Allan King – A Married Couple (1969)

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Unnerving in an altogether different way, A Married Couple, from 1969, ventures into the world of adult showmanship through the conflicted relationship between Billy and Antoinette Edwards. King is given full access to their marriage, and his cameras watch as the suburban façade of happiness and understanding quickly crumbles away to reveal a tense power struggle for control within the modern middle-class household. Simple conversations become scenes of endless bickering, and assumptions about duty, responsibility, and loyalty turn into verbal daggers of resentment, clouding the colorful 1960s interiors with presumptuous hot air. King also finds the comical within the tragic, best on display when Billy walks out in a red Speedo and wool vest, a peacock flexing his feathers for a woman who no longer cares. The final quiet conversation between husband and wife takes a turn toward the absurd, but considering the jockeying that’s proceeded, this final compromise of love makes perfect sense. It’s hard to imagine a fiction film being able to capture this type of potent human dichotomy linking gradual suffering and survival. Continue reading

Allan King – Warrendale (1967)

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King’s feature debut, Warrendale, about a collection of volatile children from the titular Toronto-based rehabilitation center, has been compared to the works of Pennebaker, Maysles, and Rouch within the cinema vérité and Direct Cinema movements. But King’s approach to capturing the children’s emotional ebbs and flows as they experience anger, guilt, and finally tragedy, seems arguably more human, hypnotically attuned to the delicate sensitivities of people’s movements and sounds. As the adult caregivers attempt to build trust with these damaged children, King focuses on the intimate moments of counseling, reassurance, and discourse structuring the narrative. That these sequences often devolve into hysterical fits and seizures makes the film all the more forceful, showing the dark undercarriage of childhood trauma without any buffer or safety net. The film’s striking emotional centerpiece, a family-style meeting between counselors and children about the sudden death of the house cook, is a breathtaking display of collective heartbreak and rejuvenation that creates a frenzy of repressed rage. In a single moment, King’s camera becomes engulfed in an emotional war zone, pinned down but never overwhelmed by honest, raw expression, always able to capture the small moments on the fringes of the frame. Continue reading

Stephen Dunn – Closet Monster (2015)

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A creative and driven teenager is desperate to escape his hometown and the haunting memories of his turbulent childhood.

As seen at:

35th Istanbul Film Festival (2016)
40th Toronto International Film Festival | TIFF – 2015
Cinetopia International Film Festival 2016
Vilnius Film Festival “Kino Pavasaris” 2016

Closet Monster is a 2015 Canadian drama film written and directed by Stephen Dunn and starring Connor Jessup, released in 2015. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian Feature. Continue reading

Michel Brault – Les Ordres AKA Orders (1974)

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Les ordres has been rated by critics as one of the best Canadian films ever made. It subtly blends fiction and documentary realism in a chilling portrait of what can happen to a liberal democracy when the state imposes its power.

In October 1970, when FLQ terrorists kidnapped a British diplomat and threatened to (and later did) murder a Quebec cabinet minister, Prime Minister Trudeau sanctioned the War Measures Act and sent the Canadian army into Montreal. Close to 500 ordinary citizens who had no connection to the terrorists were summarily arrested and held without charge. Continue reading

Jim Shedden – Brakhage (1998)

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Jim Sledden’s 1998 documentary Brakhage is an interesting, well-constructed portrait of avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, who made almost 400 film in the 50 years up to his death in 2003. Along with fellow artists Jonas Mekas and Maya Deren, he’s regarded as one of the most important of American experimental filmmakers, and his influence can be seen in everything from music videos to title sequences from such films as Se7en. Starting with the psychodramas so typical of young filmmakers, he eventually moved into more abstract films, even physically manipulating the celluloid itself by gluing things to it or scratching it with a variety of implements. Continue reading

Philippe Lesage – Les démons AKA The Demons (2015)

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A young boy begins to experience the adult world as he enters adolescence.

A daring, exquisite study of agitated child psychology that marks Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage as a name to watch.

Fevered imagination and nightmarish reality brush shoulders to disconcerting effect in “The Demons,” Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage’s extraordinary examination of childhood fears festering in broad suburban daylight. Putting his documentary training to disciplined use as he teases out the largely internalized insecurities — sexual, social and practical — of his 10-year-old protagonist. Continue reading