer Kydd, Mary Lewis, Susan Kent, Joel Thomas Hynes, David Christoffel, Rob Wells

Review By Greg Klymkiw

She's 30-years-old, runs a bed and breakfast in Nowheresville, Nova Scotia, wears gaudy-chic clothes, sports a shock of straight red-dyed hair and among her other attributes, Lexie (Melissa Bergland) is a great cook. Flashing her almost insufferably perky smile, the comely lassie is what some might refer to as a pretty good catch. She's salt of the Earth, eh. She's good people, eh. She'd give ya' the shirt off 'er back, eh - well, that might not always be a blessing since her shirt, at least for most, would be a few sizes too big for even a baby hippopotamus, but still, she'd give to ye, eh.

Lexie's sisters (Molly Dunsworth, Jennifer Kydd) are mega babes and so's her Mom (Mary Lewis). One sis is married with children, the other sis is about to get married. Lexie's best friend (Susan Kent), also happens to be a babe and she's got a steady beau (Joel Thomas Hynes). Lexie is plumb without any steady bone in her life, save perhaps, for the occasional blind drunk (Rob Wells) trolling the local watering holes and campgrounds.

Worse yet, Lexie can't fit into her Maid of Honour dress and has immense pressure from Mumsy and sissies to come up with a date for her sister's round-the-corner nuptials. Life, it would seem, is pretty tough for a cute little porker in the land of fiddle playing fishermen. Luckily for her, a new guest in her B and B is a hunky photographer (Johnathan Sousa) and he seems to take as big a shine to her as she to him.

Our heroine might have a date for the wedding celebration after all. Unbeknownst to her, though, the shutterbug wayfarer isn't all he's cracked up to be and she's setting herself up for a big fall. Waiting in the wings, though, is a wonkily handsome, kind-hearted, good-humoured and charming roofer (Aaron Poole) who bemusedly catches her antics out of the corner of his eye whilst filling all manner of holes in her roof. If Lexie wasn't so blind to her houseguest's chicanery, she'd possibly be getting at least one of her holes filled by the hammer-wielding Newfie Mike Holmes.

The innocuous rom-com trappings of the film's first third eventually give way to all manner of melodramatic convolutions, some of which yield a reasonably amusing bevy of belly laughs alternating with mega-tear-squirting opportunities. How you handle this picture will be dependent upon your tolerance for regional cutesy-pie whimsy, but let it be said that both the writing, direction and first-rate performances do not let the genre down. If one's predilections are suited to such a romp, the entertainment value will be high indeed.

My 14-year-old daughter loved the movie to death and was laughing quite riotously throughout the picture, also responding emotionally to the more moving and tender aspects of the proceedings. This was enough to stop me from groaning throughout and spewing bilious invectives left, right and centre. That's something, anyway.


Relative Happiness is playing at the Canadian Film Fest 2015 in Toronto.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

THE COCKSURE LADS MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Richard Lester Shenanigans MIA

The Cocksure Lads Movie (2014)
Dir. Murray Foster
Starring: Lyndon Osbourne, Luke Marty, Edward Hillier, Adam McNab, Peter Higginson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Cocksure Lads (Lyndon Osbourne, Luke Marty, Edward Hillier, Adam McNab) are a contemporary British pop band with a decent following in Dear Old Blighty who are on the verge of launching themselves upon the North American marketplace with a tour beginning in Toronto. Accompanied by their trusty, faithful old Roadie/Driver Monty (Peter Higginson), the lads are chuffed to the gills as they set foot upon the urban hinterlands of the biggest city in the Dominion of Canada.

When an altercation erupts amongst our boys, it spells sure doom and within a few minutes of setting foot on the bland, cold streets of Toronto, they break up and go their separate ways - each one partaking of respective dalliances with a clutch of Canuck babes until the inevitable triumphant reunion on the stage of a Hog Town watering hole.

There's lots to be said for the dramatic premise of following a Brit Pop band in Canada a la Richard Lester's 1965 Beatles classic A Hard Days Night (not to mention John Boorman's delightful 1965 Dave Clark Five opus Having a Wild Weekend and the somewhat lesser blessed 1968 Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter, the Herman's Hermits' belly flop into similar territory).

