By Greg Klymkiw
Every December since that hallowed year when man was supposed to go to Jupiter and meet the Star Child, a jury of filmmakers, critics and other noted mavens of movie culture in Canada would assess and award the acronymous accolades now referred to as the TIFF CTT, or, if you will, the Canadian Top Ten. This genuine honour is primarily due to the tireless efforts of Steve Gravestock, head honcho of all things Canuckian at the TIFF cineaste dude ranch (or, if one must, Associate Director of Canadian Programming at the Toronto International Film Festival).KEYHOLE
Following the announcements of what constituted the best films in Canada would be screenings of all the honoured titles at the Cinematheque Ontario - now better known as the premiere art house in Canada, the TIFF Bell LightBox, year-round home to Canada's largest, most star-studded film festival. The screenings are another way for movie-lovers to get another gander at these movies before they go on to first-run engagements.
And I reiterate, all this and more is possible through the efforts of one ass-kicking man of cinema and his partner in crime Magali Simard (TIFF's Senior Coordinator of Canadian Programming). Like the late, great Jack Palance as Curly in the immortal "City Slickers", Gravestock calls the shots for all wanna-be cowpokes - guiding them amisdst the joys and splendours of all Maple-infused movies the whole year through - year after year.
The bonus here, for all the films, is the publicity they receive, but I think, more importantly, they get to be screened theatrically in a communal atmosphere via the best means of projection since those halcyon days when most big-chain cinemas sported first-rate union projectionists instead of the underpaid, glorified concession staff and/or manager trainees who push buttons at the big box emporiums, mostly operated in this country by one faceless corporate entity that cares only about pleasing its shareholders rather than providing good, old-fashioned showmanship and first-rate presentation (and worse, displaying very little corporate responsibility in supporting homegrown product).
Seeing this selection of Canadian films at TIFF Bell Lightbox, might be one's only chance (at least in English Canada) to see these films properly presented and in an atmosphere conducive to the true celebration of cinema (save for the few independents and other festivals that actually care about what they show and HOW they show it).
There are a couple of notable omissions on the CTT list. The most egregious snub is Ingrid Veninger's astonishing no-budget joy-fest "i am a good person/i am a bad person" (Cassavetes meets "Bridesmaids"). The no-surprise omission is one of the most delectably original Canadian films just this side of Maddinville, the grotesquely hilarious splatter/sodomy-fest "Father's Day" from the brilliant Winnipeg filmmaking collective Astron-6. No matter, if the Gods are smiling, maybe TIFF Bell Lightbox will have the courage and foresight to program these two films a bit later.
The TIFF Bell Lightbox CTT mini-festival includes the following:
"Monsieur Lazhar", Jan6, 4PM
"Keyhole", Jan6, 7PM & Jan7, 4PM
"Edwin Boyd", Jan6, 9:30PM & Jan 8, 3PM
"Hobo With A Shotgun", Jan7, 9PM & Jan10 4PM
"Canada's Top Ten Shorts Programme A", Jan8, 7PM
"Canada's Top Ten Shorts Programme B", Jan8, 8:30PM
"Starbuck", Jan10, 7PM & Jan11, 3PM & Jan13, 3PM
"Marécages", Jan11, 7PM & Jan12, 3PM
"A Dangerous Method", Jan 12, 7PM
"Café de flore", Jan 13, 9PM & Jan15, 5:30 PM
"Le Vendeur", Jan 14, 6PM & Sunday Jan15, 12PM
"Take This Waltz", Jan14 9PM & Jan15 3PM
Guy Maddin's "KEYHOLE" made my TEN BEST FILMS OF 2011 List and the astounding Louis Negin from "KEYHOLE" made my Best Supporting Actor of 2011 Citation at KLYMKIW FILM CORNER(KFC) and Steve Gravestock (via my nod to TIFF), "Take This Waltz" helmer Sarah Polley, Guy Maddin and his screenwriter George Toles all made my 2011 TOP 10 HEROES IN CANADIAN CINEMA here at CANADIAN FILM CORNER(CFC).
