Tuesday, January 23, 2018

100 Best Canadian Films - Michael Marlatt

Canadian cinema is at a good place these days. Filmmakers are making good work. It’s being properly honored at film festivals and award ceremonies. Scholars, journalists and cinephiles are more passionate about it, which has led to more writing and arguments for its future. The programming of its film history has led to important discoveries, which has opened up new trajectories to understand its evolution. All of this, I think, is making Canadian cinema right now one of the most exciting national cinemas. The lists in this 100 Best Canadian Films series hopefully show that it’s film history is not only quite impressive and diverse but that it’s also equally malleable and open to change. There's reason to be optimistic. Let's keep this going!
I need to thank my friend Michael for this great list. Here’s his bio:
“Michael Marlatt is a film preservationist and archivist with a passion for Canadian film – both on the screen and on the reel. At the CFMDC he inspected miles of 16mm, including many of the avant-garde films on other lists in this series, and at the TIFF Film Reference Library he processed the collection of filmmaker Christopher Chapman, of A Place to Stand fame (the film originating the Ontari-ari-ario song). He is also an avid researcher of the histories of film exhibition and museums, especially in Canada.”

Notes: There really was no theme in my selection process. These are just all films (and a couple of other works) that I have enjoyed watching over the years. I was a little surprised at just how little I had on my list from the 1980s but oh well. Our country has really put out some incredible work. My apologies to David for getting this list in so late. I hope I am forgiven. – M.M.

Michael Marlatt’s 100 Best Canadian Films
- Back to God’s Country (David Hartford, 1919)
- Churchill's Island (Stuart Legg, 1941)
- Begone Dull Care (Norman McLaren, 1949)
- Neighbours (Norman McLaren, 1952)
- Tit-coq (Gratien Gélinas, 1952)
- The Yellow Leaf (Fergus McDonell, 1956)
- La Lutte (Michel BraultMarcel CarrièreClaude Fournier and Claude Jutra, 1961)
- The Mask (Julian Roffman, 1961)
- Very Nice, Very Nice (Arthur Lipsett, 1961)
- Lonely Boy (Wolf Koenig, Roman Kroitor, 1962)
- À tout prendre (Claude Jutra, 1963)
- Pour la suite du monde (Pierre Perrault, Michel Brault, 1963)
- Nobody Waved Good-bye (Don Owen, 1964)
- Winter Kept us Warm (David Secter, 1965)
- Florence Wyle and Frances Loring at Home in their Toronto Sculpting Studio (Christopher Chapman, 1965)
- The Scribe (John Sebert, 1965)
- Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (Donald Brittain and Don Owen, 1966)
- Helicopter Canada (Eugene Boyko, 1966)
- Paddle to the Sea (Bill Mason, 1966)
- Warrendale (Allan King, 1967)
- A Place to Stand (Christopher Chapman, 1967)
- Impressions of Expo 67 (William Brind, 1967)
- A Married Couple (Allan King, 1969)
- The Hart of London (Jack Chambers, 1970)
- Goin’ Down the Road (Donald Shebib, 1970)
- Mon oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)
- North of Superior (Graeme Ferguson, 1971)
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (Ted Kotcheff, 1974)
- Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974)
- Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
- Volcano: An Inquiry into the Life and Death of Malcolm Lowry (Donald Brittain and John Kramer, 1976)
- On est au coton (Deny Arcand, 1976)
- J.A. Martin photographe (Jean Beaudin, 1977)
- Outrageous! (Richard Benner 1977)
- I'll Find a Way (Beverly Shaffer, 1977)
- Rabid (David Cronenberg, 1977)
- Home for Christmas (Rick Hancox, 1978)
- Michael, A Gay Son (Bruce Glawson, 1980)
- Scanners (David Cronenberg, 1981)
- Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
- Le Déclin de L'empire Américain (Denys Arcand, 1986) 
- The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
- I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema, 1987)
- Life Classes (William D. MacGillivray, 1987)
- The Cat Came Back (Cordell Barker, 1988)
- Roadkill (Bruce McDonald, 1989)
- Jésus de Montréal (Deny Arcan, 1989)
- Archangel (Guy Maddin, 1990)
- Canadian Children Public Service Announcements (Concerned Children's Advertisers, 1990-2017)
- The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan, 1991)
- Highway 61 (Bruce McDonald, 1991)
- Naked Lunch (David Cronenberg, 1991)
- Heritage Minutes (Historica Canada, 1991-)
- Léolo (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1992)
- Manufacturing Consent (Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick, 1992)
- Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives (Lynne Fernie, Aerlyn Weissman, 1993)
- Calendar (Atom Egoyan, 1993)
- Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (François Girard, 1993)
- Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (Alanis Obomsawin, 1993)
- Zero Patience (John Greyson, 1993)
- Picture of Light (Peter Mettler, 1994)
- Exotica (Atom Egoyan, 1994)
- Margaret's Museum (Mort Ransen, 1995)
- Hard Core Logo (Bruce McDonald, 1996)
- Project Grizzly (Peter Lynch, 1996)
- Lilies (John Greyson, 1996)
- The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997)
- The Hanging Garden (Thom Fitzgerald, 1997)
- Last Night (Don McKellar, 1998)
- The Red Violin (François Girard, 1998)
- Hitman Hart: Wrestling with Shadows (Paul Jay, 1998)
- Ginger Snaps (John Fawcett, 2000)
- Canada: A People’s History (CBC, 2000)
- Maelstrom (Denis Villeneuve, 2000)
- waydowntown (Gary Burns, 2000)
- Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001)
- Les Invasions barbares (Deny Arcand, 2003)
- C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)
- Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (Sam Dunn, 2005)
- A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
- Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
- Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal, 2006)
Away From Her (Sarah Polley, 2006)
- My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
- Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009)
- Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley, 2011)
- Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan, 2012)
- Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
- The Dirties (Matt Johnson, 2013)
Mommy (Xavier Dolan, 2014)
- Into the Forest (Patricia Rozema, 2015)
- Sleeping Giant (Andrew Cividino, 2015)
- Closet Monster (Stephen Dunn, 2015)
- The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson, 2015)
- Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Mathieu Denis and Simon Lavoie, 2016)
- Searchers (Maliglutit) (Zacharias Kunuk, 2016)
- Window Horses (Ann Marie Fleming, 2016)
- Angry Inuk (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, 2016)
- The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (Simon Lavoie, 2017)
- Our People Will Be Healed (Alanis Obomsawin, 2017)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Fixing People's Hearts (On Rebeccah Love's Acres)

