In anticipation for the theatrical run of Kazik Radwanski's Tower that begins at The Royal on February 22nd, there is going to be a MDFF short-film program at The Royal on Wednesday December 13th at 7pm. The program includes the MDF trilogy Assault (‘07), Princess Margaret Blvd. (‘08) and Out In That Deep Blue Sea (’09) along with the under-seen Green Crayons (’10) and the rare Kenya documentary Nakuru Song (’08).
Here is the program’s description:
“These films portray themes of ordinary insanity, feelings stirred in mundane actions and everyday absurdities in order to communicate an individual set against societal conventions. In Assault a terrified young man is barely able to talk to lawyers; and in Princess Margaret Blvd. an elderly female with Alzheimer’s navigates through her reality, diagnosis and institutionalization; while Out in that Deep Blue Sea depicts a depressed real-estate agent that is overwhelmed by the balance between personal and business relationships; and Green Crayons documents a boy struggling to understand his first nascent stirrings of guilt and responsibility.”
Radwanski’s cinema lies at the intersection between where his actors and their fictional characters meet. Casting is very important as the non-union, ordinary actors perform a variation of themselves in heightened situations to illustrate a defining character trait. What makes this approach balanced is its authenticity to the ordinary and never letting the characters be reduced to a caricature. It is perhaps less in the method acting tradition of a Robert De Niro or an Al Pacino but instead more like the documentary subjects in the films of a Frederick Wiseman or an Allan King.
For example, in Tower so much of the film comes from what Derek Bogart brings to his performance. The 34-year-old Derek is just some guy: average height, medium build, regular wardrobe, balding… In Tower’s great opening sequence on a sunny day Derek is all by himself in his backyard slowly digging a hole with a shovel. He gets bored and in a daze he leans and rests on the shovel’s wooden handle. He circles around it while whispering and singing to himself. Then the music increases and Derek is in a club. Through the poetics of the scene, with Derek at the center of it, what comes across is his warmth, mystery and confusion.
Derek is at his best when he’s engaging with the people around him. When talking to someone about their cell-phone, “How do you know if you aren’t getting ripped off if you don’t know what you pay? Do you have data on there?” He deliver his lines really well and has a great sense of timing. In one scene instead of studying an animation manual he does a crossword, and he asks the girl sitting beside her, “Do you know a three-letter word that expresses grief?” When she answers him with the word sad, “No. I don’t think it’s sad, but what about sob?”
Derek is an interesting character and it is seems pertinent that the film is called Tower. Like the CN Tower that looms over the city of Toronto there is something about Derek that speaks to a universal awkwardness. To conclude, on the character of Derek, in a great interview Dreams on Pause with Radwanski and Bogart for the Ryerson Folio, its author Tamara Jones quotes,
“He’s a bit of a mystery. I don’t even fully understand him,” Radwanski says of Derek. Bogart added, “He’s almost agnostic. Maybe it’s something that can’t be understood.”