“It’s impossible to live without reason.” A series of unreal scenarios.
After talking about being afraid of the sled dogs on trips to northern Canada with his dad when he was little, cut to Willem Dafoe bartending in northern Canada with sled dogs out back – I buy this, this is the most grounded the movie is gonna get. He’s watching a guy play video slots when they’re both suddenly attacked by dogs. A pregnant woman gets naked for him in front of her grandma. He goes into the basement and is suddenly sliding down a rock cliff… has conversations with other Willems Dafoe… by the time he sleds past a scene of mass executions towards a cave that becomes a madhouse of nudes, the movie still has no coherent reality and is nearly half over. Since there’s no real cause and effect, one scene bleeds or jerks into the next – he goes from tundra to desert to greenery, he has sex with a girl who turns into his mom, he sleeps outside then a fish talks to him. It almost has the unstuck-in-time feeling of Je T’aime X2, but it’s more unstuck in different Dafoe movies. There are a lot of bare-breasted women; Ferrara still knows what’s important. Maybe it’s meant to be a fragmented story of a haunted guy with guilt over his parents’ deaths and a failed marriage seeking solace in the black arts?
The best piece I’ve found is Neil Bahadur in In Review:
The figure of Dafoe’s character Clint himself seems to be on a quest to narrativize his own life, only just barely possessing a grasp on reality by journey’s end, having montaged his life’s experiences and ideas throughout the film’s runtime instead … The terror of Siberia (possibly Ferrara’s first true horror film) is in Clint’s back to nature resolve, only to discover that the dreams of the 60s have shattered and nature is nothing if not ruthless. The true horror is determinism — the entire film is driven by an anxiety that people cannot shake their past … not just in choice but even in their own genetic code.
“The effort of everything to become language…” Audrey unpacks in a hotel to church music, reads family letters in a library research room, then explains the nature of correspondence to someone unseen at a bar – more than halfway through the movie we’ll finally see this person, Audrey’s translator, who has a different take on the letters. Aunt Anya has a different take on Audrey’s entire project, having donated the letters in the first place, apparently without permission, and saying Audrey isn’t a proper curator. After the relative stillness of the previous films, this disagreement counts as a major action scene.
Revelations in the Cinema Scope cover story: Campbell was improvising some of the stories about her grandmother to the unseen translator. Nayman frames it well, the hook being that Canadian films don’t have sequels, then building up to the evolution from Never Eat Alone through Veslemøy’s Song to this one.
Campbell: One thing that I’m really excited about is that in the next film with Audrey we’re going to give her a friend.
Bohdanowicz: She needs a friend.
Also watched her short The Hardest Working Cat in Showbiz (2020). Dan Sallitt doesn’t have as good a narrator voice as Deragh Campbell, but tells a good story, tracing the film appearances of a cat who appeared in Tourneur’s Stranger on Horseback and supposedly many other movies over decades.
One of those everyone-is-connected dramas, but with birds. Most of the birds are either fake/decorative, or an offscreen plot device (smuggled hyacinth macaw eggs) but it’s still appreciated.
Egg-smuggler Don McKellar runs a pet shop that is being audited by tormented beardo Bruce Greenwood (Meek, of the Cutoff) who is obsessed with stripper Mia Kirshner who works at the titular nightclub with her ex Elias Koteas and boss Arsinée Khanjian. Victor Garber is in here, in a wheelchair, with daughter Sarah Polley, and they both spend uncomfortable time with the beardo, knowing that he’s erratic and messed up ever since his daughter’s murder. Koteas and Kirshner had just met when they discovered her body years earlier. And the pet shop boy is seduced by an egg-thieving customs agent and blackmailed by his auditor into spying on the strip club.
Elias one-way-mirroring Bruce:
Don is intimidated by Mia:
What is wrong with Egoyan that he makes such sad movies? The revenge trip turning into a sad reconciliation was a motherfucker – it’s hard to write good people who get fucked up by misfortune and still hold onto some goodness – but for me the knife in the heart is the final two seconds, after a movie full of birds a cat walks into frame.
Victor and real bird:
Arsinée and fake bird:
Practically double-featured this with Exotica, another mid-90’s Canadian Elias Koteas sex thriller. James Spader is a commercial producer banging his camera girl, while his wife Deborah Kara Unger (great in this) gets with some guy in an aircraft hangar – 3 sexual encounters in the movie’s first 6 minutes. After Spader kills Holly Hunter’s husband in a head-on collision, she’s pretty cool about it, making out with him when he gives her a ride, leading to another crash. All this sexual/mechanical energy attracts primo perv Vaughan (Koteas). “Vaughn makes everything look like a crime, doesn’t he?”
Thank god there were enough degenerates in Canada to bring this project to life. A movie where everyone limps, and I’m struggling to think of any two characters who didn’t end up fucking each other. As in Naked Lunch, Cronenberg took scenes from another book (The Atrocity Exhibition) and used the author’s real name as a character. It won a prize at Cannes at least, and I just recently watched Crash’s cannesmate Three Lives.