Rebeccah Love’s work takes place at the interstice between life and art. For the up-and-coming Toronto filmmaker reality is meant to be shaped and dramatized through narrative and mise en scène to get at the heart of human experiences. Love’s focus is on how people feel and how these emotions can have a lasting impact. Take Acres for example: Set at Love’s grandfather’s farm, where she spent childhood summers, the creation of the film becomes an opportunity to re-experience and build from both its real and affective geography. The result of this farm life energy is that of a slower pace and melancholy beauty, which is only accentuated by Thomas Hoys beautiful score. Its story revolves around the reunion of Yannick (Edmund Stapleton) and Harriet (Sarah Swire), a former couple, who haven’t seen each other for many years after he moved away from the city when his father died. The time that these two spend on the farm, after Yannick’s sister (Erica Hill) and her partner (Patrick Love) leave, is spent maintaining it and exploring its scenic surroundings – the gorgeous pastoral countryside and the warmth of its interiors are made especially striking by Love’s regular cinematographer Eric Rowe. The two finally get closer to each other and have a deep conversation about their recent lives, failures and desires while looking at Harriet’s old photographs from when they were still together. The idea of Acres is to use this space as a site of healing. Acres creates the idea of escaping an absorption of urban and social life to learn to experience nature anew, overcome regret and contemplate life to find inner peace. It’s this examination of the emotional lives of its characters that makes Acres so rich.
Acres is great new feat for the Toronto film community. After a boom of new directors in the city around 2010, some of whom grew in prominence and were able to define a Toronto DIY style (Kazik Radwanski, Matt Johnson), and then a wider explosion of fresh directors throughout the country there’s still been, outside of some burst of creativity, the slow solidifying of clichés, many of which are encouraged by public funding agencies and film programmers, that have reaffirmed many long-standing negative perceptions of English-language Canadian cinema. Such critiques of its most common forms includes inadequate dramaturgy and a reluctance towards narrative, bad acting and a televisual style, plots that revolve around trauma and unfunny comedies… But, happily, this sad state is changing! Just in 2017 there was the Québécois film All You Can Eat Buddha (probably my favourite Canadian feature in recent memory) and the Toronto feature-length films Sundowners, Dim the Fluorescents, Wexford Plaza and the short-films Sweet Yoyo and La chasse. There needs to be more works that challenge the stereotype of Canadian cinema, which is that it’s boring and miserabilist, for it to be able to move forward. There needs to be the desire to create mystery and instill wonder instead of submitting to the sad realities of society. For it to not be limited by maintained restrictions and instead to imagine new possibilities.
Rebeccah Love is perhaps one of the best new directors that symbolizes such hope for these developments. If Acres protests the inadequacies of the Canadian film industry it does so by eliding its drawbacks and clichés by being truthful to Love’s singular vision. Its message of care is solely lacking in our national cinema and its form – a hard to program twenty-six minute short film – is an example of just one of its traits that goes against the standardized norm. Love’s practice is also enriched by being a multi-disciplinary artist – she writes short fiction, illustrates and has a background in theater, among many other things – which enriches her works points of references while also enlarging the types and variety of media in her corpus, all of which are personal and made with care. The production of Acres was also a more intimate affair as it was crowd-funded by friends and family with perks including drawings and pies, which are also nice references to Love’s other short films Drawing Duncan Palmer and Circles, and made with some of the best peers from her film production program from when she studied at Ryerson.
Just like how Acres centers around Harriets photography and finding new ways to look at the surroundings and the world, so do Love’s images re-orient the spectators vision. Love’s work, and specifically Acres, creates a new way to see as it imagines a different way to look at cinema and the world. Acres fulfills everything and more than you would expect from Canadian cinema as it proposes something new, something from the heart, beautiful and melancholic. This is what makes it so vital. But perhaps it’s Love’s producer Aleksey Matviyenko that best describes her by saying that she should have been a doctor because what Love actually does is that she fixes people’s hearts. Something that the world desperately needs.

Rebeccah Love’s Acres will be premiering this Wednesday, January 10th at 7PM at the Carlton in a program that includes shy kids’ the middle and I feel like a failure, Union Duke’s Heavy Wind, Efehan Elbi’s Rainfall, Kazik Radwanski’s Scaffold and an introduction by Matt Johnson.

Short Film Recommendation : Rebeccah Love's Garden