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Tierney Talk 

The Good Neighbours director on Montreal, MODRA and Baruchel's beard

After seeing it twice, I'm still beating the drum for Jacob Tierney's Good Neighbours, a chilly noir set in referendum-era Montreal. Without the what's-gonna-happen tension of the first viewing, I found the film much funnier than I did the first time, although still in a jet-black sort of way.

But enough of what I think about the movie. I spoke with its director, Jacob Tierney, prior to the Good Neighbours screening (and subsequent audience Q&A) last night, and it was enlightening to hear what his intentions were with the film. As I might've expected, there's was a gulf between those intentions and my interpretations.

Tierney gets (sort of) serious
  • Tierney gets (sort of) serious

To begin with, Tierney's said he set the film in 1995 not merely because of the referendum on Quebec sovereignty, but because that was a particularly dark time in Montreal's history.

"Montreal was not in a good place then. It was pretty run-down, it was not looking too promising," Tierney said. "That was definitely part of the atmosphere I want to capture."

It was also interesting to hear Tierney talk about text versus subtext - specifically, how the cinematic conventions of the whodunit serial killer story and the romantic love triangle are subservient to character development. The creepiness comes not so much from what happens in the plot, but from what those events tell you about the people involved in them.

"Their personalites form the plot," said Tierney of his characters. "What's more interesting than what happens is the choices they make as a result of what happens."

He had a pretty good idea of who should play those people, too, having written the film specifically for stars Emily Hampshire, Scott Speedman and Jay Baruchel. And if you're used to seeing Baruchel play a skinny, high-school aged twerp in movies like Tierney's The Trotsky...well, he's still a skinny twerp here. But he's a grown-up skinny twerp, a maturity represented visually by his healthy beard.

"That was the only non-negotiable thing. I said, 'you've got to grow a beard,'" said Tierney. "I just want something there that says, 'you're a man.'"

Tierney's film also showed at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he says he was surprised by its positive reception (he was worried that people would be expecting another Trotsky). After the massive TIFF, he said, the AFF is a nice breather.

"What's amazing about coming here is you can actually see movies and talk to people and chill out a little bit."

The AFF film Tierney most recommends is Ingrid Veninger's MODRA. "It's a lovely little movie that anyone at any age can enjoy," said Tierney.

If you want to enjoy MODRA, head to Park Lane tonight (Monday, Sept.20) for its 7:05 showing.

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