Monday, January 11, 2016

Some New Canadian Films

With Canada’s Top Ten currently going on, it’s a good time as any, to discuss some recent films made in the country over the last year. There’s some great films screening in this year’s selection, which includes, Guy Maddin with his silent-film revery The Forbidden Room and the making of Hyena Road, Bring me the Head of Tim Horton, both which he made with Evan and for Tim Horton, Galen Johnson. Alan Zweig’s documentary on Steve Fonyo, Hurt, is there. There’s some young Québécois directors like Anne Émond with her family epic, Les êtres chers and Philippe Lesage’s critically acclaimed Les Démons. There's also a retrospective screening of the Canadian classic, Sandy Wilson’s My American Cousin (1985), and a panel on Coming of Age in Canadian Film moderated by Jason Anderson, with, most notably, Andrew Cividino, the director of Sleeping Giant.

Of the films that I’ve seen I would highlight Stephen Dunn’s Closet Monster. It’s an interesting coming of age story, somewhere between Amy George and I Killed My Mother, of a young teenager, dealing with being queer, in the Maritimes. Connor Jessup, from Falling Skies, clearly shows his versatile acting range as the lead Oscar, an aspiring makeup artist and photographer, whose dealing with his troubled family life and emerging homosexuality. And the whole cast is great, which includes the Toronto director Sofia Banzhaf as his best friend, Aliocha Schneider as his male crush, and Isabella Rossellini as the voice of his talking pet hamster.

It’s worth also highlighting here Dunn’s partner, A.J. Bond’s own film, Stress Position, where Dunn even has a small role. It's another interesting recent film in Canadian cinema. In it two friends, Bond and Kyle (David Amito) endure torture at each other’s hands, evoking how they would react if they would have been trapped in Guantanamo Bay. The two supposed friends bring each other to tears for the purpose to reveal some hidden humanity in the other. It recalls one of those reflexive old NFB documentaries, as there's the 'torture' scenes themselves, and then a detached commentary on it while watching the footage from an observatory room. Stress Position recalls the torture room from Videodrome or in an alternative version of George Lucas’ THX 1138. Marguerite Moreau is great as the supervisor.

I’ve seen a couple of the shorts too, which I liked. Sol Friedman’s Bacon & God’s Wrath, a ninety year old Jewish woman reflects on her life and decides to test her faith by trying bacon for the first time (she likes it!). Part documentary, part stop-motion, part animation, Friedman's film is about the fundamental changes occurring to Judaism culture, while also being cinematically creative and funny. And finally Steven McCarthy’s O negative, staring McCarthy and Alyx Melone, shot by Cabot McNenly and edited by Stéphane Lafleur – what an all star cast! It’s story of two vampires murdering innocent victims for their blood is reminiscent in content to Claire Denis’ Trouble Every Day and in form to Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color. It’s study of the lengths people will go to for their partner is gripping, suspenseful, and troubling. According to a Film International interview with McCarthy by Tom Ue, there's work of turning it into a feature.

There should be more Canadian films like these!

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