The absolute MUST NOT MISS EVENT is Guy Maddin's "KEYHOLE". Below you'll find a slight rewrite of the full version of a review I wrote that was published last fall in "Electric Sheep Magazine - a deviant view of cinema". Read it and go! Or don't read it, go and then read it. Most of all, GO! I assure you that you'll have never seen nor will ever see anything like "KEYHOLE" ever again.
And below the "KEYHOLE" review, you'll find my merciless pan of Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method", a slight rewrite of a piece previously published by Electric Sheep Magazine.
Again I urge you to see the CTT movies at LightBox to support their efforts in promoting and screening both Canadian and THEN, if you love any of the movies you see there, see them AGAIN if and when they open theatrically. I reiterate that Cineplex should be a leader in programming a much wider variety of product - Canadian and otherwise. I even suggest people do their second helpings of stuff they like at LightBox and/or any cinema OTHER than Cineplex. Screw the Man, until the Man does what's right - not just for their customers, but for BUSINESS and to fulfill their corporate responsibility to the community at large. Until those losers earn their right to be winners, do not give them money unless you absolutely have to. Also, if you go to Cineplex, it's soooo easy to sneak in your own food and beverages. Keep doing that, too - UNLESS they start doing the right thing.
Keyhole (2011) dir. Guy Maddin
Starring: Jason Patric, Louis Negin, Udo Kier, Isabella Rossellini
By Greg Klymkiw
Full disclosure: I produced Guy Maddin’s first three feature films, lived with him as a roommate (I was Oscar Madison to his Felix Unger – Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple sprang miraculously to life on the top two floors of a ramshackle old house near Winnipeg’s Little Italy district), continue to love him as one of my dearest friends and consider his brilliant screenwriting partner George E. Toles to be nothing less than my surrogate big brother.
Most importantly, I am one of Maddin’s biggest fans and refuse to believe I am not able to objectively review his work. Objectively, then, allow me to declare that I loved Keyhole. What’s not to love? Blending Warner Brothers gangster styling of the 30s, film noir of the 40s and 50s, Greek tragedy, Sirk-like melodrama and odd dapplings of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, it is, like all Maddin’s work, best designed to experience as a dream on film. Like Terence Davies, Maddin is one of the few living filmmakers who understands the poetic properties of cinema, and this, frankly, is to be cherished as much as any perfectly wrought narrative.
This is not to say narrative does NOT exist in Maddin’s work. If you really must, dig deep and you will find it. That, however, wouldn’t be very much fun. One has a better time with Maddin’s pictures just letting them HAPPEN to you.
The elements concocted in Keyhole to allow for full experiential mind-fucking involve the insanely named gangster Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric as you’ve never seen him before – playing straight, yet feeling like he belongs to another cinematic era), who drags his kids (one dead, but miraculously sprung to life, the other seemingly alive, but not remembered by his Dad) into a haunted house surrounded by guns-a-blazing.
Populated with a variety of tough guys and babe-o-licious molls, Ulysses is faced with ghosts of both the living and the dead, including his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini – gorgeous as always and imbued with all the necessary qualities to render melodrama with joy and humanity), her frequently nude father (the brilliant Louis Negin – perhaps one of the world’s greatest living character actors, who frankly should be cast in every movie ever made), chained to his bed, uttering the richly ripe George Toles dialogue and Udo Kier (the greatest fucking actor in the world), whose appearance in this movie is so inspired I’ll let you discover for yourself the greatness of both the role and Udo himself.
Keyhole is, without a doubt, one of the most perversely funny movies I’ve seen in ages and includes Maddin’s trademark visual tapestry of the most alternately gorgeous and insanely inspired kind. For movie geeks, literary freaks and Greek tragedy-o-philes, the movie is blessed with added treats to gobble down voraciously.