Cronenberg on political correctness: “I think as soon as you allow politics of any kind into your movie, you’re doomed as an artist.”
I still want to catch up with Coyote and Buzzard, but had the chance to see this first, and like Ape, it’s about a delusional loner – and now that Relaxer is out, it looks like Potrykus is gonna make a career of cult indie films about delusional loners, not the worst idea. Or maybe the overall theme is “in Canada, you gotta make your own entertainment.”
Ty Hickson (Gimme the Loot) lives alone in the woods, is paranoid and undernourished and working through a series of occult rituals towards certain wealth. At the end it seems he’s just self-destructively off his meds.
Amari Cheatom returns as Cortez in Relaxer, hinting at a Potrykus Connected Multiverse, even though he is a zombie by the end of this movie.
A high-quality movie with well-drawn characters, but it’s also nothing we haven’t seen before, as we meet a bunch of people who will be killed one by one as we learn more about their situation and the zombies’ behavior, and wounded friends conceal their bites until they suddenly turn feral at the worst possible moment.
Lotta jump scares for a movie watched on a plane while holding a ginger ale over the keyboard, but we pulled it off. The first attack is at a racetrack, which pays off wonderfully at the end.
Things learned about Canada: everyone is an excellent rifle shot, and they have a surplus of wooden chairs.
Lydia Ogwang in Cinema Scope:
As Aubert’s characters come to terms with new iterations of life under duress, class and lifestyle conflicts in tow, the film studies the fascinating emergent networks of morality and sentimentality among them which cut through the monotony of genre … The tender, humanistic focus delineates the action from run-of-the-mill Romero rehash: even amidst its faithfully rendered gore and copious jump scares, the film is committed to behavioural realism.
High schooler Nicole Muñoz gets very emotional when her mom (Laurie Holden of Silent Hill and The Mist) moves them both an hour away into the country after the dad’s pre-movie death, so Nicole finds a book of spells and summons a demon to destroy her mom. Kinda seems like she’s doing this as a goth coping mechanism and never expected an actual demon to actually murder anyone, but in a horror movie, you get what you summon. Obviously, the mom turns out to be kinda nice, and her daughter regrets her hellraising and tries to undo the spell.
Her friends (Hellions star Chloe Rose and Degrassi veteran Eric Osborne) come visit but are no match for a demon, and I think they get scared away and not murdered, but can’t recall for sure. The author of the demon book takes her seriously and tries to help, at least. “Pyewacket can take many forms, so don’t trust your lying eyes,” she is told, but still sets one of her moms on fire after finding her other mom dead in the woods, never suspecting that she’s murdering the wrong mom.
After a pretty decent Thursday night at the festival, we plunged right into the deep end on Friday morning with this year’s True Life Fund film, a doc following two cousins who have survived terrible traumas.
I stupidly wondered when their aunt mentioned in the description was going to arrive, not realizing until late that she’s the filmmaker. “Dear diary”… confessions and backstories are staged in uniquely visual ways – one is told to a friend in a lighthouse, one in a theater to an audience, plus the centerpiece long-take of the girls speaking to each other. Ro was kidnapped, beaten and burned, and is recovering from extensive plastic surgery, and Aldana was abused by her dad – both attackers caught and imprisoned with no images of either in the film. But Katy dug up a fascinating fact – the director’s previous film appears to have focused on the abusive dad before his crimes were discovered.
A dead-looking seal on a beach who turns out to be just resting… a crocodile girl… stuttery skype call… gymnastics. The visuals sometimes remind me of LoveTrue, which we saw last year on this same screen. In the final section, the girls are invited from their homes in different parts of Argentina to a performing arts program in Montreal. It’s not clear to me if the Montreal thing is an organized program for dealing with trauma, or if that’s how the girls and their aunt are approaching it, in conjunction with their poetry and stories and crocodile-play. The girls seem smart and open with supportive families – they’re as easy to root for as last year’s family.
A treasure trove of film prints, largely of silent movies thought long-lost, were discovered buried in Dawson City, but the films weren’t any good – dramas so generic that Morrison has fun editing together scenes from them, changing the source film with every shot and showing how it still coheres. So rather than spotlight the films on their own merit, we follow the fascinating story of Dawson City, its famous former residents and unfamous locals, illustrating this history lesson with clips from the discovered films and others, and showcasing some astounding glass-plate photography from the era under discussion. And of course we’re not limited to the most well-preserved films – different kinds of decay and destruction are discussed and displayed. Dawson City was a primary Canadian gold rush town, so it’s full of sordid and enterprising stories, and he sidetracks into any exciting bit for as long as it takes. Exciting is relative, though – Bill’s into drawing things out, slowing them down to the wavelength of the great Alex Somers (Sigur Rós) score, my favorite yet in a Morrison movie. What could’ve been a one-hour informational PBS special becomes a two-hour feature, and Katy wanted things to move more quickly.