Promise is one thing, execution is quite another.

Aside from a genuinely fun, funny, puckishly poppy song score by the picture's writer-director Foster and partner Mike Ford, some gorgeously shot musical numbers courtesy of ace D.P. Samy Inayeh (sprightly sliced and diced by editor Luke Sargent), a genuinely moving subplot involving the band's trusted codger-Friday Monty (and a great performance to match by Higginson), the picture pretty much takes a nosedive once the lads break up and wander about, finding romance where they least expect it, engaging in tedious soul-searching and otherwise aimlessly interacting with a variety of Canuckian denizens of T.O.

Look, this is clearly the movie Foster wanted to make, but there are far too many genuine missed opportunities here which could have spun the picture into a way more cutting edge satirical look at pop-singing Brits on the home-turf of the "colonies" - the former Dominion of Canada. I have to admit I unfairly, perhaps, kept waiting for the movie to address this in an almost self-reflective mode of fish-out-of-water-in-a-perverse-fish-in-familiar-yet-weirdly-skewed-waters.

Alas, that's a different movie, but one that might have had a lot more bite and humour than the often dreary meanderings of the plot The Cocksure Lads Movie is saddled with.

Most disappointing is the obvious chemistry between the actors playing the title characters during the opening ten minutes-or-so of the picture and then seeing that turfed by the wayside.

Ultimately, aside from the clever opening titles and musical numbers, the movie never begins to approach the anarchy and mad inspiration of the Brit-pics it's clearly modelled itself upon and we're saddled with yet another Canadian movie that fails to reach the heights of a John Paizs or Bruce McDonald, but instead feels like far too many dour slogs of the most Canadian kind - most often bearing the words "produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada".

What should have been ebullient is instead unenthusiastically dull.


The Cocksure Lads Movie is the opening night Gala of the 2015 Canadian Film Fest.

Friday, 20 March 2015

MUCK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Hot Babes in peril, in swamps, inundies. Albinos too!

Muck (2015)
Dir. Steve Wolsh
Starring: Kane Hodder, Lachlan Buchanan,
Jaclyn Swedberg, Stephanie Danielson, Lauren Francesca

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Muck is bursting at the seams with a whole whack of mega-babes running through swamps and deep woods in their underwear, admiring their lithe bodies in mirrors whilst undressing, taking showers ('natch) and being terrorized and butchered by drooling, psychotic, inbred albinos. All of this has been extremely well shot on a 4K RED Digital Cinema Camera to capture every jiggle of exposed flesh as well as the old-school-style SFX sans digital manipulations.

There is, one supposes, some merit in this.

If, however, you were in the market for a good movie, you might need to move on, unless the aforementioned salacious details might allow certain viewers to kick back and perform some of their own digital manipulations twixt their thighs as they partake in the otherwise dubious pleasures inherent in this massive tank of untreated sewage.

Here's the plot, if you can call it that.

A babe in her undies runs endlessly through the forest. Eventually she hooks up with more babes and their stupid boyfriends. One of them is badly injured. They make their way to an isolated house in the woods and break in. There is no phone, nor is there any cel coverage. Clearly some horrific stuff has happened and their pal is in mega-pain. They do what anyone would do in such a situation.

They talk endlessly.

Here, you will bear witness to the film's pathetically written dialogue, much of which is spotted with enough sexist, misogynistic and bubble-brained yammering that even I was vaguely offended. It takes a lot to inspire moral outrage within me, so if something like this is causing magma to roil up in the KlymNoggin, then most audiences are not going to be impressed.

Eventually, one of the guys decides to go to a roadside bar to use the phone. Everyone stays behind. Some of the babes fondle themselves and take nice hot showers.

Albinos encircle the house.

When rescue boy gets to the bar, he seems to forget why he's there, orders a drink and chats up some babes. The dialogue, naturally, is awful. When he finally decides to use the telephone, he doesn't call 911, he calls his moronic buddy who's a couple of hours away to come and pick him up. Eventually, buddy boy shows up (with babes, 'natch) and they all head to the isolated house.

