Thursday, September 17, 2015

Film Review: Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton

There’s something about Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton that’s comparable to experiencing the high activity of a major film festival: being alone, sick, tired and broke. Guy Maddin, our tour guide on the behind-the-scenes of Paul Gross’ Hyena Road, describes the Jordan set (which is substituting for Afghanistan) as ‘gross’, that he’s not liked by film crew, and how he ends up having to be play a dead Taliban extra made to lie motionless in a background. Maddin’s self-professed ‘cinema after-life’, taking on this commissioned project just for the cash, illustrates the difference between both filmmakers: A major international location set with a crew of hundreds for Gross, to a small personal studio, mostly working with close friends and collaborators, for Maddin. This feeling of being a third-party, or at least very far, from the cinema industry and film history can be sometimes be accentuated in the high activity of so many prestigious events.

But the nearly 30 minute film by Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson is a fascinating work of experimental cinematography and thinking about the cinema. Mark Peranson, in his Cinema Scope Online review of the film, brings up the influence of Pere Portabella’s Cuadecuc, vampire on Maddin’s project, along with on Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers and A Distant Episode. The vampirizing of the Gross film, similarly to what Portabella did on Franco’s, allows the filmmakers to create some indelible images: a moving green-screen that substitutes the background for Canadian sights, black-and-white pixelated footage of soldiers running around the desert landscapes, and inverted and fluorescent colors.

Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton engages in the contemplation of filmmaking: there’s a quote from Sun Tzu on how war is the art of deception, along with the hockey player Guy Lafleur’s song Scoring which discusses how to get the perfect shot. Michael Kennedy, from Cineplex Magazine, promotes the film in a sensational manner, while in lofty voice-over the nature of sight and style of filmmaking is discussed. All different modes of thinking of cinema, which the film brings together organically.

Other influences include Sam Peckinpah (who recently benefitted from a Locarno retrospective and a book from Capricci) as the title indicates, and even F.W. Murnau whose actual head was recently stolen from his cemetery plot in Germany. But also, more explicitly, Tim Horton, the famous Canadian hockey player, who founded the famous doughnut and coffee chain. There’s something about hockey that’s extremely important to the Canadian experience and Maddin is trying to find the root to it. For him, it involves his childhood obsession of it, and his relationship to his brother and father. This meditation on his personal obsessions makes it a great companion to his earlier collection of writing, From the Atelier Tovar.

With Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, The Forbidden Room, and later the online components, Maddin and the Johnsons have won this game. They’re rock stars.

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