Like all of Maddin’s work, it’s not all fun and games. Beneath the surface of its mad inspiration lurks a melancholy and thematic richness. For me, what’s so important and moving about the film is its literal and thematic exploration of a space. Strongly evoking that sense of how our lives are inextricably linked to so many places (or a place) and how they in turn are populated with things – inanimate objects that become more animate once we project our memories upon them – or how said places inspire reminiscence of said objects which, in turn, inspire further memories, Keyhole is as profound and sad as it’s a crazed laugh riot.
Of all the pieces about the movie that I bothered to read (after I saw the movie), I was shocked that NOBODY – NOT ONE FUCKING CRITIC – picked up on the overwhelming theme of PLACE and the SPIRIT of all those THINGS that live and breathe in our minds. It was the first thing to weigh heavily upon me when I first saw the movie. It has seldom been approached in the movies – and, for my money – NO MORE POIGNANTLY AND BRILLIANTLY than rendered by Maddin, Toles and their visionary young producer Jody Shapiro.
All the ghosts of the living and the dead (to paraphrase Joyce), the animate and inanimate, the real and the imagined, these are the things that haunt us to our graves, and perhaps beyond. And they all populate the strange, magical and haunting world of Keyhole – a world most of us, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, live in. We are all ghosts and are, in turn, haunted by them.
A Dangerous Method
A Dangerous Method (2011) dir. David Cronenberg
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley
By Greg Klymkiw
When David Cronenberg is good, he is very, very good.
When he is bad, he’s cerebral.
A Dangerous Method is dour, dull and decidedly humourless. That said, the first few minutes do suggest we’re in for a hootenanny of the highest order. The score, oozing with portent over a twitching, howling, clearly bonkers Keira Knightley, thrashing about in a horse-drawn carriage as it hurtles towards Carl Jung’s Swiss nuthouse, initially suggested a belly flop into the maw first pried open by such Cold War wacko-fests like The Snake Pit or Shock Corridor.
Alas, Cronenberg seems to have abandoned his pulp sensibilities and instead appears to be making an Atom Egoyan movie fused with Masterpiece Theatre. Sorry David, Atom Egoyan makes the best Atom Egoyan movies. And Egoyan has never, nor will he ever make Masterpiece Theatre. However, if Cronenberg himself genuinely fused Masterpiece Theatre with The Snake Pit and, say, Salon Kitty or The Story of O, with dollops of the madhouse scenes in Ken Russell's The Music Lovers, then he might have generated something not guaranteed to induce snores.
Cronenberg’s unwelcome return to the cold and clinical approach from his pre-Eastern Promises and A History of Violence oeuvres quashes all hope for a rollicking good wallow in lunacy.
Come on, David, we’re dealing with psychoanalysis and sex here.
A little oomph might have been in order. (Or as Norman Jewison is wont to say, "A little bit of the old razzle-dazzle.")
Lord knows Cronenberg’s dealt deliciously with psychoanalysis and sex before – most notably in The Brood. It starred a visibly inebriated Oliver Reed, crazily cooing about "the Shape of Rage" amid spurts of horrific violence laced with a riveting creepy tone. Most notably the movie provided us with the indelible image of a semi-nude, utterly barmy Samantha Eggar adorned with monstrous pus sacks dangling from her flesh, licking globs of gooey, chunky afterbirth from a glistening mutant baby expunged from one of the aforementioned pus sacks.
Now, THAT'S entertainment!
Annoyingly, no similar shenanigans are on view in A Dangerous Method. It’s pretty much a Masterpiece Theatre-styled period chamber drama with with Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) jousting with his mentor-rival Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) betwixt spanking sessions with Keira Knightley, a daft want-to-be-psychiatrist with Daddy issues.
Sadly, no proper views of open palms connecting with buttocks or slap imprints on said buttocks are afforded to us.
For more info and tix, visit the TIFF website.
Here's my original coverage of TIFF 2011 (including the two above films) for Electric Sheep.