Carnage, dreadful dialogue and flesh-jiggling continue.

None of this is remotely suspenseful nor especially entertaining. The ending is inconclusive, presumably because this is the first of a trilogy. That there will be more inept forays into the world of this execrable movie is absurd beyond all belief. In fact, this notion might prove to be more harebrained than Muck actually is.


Muck is available on Blu-Ray and DVD via Anchor Bay Entertainment (Canada)

Sunday, 15 March 2015


The cowardice of martinets are hidden behind
policy, process and/or committee decisions.

When Good Film Festivals Make Stupid
(and boy, do I mean STUPID) Decisions

Commentary By Greg Klymkiw

Spring is in the air. There are two ways I know this. First of all, my ponies are being extra rambunctious. It's a beautiful sight. Secondly, though, and perhaps most importantly (in my world), it's the beginning of a whole new season of film festivals. The fall flurry of flagship events is a distant memory, the winter blues reflecting the importance of avant-garde and/or dour social exposes has just passed and now, we're about to plunge into the best time to see movies in the dark - when it becomes warm and sunny.

Film festivals have always held a high degree of importance in the world of cinema; celebrating and positioning new motion picture product to springboard into larger arenas of adulation (or in some cases, belly-flopping into quagmires of rank forgetfulness). During the past quarter-century, however, film festivals are becoming the primary venue for the exposure of many great films that will only be seen on big screens within that context. This doesn't mean the films are bad, but that the traditional exhibition and distribution industry as a whole has become incredibly lazy, greedy and bereft of vision. (It didn't happen overnight, either. One can easily trace the decimation of theatrical exhibition from the early 80s onwards.)

In many ways, it is the film industry itself that has placed so many pictures into what might once have been perceived as the ghetto of film festival exhibition, but is now, more often than not, the most important theatrical venue for many fine films to enjoy a shared experience initially and often only in film festivals.

Film Festivals, in this respect, must not make blatantly stupid decisions with respect to inclusion of product, but most importantly, with the omission of said product.

Some might argue that to err is human. That's all well and good, but a film festival in not human and as such should not err. Then again, like any first-rate computer, a film festival can only be as good as its programmers and in recent years, this is where I'm seeing some of the most egregious, abominable and downright boneheaded decisions/inclusions/omissions.

To that, some argue that the selection of motion picture product, especially within the context of a film festival, boils down to subjectivity.

To this I say, in my best John Huston impersonation, "BALLS!"

I expect film festival programmers to be beyond subjectivity. They are there to present product which, within the context of their festival (or section of the festival), is of supreme advancement of the art of cinema. As such, they might even need to include product they aren't especially fond of. This kind of inclusion (even if I as a viewer might also not be fond of said product) is, to a certain extent understandable, if not downright acceptable.

What's not acceptable, I think, are some of the omissions. The problem is that festivals set up expectations by their very hype. They hammer home the idea that they are presenting the best work, and as such, are the infallible arbiters of what's important in cinema. Far too many scribes, industry insiders and audiences fall for this nonsense.

The worst form of film festival puffery are the announcements from grinning festival directors, programmers and (ugh!) curators, which make a point of how many films were submitted for inclusion in their festival, how much hard work went into making their final selection and how the bevy of product on offer represents the highest level of cinema excellence.

To this I say, in my best John Huston impersonation, "BALLS!"

We all know there will be shitty, godawful films in the mix. We also know there are probably films - good and even great films - that were, for whatever moronic reasons, not invited to participate. Eventually, these "rejects", if they're truly good or great, find a way into the festival world and get seen.

Speaking from personal experience, one film I produced was rejected by a major film festival for some of the most moronic reasons imaginable. The bottom line is that politics and political correctness reared their ugly heads here. The happy ending was that the film was invited into an even more prestigious film festival in Europe, won a Best Feature Film Award there, then was invited to close to 200 film festivals worldwide, won even more awards and garnered to-die-for critical notices, substantial theatrical playoff in foreign (though not domestic) territories and numerous prestigious broadcast berths.

