For Come on Children, from 1972, King returns to the lives of troubled Toronto youths, but this time he creates the environment of study himself. After doing extensive interviews with local teenagers, King sent 10 of his subjects on a country retreat to a farmhouse where they could live collectively without the interference of adults, hierarchies, or rules. Each of the teens, ranging in age from 13 to 18, gets a musical introduction from one of the more charismatic subjects, a pimply ex-drug addict named John. His Dylan-esque folk narration gives Come on Children a reflexive identity, the best example his last lyric, “I’m not sure what the film’s about, but I hope the movie makes you feel that you wished you were here.” These kids understand the camera’s perspective, but that doesn’t stop them from unveiling a disturbing mixture of naiveté and hardnosed cynicism at the adult life waiting around the corner. Once again, King uses a collective set piece—a visit from everyone’s parents to the farmhouse—to show the dynamic drama breathing through the core of every conversation. If Come on Children is less successful at engaging the viewer’s sympathies, it’s because the Vietnam-era teens don’t see much to look forward to, an ideology King never sugarcoats. Continue reading
After two decades of fiction films and television docs, King set out to address his own aging with an ambitious project charting the final months of five patients on the palliative care unit in Toronto’s Grace Health Care Centre. The result is King’s masterpiece, 2003’s Dying at Grace, a cinematic experience like no other, one that’s unequivocally devoted to examining the slow and methodical process of death. As with all of King’s films, the opening shot is incredibly pertinent to his end goals, and Dying at Grace is no different. As the opening credits roll, King follows the transfer of recently deceased body from a patient’s room to the morgue, as if to immediately display death as a forgone conclusion. King then introduces each cancer-stricken subject, first a rapidly deteriorating diabetic named Carmela Nardone, then Joyce Bone, Eda Simac, Lloyd Greenaway, and finally hard living ex-con Richard Pollard. Using the nightly nurse reports of each patient’s condition as a keen narrator, King constructs a lengthy procedural on the nuances of death, the deeply touching moments between family members and patient, and finally the staggering silence during the final moments of these people’s lives. Continue reading
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
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
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
A dropout gets the margins of society and resists his father’s pressure to return to the bosom of the village. The film transcends anecdote by diving into a wacky and unusual universe, full of fantasy, imagination, and visual and sound gags. Continue reading
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