Category Archives: Imaginary Canadian Cinema

#194 – Blue Octagon, The (Octogone Bleu, L’)

(2010, Can, 110 min) Dir Yorgos Solberg. Cast Felicity Bananier, Alain Nori, Reynoldson Caves.

French Canadian wig-out cult flick with rising star Felicity Bananier as Eva, a student who uncovers what she believes to be a vast conspiracy to keep humanity subjugated. This is part one of the three parts of this very rigidly compartmentalised film – an effective, paranoid thriller where her every footfall is shadowed by another and the whose location of Montreal University is fantastically used for maximum eeriness, despite the film being shot during the summer months. The second part details her post-abduction interrogation at the hands of the secretive Blue Octagon in a fantastic set of neon and perspex where she is set at by her interrogator (the supernaturally still, seven-foot tall Caves). This is where the films descent into real strangeness begins with long wordless stretches of her psychological breakdown realised as a constant bombardment of flying coloured shapes that will no doubt have a similarly hypnotic effect on the viewer as it does on Eva. The less revealed here of the actually insane wordless psychedelic final act the better. To be seen on the big screen or, failing that, at a distance of about three inches from a huge television.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#173 – Palm

(2012, Can/GB, 76 min) Dir Alice Werkherser.

Alice Werkherser’s follow up to Engineer Species is a very different beast to the earlier work which followed the traditional interview/narrative form of documentary and is very alike Peter Mettler’s Petropolis in execution. The main difference between the two films is that Mettler’s film, being an aerial record of the devastation wrought by industry on the Alberta tar sands, has visuals that are dramatic, terrifying and even beautiful if isolated from their context. Werkherser’s film is similar in many ways in that it is also about a great environmental devastation but one whose visual effect on the land is not as immediately shocking. Through a combination of helicopter and drone photography she has recorded the vast scale of the palm oil plantations that have irrevocably changed the once lush rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia (the world’s largest producer) into unending rows of farmed palm trees, straight line after straight line from one end of the film to the other, each area tagged at the bottom of the screen before rolling on for uninterrupted chunks of time in it’s bland, terrifying uniformity. He soundtrack is given over to a variety of people affected by this, from the purchaser of a multinational company (unnamed) who imports the oil about the surprising amount of products it is used in, to an indigenous person displaced by the plantations, to a representative from International Animal Rescue on the terrible effect on the local wildlife and environment, to a farm worker who relies on the plantations to feed his family and who was unemployed prior to that. A piece of vertiginous perspective.

#158 – Jellyfish

(2007, Can, 105 min) Dir Ben Roy. Cast Anton Yelchin, Mark Rendall, Susan Sarandon.

True life inspired tale. Todd Waugh wants to get out of his family’s house while his parents argue their way through their divorce so he replies to an ad for a maths tutor. When he turns up at the house he finds that the local boy confined to his upstairs bedroom is Eric Battersby, who made worldwide news when he was born due to his inability to form bones and thus a skeleton. “He should have died when he was a baby,” Eric’s mother tells Todd, “But he just kept living.” Initially Todd is freaked out but when he tells his parents about not wanting to go back they manage to agree on something for the first time in years – that Todd should go back and help him. So he does and over time he becomes friends with the kid who calls himself ‘The Jellyfish’, inspired to help him make the most of his life rather than being stuck in his bedroom learning maths… Probably the most positive aspect of the film is the irreverent characterisation of Eric who is no saint alternating between his enjoyment of gross out humour and tantrums of petty peevishness, all guided by a fine performance from Yelchin.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#154 – Death Trip, The

(1972, Can, 100 min) Dir Herbert Yates. Cast Mel McKenna, Virginia Barbeau, Alain Stopkewich, Molly Pilbrow.

Grey skied acid western from Canadian director Herbert ‘Head’ Yates. Mel McKenna (yes, Peterson from TV’s Peterson & Son) is the wild haired, black clad Mansonesque wanderer named X who drifts near dead into the peaceful community of proto-hippies that is Small Preston. Nursed back to health by young Adrianne he seems to pass onto her strange visions of lust and the greater universe, her naked body melding with some strange being of pure light from behind the moon. Soon enough he is championing her as, in his words, “a prophet of the New Religion!” With her blindfolded in advance the whole village follows out into the wilds in search of the new Jerusalem “where the New Gods will descend from the heavens and touch our hearts with their pure light.” Of course half of them starve or die of thirst but the other half make it to the mountains where they find their New Gods and pass through a totally trippy initiation where the world, and the film, becomes pure abstraction. Not bad, if totally hippy dippy, with some astonishing effects considering it was 1972 and they had no money.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms

#68 – Octember

(1992, Can, 90 min) Dir Ben Roy. Cast Bobby Rusk, E. Emmett Benn, Alison Shaker.

Young Alex finds himself trapped in the missing month of Octember, a twilight month that slipped between October and November many years ago and was never found again. Octember manifests itself as an empty world – the rest of its residents having gone straight to November – though he’s not the only one there. A host of lost souls are adrift with him in this phantom month, some there so long that they have become unhinged. His initial wanderings around his depopulated neighbourhood after waking in his empty house are eerie in the extreme with whole streets rendered very Marie Celeste, the evidence of people littering yards and kitchens and driveways but nobody is there. The perfect kind of kids movie – by virtue of its small-scale made for TV production it occupies the kinds of spaces familiar to children like the house and the street and so on which is perhaps why it’s left such an impression on those, like myself, who saw it at an impressionable age.

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#51 – Fifty Ways to Kill Your Lover

(1980, Can, 95 min) Dir Jack Angelo. Cast Rudy Picken, Sally Oscar, Oliver ‘Bee’ Betjeman, Jim Billy.

A comedy slasher movie – of all the things – that takes place in the novel surroundings of a spoof folk festival, kind of like A Mighty Wind and Friday the 13th had a child. Sam Deal (Picken) is at the New Grass Folk Festival playing his first stage gig when the body of Joan Baez style folker Alma Wurlitzer is found during his sound check. Alma fan Sam turns detective, mingling with the hoi polloi and the general attendees in search of clues while the body count rises – all hushed up by the festivals unscrupulous runners. The best part of the film is identifying the various folkish musicians being pastiched – Simon and Garfunkel (obviously), Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and so on. Art Garfunkel (the real one) even turns up for a cameo as a weird candy floss salesman! Of course the culprit eventually turns out to be the dastardly Bob Dylan analogue who has been driven mad with fame (it’s changed him, man) and is now trying to bump off everyone who accuses him of selling out. The finale finds him trying to make his getaway, piloting his private helicopter whilst clogged up to the gills on cocaine and crashing into a mountain. Well played by a cast of unknown Canadians but shot on a minimal budget – the festival looks sparsely attended for a start and the less said about the helicopter crash the better. But still, it only adds to the charm of this little film that could.

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Twitter: @MadeUpFilms