Why did it bug me, then, that one film festival chose to reject it? Well, I knew the film had already been invited to this other European Film Festival, buoyed by the kind of words of praise from the festival director that made me realize that he/she not only loved the movie, BUT, most importantly, that they "got it!"

"Getting it" is all important in the game and what concerns me is that now, more than ever, there has been a slow erosion of standards over a 20-year-or-so period wherein more and more film festivals just DON'T "get it". Sure, there are always going to be people who don't like certain films and like others, BUT, one always assumes that these arbiters of cinematic importance know their shit. What's almost intolerable ARE those who know their shit, but for whatever boneheadedly petty reasons, refuse to acknowledge the importance of certain films (whether they like them or not).

Ah, but here's the worst thing - arbiters of cinematic importance (and excellence) who DON'T know their shit. This is happening more and more. I'll be having a conversation with one of them (and yes, they're usually younger than I am, but THAT is no excuse, really) and upon my mentioning the work of a specific filmmaker, they're looking at me with the sort of blank eyes one finds attached to a cow chewing its cud. I usually resist going apoplectic - not an easy thing for me to do, either. I am, after all, a Ukrainian with the blood of Cossacks coursing through my veins, ready to plunge my sword into anyone and anything that stands in the way of my supremacy. Resist, though, I do, in spite of how infuriating and depressing it is.

Excuses that festival types come up with that I especially hate are those in which they acknowledge the submitted film is very good, but that the competition was extremely fierce that year and that there was simply no room to accommodate a screening of said rejected title.

Too fucking bad, loser! MAKE ROOM!

In fact, there was one time where I had a film rejected by a major festival under the guise of there not being enough room, in spite of the fact that the programmer acknowledged the picture was just fine. Here, I was NOT going to accept this as an answer. I went above the head of the aforementioned arbiter of cinematic excellence and explained the situation to the Festival Director. The director in question, looked at the film, assessed the reasons for its exclusion, then decided that room HAD to be made for the picture.

This, is what I call a mensch.

Alas, there are others who will not sully themselves with such matters. They set up a military-government-corporate-style chain of command within their organization so they don't have to deal with issues which might upset their hallowed apple-cart.

These, I call cowards. They hide behind the bureaucracy they've created. They will use "policy" and "process" as their buffer of weasel-like protectionism. Sometimes, they won't even taint their process with needing to provide ANY reason at all.

To this I say, yet again, in my best John Huston impersonation, "BALLS!"

I have no use or respect for "policy" and "process" since it is the very thing that justifies cowardice.

I have no use or respect for martinets who hide behind "policy" and "process".

I especially have no respect for "policy" and "process" that hides behind committee decisions. It's been proven time and time again that good movies cannot be made by committee and frankly, the same goes for pretty much anything and everything. Committees are fraught with compromise. They're also a smokescreen for the real decision-makers to cower behind if and when the going gets really tough.

Now, I will say that I'm being especially harsh with film festivals and it's incumbent upon me now to declare that my aforementioned criticisms extend to virtually every nook and cranny of the film world. (In fact, this pretty much goes for any bureaucracy - government or corporate. They'll come up with some bullshit reason so they don't have to tell you the truth and/or risk betraying their ignorance - or worse, risk exposing that they're wrong. A bullshit excuse pretty much masks all that.)

It's sickening, really.

But here's the thing about festivals - I hold film festivals far above the standards applied by other segments of the film business. I expect them to be perched upon a pedestal, towering over studios, distributors, exhibitors, financiers, government investment/funding/production entities, industry awards and yes, even film critics (mainstream and alternative film criticism has become especially horrendous in respect to "knowing its shit"). I expect - nay, I DEMAND higher standards from festivals, especially now that they have become the manner in which alternative visions will be seen and celebrated by the world at large.

When good festivals make stupid decisions based on politics, lack of available space and NOT KNOWING THEIR SHIT, when they hide behind policy, process and committees to avoid admitting their cowardice (and/or stupidity), then I really and truly look upon this as yet another nail in the coffin of civilization.

The decline, ladies and gentlemen, is not imminent.

