Cancon canon | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Cancon canon

or "How I Spent Friday at the Festival"

I’m trying to remember when it was the last time I saw so many Canadian films. Seven films into the festival and all of them have had some homegrown element, even the new Peter Greenaway, Nightwatching, had a Canadian production tag in the credits.

And, you know what, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen.

Friday was another Canlit adaptation, Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces. Also on the embargo list, but I can tell anyone reading this on Saturday to run, don’t walk, to the Festival Box Office to buy a ticket to see this extraordinarily moving film screening this evening. I love to be surprised in the cinema, such as when a picture slips past my crusty critical defenses and insinuates itself as this did. It begins in the ‘40s, the story of Jakob, a Jewish boy who is spirited away by an archeologist from his home in Poland to Greece and eventually to Canada. As an adult he becomes a writer, but can’t let go of the ghosts of the past, his family and sister who were taken away by the Nazis. Steven Dillane plays the adult Jakob and reminded me a great deal of Colm Feore. The stunning Rosumund Pike (Fracture) is Jakob’s first wife Alex, and makes a big impression in her relatively few scenes, as does veteran character player Rade Serbedzija as the Greek archeologist Athos, and Ayalet Zurer, the Israeli actor who many will remember as Eric Bana’s pregnant wife in Munich. The film also stars Rachelle Lefevre who the handy IMDB reminded me was in an AFF Gala presentation two years ago, The River King.

Nightwatching I can’t say too much about, but that the study of Rembrandt’s painting “The Night Watch” and it’s controversial subject matter is very much a Peter Greenaway film as I know them to be. It makes sense that Greenaway, the most intellectual and painterly of filmmakers, would make a picture whose subject-matter marries so well with its storyteller’s style. Form and content, baby, form and content.

At the Gala of Just Buried, writer-director Chaz Thorne told the sold out Oxford crowd that twenty years earlier he’d taken his first date at that cinema to see Listen To Me starring Kirk Cameron. “It was good. Very, very good,” said Thorne, though I was a little confused about whether he meant the movie or the date. The film is a ghoulish comedy about Oliver (Jay Baruchel), a young man who inherits an almost bankrupt small town Nova Scotia funeral home and, with the sexy mortician (Rose Byrne), winds up killing people to make a living. There were a few big laughs from the crowd, who I think were jazzed to see a film set in such a familiar place… the picture was partly shot in Windsor. Baruchel is an Ottawa-born actor who is doing well, he was one of Seth Rogen’s pals in Knocked Up. And I predict big Hollywood success for Byrne. She actually reminds me a little of Ellen Page, if Page travelled back in time from 2014.

I saw one more picture on Friday, making it a four movie day (yes, my head almost exploded), and, finally, a movie I can talk in detail about. I just wish I wanted to. Weirdsville is from director Allan Moyle, who gave us one of my favourite Canadian films New Waterford Girl as well as Pump Up The Volume. This new one seems to be trying very hard to be the Doug Limon picture Go, which itself was indebted to the frantic Tarantino school of the mid-‘90s. It stars Scott Speedman and Wes Bentley as junkie buddies whose hooker friend (with a bit of sad inevitability in the casting, Taryn Manning) overdoses, so they try and bury her at a drive-in, but are interrupted by goofy satanists who try to kill them. There are moments lifted from Drugstore Cowboy that give the suggestion there might be something more profound going on here, but sadly, despite some cool directorial tricks (Speedman skates down the middle of the street in bare feet, floating above the wintry pavement), it all winds up feeling a bit recycled, not as dark as it wants to be and not as funny as it might have been. Bentley seems to want to be Steve Zahn here, but doesn't quite achieve that actor's adorable weirdness. Greg Bryk stars as Abel, the Satanic leader. I recognized him from Poor Boy’s Game where he was the asshole brother, and he’s also currently in Shoot Em Up. I get a kick out of seeing these quality Canadian character actors getting a lot of work.

Also great that Jenn Grant’s “Dreamer” is the song playing over the list of sponsors at the beginning of movies… there’s a song I won’t get tired of hearing twenty-plus times over the next week. I am a little disappointed at The Movie Network has recycled once again their “Dreaded Loud Talker” ad for the People’s Choice Awards. Yes, it’s very well done, but people are over-familiar with it, I think. I’d like to see a new one, where you, the moviegoer, has to put up with a new set of challenges at the cinema: “The Overpriced Concessions” or “The Increasingly Lame Adam Sandler Movies” or “No Soap In The Men’s Bathroom.” (Park Lane has new hand driers, right on.)

My Friday night ended at The Marquee, with Champion and his G-Strings. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I got was a wild dancestravaganza with mostly live instruments, building beats to massive pumping crescendos. It was lots of fun, and good to move my body after eight hours at the movies. (CK)

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