(This is a column I wrote a while ago, hence the reference to the long since passed MoMA screenings. Putting it up for completeness in the archives.)
MOMA decided to use this as the opener to their annual Canadian cinema showcase Canadian Front which is going on this week. At the 4pm, middle of the week screening I attended, supposedly the North American premiere, there were perhaps thirty people in the cavernous downstairs screening room. By the time the film had finished this number had been halved.
And though I’d like to say this was because the audience had been confronted with a visionary piece of cinema they couldn’t handle and would someday years later hail as an unappreciated masterpiece, I can very confidently say this is not the case. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lifetime Channel picked this up, what with its sloppy sentimentality, faux-profundity and seemingly unending stream of loose-focus flashback shots.
The film details the day to day life of a girl (played competently by Meghan Greeley) named Mitsy who is going to school to be a hairdresser and is inexplicably attracted to a white trash man who works behind the counter at a take-out place named Duffy. Duffy offers her his dog, and to get across the point Duffy is the evil male in this movie, he tosses food in front of this chained up dog. Mitsy has sex with Duffy to get the dog which he originally seemed to want to give her for nothing. The poor dog, unable to take the wholly tone-deaf direction White gave to the rest of the actors, gives the film’s best performance and when it gets shot in the end (since nothing screams emotional profundity and originality like killing a dog at the end of your film), which the script wants us to take as a sign of Mitsy abandoning her self-destructive tendencies, just comes across as the dog being only the latest victim of these dreary melodramatic caricatures that the film wants to pass off as characters. Mary Walsh, as Mitsy’s domineering grandmother, gives a performance that is the most bombastic and unpleasant I’ve encountered this year, with an accent more suited to a stand-up comedy routine or cartoon leprechaun than a serious dramatic performance.
White seems to think that the only way she can get across the tragedy of her characters is to make them all prostitutes or drug addicts and surround them with garbage. This is the worst sort of condescending phony stance one can take with such material.
Also, though in most other films this issue would barely merit mention, this film had absolutely the worst foley work I’ve ever heard. On top of this, music is overused to provide the emotional responses that should’ve come from solid performances and well done photography. Instead we get the bullshit “reverberated acoustic guitar+picture of trees=poetry” Windows 95 screensaver aesthetic that has overtaken more lazy and unimaginative filmmakers as of late.
Why did the MOMA screen this? Is this really the best Canada can produce?
i haven’t seen this film, or even heard of it. we Canadians more often than not cringe at our homegrown films and tv, they are so often dreadful. something in the funding system allows the mediocre to rise up. it’s a long-standing discussion in this country. “sloppy sentimentality” is apropos.
Best Canadian movie, to my mind, is Exotica by Atom Egoyan.
The United States steals a lot of great Canadian artists. My favorite soundtrack was written by Neil Young for the Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man.
Yup, many of the best Cdn artists end up going south. My fave Jarmusch films are also Dead Man as well as Coffee and Cigarettes. Egoyan’s Exotica was interesting but as a woman I found its psycho-sexuality a bit lopsidedly male, however Crash is twisted and delicious. haha. Don’t know if you can get your hands on it, but the Quebec film Mon Oncle Antoine is considered one of the best Canadian films.
It’s on Youtube in full.
oh wow, awesome. i will watch it again today. i too often forget that there’s this massive resource called the internet. 🙂
ps thanks for the link to Neil Young’s soundtrack….When I opened the link a pop-up box appeared, and judging by the red maple leaf logo is gratis of the Canadian government’s Federal Pardon Waiver Services, which reads, Clear Your Criminal Record! lol
I guess different countries handle copyrights differently. That soundtrack’s been up for awhile here.