It's already upon us.

As Edward Albee placed, as a chant of despair during the final act of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf":

"…sad, sad, sad."

Saturday, 14 March 2015

THE MAKIOKA SISTERS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Lesser Ichikawa on Criterion Blu-Ray

The Makioka Sisters (1983)
dir. Kon Ichikawa
Starring: Keiko Kishi, Yoshiko Kasuma, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Yuko Kotegawa, Juzo Itami

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I wanted to love this movie for three reasons.

First of all, I must admit that even after having seen over 30,000 movies in my life, there are still so many more to see. Japanese director Kon Ichikawa, one of the foremost masters of his country's cinema, is - for example - a filmmaker who inexplicably fell below my radar. I knew he existed, but bad timing forced me to keep missing the handful of massive retrospectives of his work at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Cinematheque (now housed in the grand TIFF Lightbox complex in Toronto, Canada).

I had also been aware of Ichikawa's ongoing obsession with adapting the best of Japan's wealth of great literature and how this generally distinguished him amongst many of his contemporaries. Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa were particularly interested in original screenplays - good on them, but I never look a road map in the mouth, so to speak. For me, Japanese literature (save for Yukio Mishima) continues to be an unknown commodity and I have been chomping at the bit to dine at the Ichikawa Buffet (as it were) to use his movies as a barometer and/or guide to some of these great literary works. In essence, I have been preparing to use Ichikawa like the "Classics Illustrated" comics from my childhood. They always promoted the notion of "now you've read the comic, read the full length book" and for me, that used to work wonders. I mean, really! What the hell! I'm technically not a kid anymore, but even adults with a bit of book learnin' can use some help now and again.

The second reason I wanted to love The Makioka Sisters is that the first half hour is utterly spellbinding. Though we focus only on the four sisters of the title (Keiko Kishi, Yoshiko Kasuma, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Yuko Kotegawa) and one husband (Juzo Itami, eventually a noted Japanese director in his own right), Ichikawa lays out an extremely complex backstory that forces us (not distractingly) to work overtime sorting out and digesting the relationships between the characters and the cultural/historical backdrop.

Add to the above, one of the most heart achingly beautiful visual set pieces imaginable - the sisters taking a lazy stroll to enjoy the cherry blossoms - and you feel like you're diving into what might be a life-changing masterwork (save for the intrusion of one execrable element I will mention much later in this piece).

The final reason I wanted to love this movie is that it's one of those potentially great Chekhovian stories I'm a sucker for - people looking desperately to make connections with each other (or ANYONE) against a major cusp period where it's easier to remain rooted in what's dying or dead than move forward and embrace or accept the new.

It's a world where the ghosts of the past - replete with all their sins and triumphs - want to be at peace, but the living will not let them go, much to the detriment of all concerned. Within this social/cultural/historical cusp period, some will make it, most will not - and out of this shift in the divide should come both tragedy and comedy - all the stuff of great drama.

Alas, The Makioka Sisters falls short of its goals. It is not even especially GOOD drama, let alone being great.

Its story is a simple one - as most great stories are. Four sisters in pre-war (1938) Osaka live a life of relative luxury. Buoyed as they are by the inheritance left to them by their late parents, all should be well. It isn't. Tradition dictates that the sisters marry in descending order of their age in order to qualify for their share of the loot - which is, essentially to be their dowries. This is all well and good for the two eldest sisters who are already hitched, but the third eldest is a major wallflower and the youngest is clearly a modern lass with a burning desire to get on with her life.

Tradition is holding her back, And ultimately, for the family as a whole to move "forward", marriage (and by extension, tradition) is seen as the only option - hence the central goal of the story being the marrying off of daughters three and four. Romance would be nice in the equation, but clearly low on the totem pole of what's seen as necessary for the preservation of the family. The needs of the individual are less than an afterthought. In fact, they're negligible.

