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Archive for the ‘Filmed in Canada’ Category

Autumn Reunion

30 Jun

Autumn Reunion – directed by Paolo Barzman. Drama. 40 years after The War, three survivors meet again and face facing the past. 1 hour 39 minutes Color 2007.

★★★★★

What a beautiful film for us! Told to us at once carefully and imaginatively by editor Arthur Tarnowski, photographer Luc Montpellier, and director Paolo Barzman, it is the story of the price of survival on those who survive and on all who surround those who survive. When they were children Gabriel Byrne and Susan Sarandon were interned in an extermination camp way-station outside Paris, and taken under the wing of a teenage man, now grown old into the person of Max Von Sydow. All three of them by ironic chance have survived, and now they meet again on the farm of survivor Susan Sarandon in Quebec. The farm and the lake beside it hold them in a subtle vast embrace. Sarandon is a grandmother now, and the little grandson and his father, her son, stay with her there with her husband, Christopher Plummer, the college professor she married when she was his student, years before. This gathering brings into the surface the dire effects their internment had and the cruel damage it also discovers fresh means to cause. Plummer is the pivotal character of this group, Sarandon is the focal character, for she has kept alive the damage of the camps and made her life’s work the message of that damage to the world at large, sacrificing her marriage to that task, for both her son and husband suffer from her mad devotion. Each person in turn rises like a great wave out of the calm refuge of the farm and clashes with each of the others. I like everything about this movie; I like the production design by Jean-Francois Campeau; the house is just right; I like the music by Normand Corbeil; always apt – but what I admire most is the acting of these four. When I see Bette Davis’s films after All About Eve I see that she has nothing new to show me, I see the life of her skill decline by insisting on staying the same. But here I see four actors long familiar to me who still surprise me, and in the case of Plummer, an actor I ordinarily do not like, achieve not just wit but humor. They have grown. No. They grow before our very eyes; there’s no past tense to it. It is happening right before us. In acting, mastery knows no end. These four are at ease with its great difficulties. Refresh yourself with the spectacle of their accomplishment.

 

Lilies

17 Jan

Lilies – directed by John Greyson. Drama. An old bishop is forced to relive a youth triangle between himself and two other boys. 95 minutes Color 1996

* * *

Undermined by an over-translation into English of the French play, a group of very competent actors cannot rise above the diction of the script, which causeth them to utter as no mortal before hath uttered ever. The actors play it, nevertheless, as realistic, which is smart and which makes their effort valiant if seldom effective. I also could not tell which of the three young men ended up as the bishop and which as the prisoner until the final scene, which kept me watching, I suppose, to have my curiosity satisfied, but curiosity is small feeling next to what might have been identification with the human situation before me. It starved me of it. The prisoners who perform the reenactment of the youthful betrayal play female parts as well, but this is very hard to do without camping at all, and this they succeed in doing only sporadically. But what really is at stake here is the veracity of youthful homosexual love, and the story is based on an essential lie. The two adolescents are having a mad affair in an Edwardian convent school. One of them, after bad punishment for it, decides to go straight. However, he decides he loves his young friend more. This decision, worked out on a symbolic level, does not take into account the reality of the heterosexual mating strain in him, particularly as he grabs the first passing dish, a rich heiress of great character, played with admirable complacency and a completely flat chest by a black actor, Alexander Chapman. With her the young man makes the decision that he does not love her enough to mate with her, which is to say he must be 100% gay because he does not fall deeply in love with his first straight date. So the male love affair reads as agit-prop for homosexuality, and, since it does not address the central and true issue the polemic is flimsy. What does work is the relation at the end between the bishop and the lover he has betrayed, who is now a prisoner. The director surely has been influenced by Fellini, which is not a bad thing, but extravagance cannot really shroud a corpse.

 

Shattered City:The Halifax Explosion

31 Mar

Shattered City: The Halifax Explosion — Directed by Bruce Pittman — TV Docudrama Miniseries. A shipment of high explosives converges with an out-of-line Belgian vessel in Halifax Harbor during World War I, and creates the greatest man-made explosion in the history of the world, and blows apart many local individuals’ lives. 3 hours Color 2003.

* * * *

This is a solid historical reconstruction of the events leading up to and trailing in the wake of the Halifax disaster. It’s a good piece of historical dramaturgy, based as it is on actual lives and deeds and on the memory of them by those who lived long after, such as the young Connie Collins, who lived until 2003. Arrogance at the helm brought ruin to the lives of 11,000 people that day. Many of the parts are beautifully played, particularly Ted Dykstra, the jolly pilot whose orders were remanded by the dazed captain, and by Lynn Griffin who is one bitching actress as Millicent Collins, the loving mother of all the children, who was permanently blinded, as were hundreds of others by the flash. Shauna Macdonald, a lovely actress, is perfectly cast for the intelligence and reserve which makes her successful as a visiting doctor, and the very handsome Vincent Walsh provides the necessary earnestness as the focal figure of the Royal Canadian Army Captain who takes charge.  Clara Stone plays Connie just fine. And the great Pete Postlethwaite turns up in the last part of this two part series to cause serious doubt as to whether the Captain will win his case. For, as the ship captain, the harbor master, and the pilot are all put on trial, it is worth waiting for the outcome. I found it interesting and informative and easy to take. The whole family could watch it together.

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Wilby Wonderful

29 Oct

Wilby Wonderful –– directed by Daniel McIvor –– a pickup sticks comedy of interlaced passions in a sweet Canadian town. 99 minutes color 2004

* * * * *

A wonderful picture. It’s set in a small island community and offers grand-hotel narratives of interlocking stories all resolved in one day. There is the handsome cop whose wife is the local barracuda real estate lady. There is the devious mayor who wants to develop the local lovers lane. There is the handsome housepainter in love with the recently divorced husband. There is the salty local beauty breathing hot and heavy with the cop. And there is her teenage daughter sneaking out for a canoodle with the local boy. Does all this sound sordid? It isn’t. It’s a film of true humor and rich human relations. All the acting is top-notch. The only actor I was familiar with is Sandra Oh who appeared as the two-timed girlfriend in Sideways. She is flabbergastering throughout. And everyone else is a good as she is. For me, a truly gratifying film.

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