What keeps the movie from soaring, even though it occasionally feels like it wants to, is Ichikawa's approach to rendering the narrative. He often hangs back in medium wide shots and lets long conversations play themselves out. God knows I'm happy to watch bearded warriors in lotus positions in Kurosawa pictures as they discuss WHY they're at war and HOW they will do battle. I'm especially happy to sit for hours on end while people talk to each other in tatami-level shots in Ozu. Their pictures are replete with emotion and narrative drive - unlike The Makioka Sisters.

For several reasons, Ichikawa's approach just doesn't cut it. Some will argue that his method is restraint - that he's avoiding the obvious pitfalls and clichés inherent in goosing every dramatic beat to the max. On the other hand, it could almost be argued that he's either lazy, incompetent or hampered by exigencies of production. Almost every single time he moves from his favourite (and I'd suggest rather dull) fixed camera position, so many of the cuts feel jarring and awkward (and not intentionally) while the variation of shots often seem to be from the wrong angle. Well, given the number of stunning set pieces in the movie, he's neither lazy nor incompetent, but I do think he was wrong to tell this story the way he chose to tell it.

This is a story that, while simple on the surface, is loaded with layer upon layer of complexity and yet, one is hardly compelled to even bother peeling back those layers as the director seems so disinterested in wrenching our guts for fear, I suspect, of being melodramatic.

Well, this is a bit of a problem when the story has all the hallmarks of great melodrama and none of the required execution. Ichikawa goes out of his way to mute every major melodramatic beat to the point where a handful of scenes compel you in a certain direction, then refuse to deliver up the goods. The movie has five major emotional set pieces (you'll discover those on your own) and they're exquisitely rendered on both visual levels and from the great cast (who are often wasted by Ichikawa's overall mise-en-scene).

Sorry, Kon. This is really annoying, bud. You need to loosen up a bit.

Ozu, for example, is able to wrench out drama from the smallest details and he is NEVER afraid of emotion. Some have suggested his approach is indeed restrained in order for the emotional core to open up and be real. I disagree. Ozu, like Kurosawa, is NOT afraid of being sentimental or even melodramatic. They are storytellers - first and foremost - and will use every trick up their sleeve to wrench emotion from an audience. As well, I'm not suggesting a measured, mannered approach can't work. It can. It just doesn't work in The Makioka Sisters due, at least based on this picture to Ichikawa either unwilling or incapable of achieving the heights his colleagues aimed for or worse, his inability to properly execute his own approach.

On a surface level, the movie's concluding moments come close to creating that heart breaking devastation that's as sad as it is soaring, but by then, it's too late. Ichikawa has spent most of the movie muting all the emotion, occasionally and sloppily tossing in a dollop of it here and there, then allowing it to all hang out at the end.

Great melodrama (or even straight-up drama) needs to build to such an explosion. Ichikawa seems so obsessed with his snobby attempts at restraint that he forgot he had an audience he needed to please.

I've thus far avoided any background on exigencies of production that might have lead to Ichikawa creating this supremely flawed work (wildly praised from people who really should know better). The above were my impressions knowing nothing about the making of the film (my preferred method of seeing anything for the first time). That said, upon discovering that Ichikawa was commissioned by Japan's Toho Company to make the feature as part of its 50th year celebrations and that he was subsequently and idiotically nickelled and dimed to death, is still not reason enough to change my mind. In fact, I watched the movie a second time and my conclusions stand - it's a movie with occasional beauty, tons of potential but finally, a mess.

I suspect this was probably not the best introduction to Ichikawa's work. I'll certainly see more and I'll eventually watch this again with the context of his fuller canon behind me. Maybe I'll change my mind., though I doubt highly I will - especially in light of the following:

The most bafflingly egregious element of The Makioka Sisters is the music. In spite of the fact that the movie was made in the '80s where the style of music chosen was popular for the RIGHT movies, it is completely, utterly and overwhelmingly incomprehensible to me why a movie that DEMANDED a full orchestral score is miserably fouled with synthesized music so god-awful it might as well have been crapped out by Harold Faltermeyer.

The problem with this is that The Makioka Sisters is not about a Detroit cop in Beverly Hills. Given the score, it might as well have been.


The Makioka Sisters has been lovingly restored and presented on a nice looking, but extras-lacking Criterion Collection Blu-ray.