Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Best Canadian Films – Yves Lever

In an older interview with Jean-Marc Vallée he spoke about his former cégep film prof Yves Lever, “I was studying administration and I was very unhappy… That man really changed my life.” Vallée would thank him by casting Lever and another prof Pierre Pageau in important small roles in his first film Liste noire. Lever has taught at Collège Ahuntsic starting in the seventies and has published an essential cinematographic manual L’analyse filmique (Boréal), many histories of Québécois cinema and most recently a biography on Claude Jutra. Lever's website is a modest and thorough archive full of a life's worth of articles. This particular list is from Lever's Les 100 films québécois qu’il faut voir (1995), which he has allowed me to repost. And for the Canadian films made outside of Québec, Lever says that his choices are close enough to the ones on Marcel Jean's list. Other contributions to 100 Best Canadian Films include those by Piers Handling, Mike Hoolboom and myself. – D.D.
***
Yves Lever’s 100 Best Canadian Films
1934-1937 En pays neufs, Maurice Proulx
1938 Hommage à notre paysannerie, Albert Tessier
1943 À la croisée des chemins, Jean-Marie Poitevin
1944 Le père Chopin, Fedor Ozep
1948 Un homme et son péché, Paul Gury
1949 La terre de Caïn, Pierre Petel
1951 La petite Aurore, l'enfant martyre Jean-Yves Bigras
1952 L'homme aux oiseaux, Bernard Devlin
1957 A Chairy Tale (Il était une chaise), Norman McLaren
1958 Les raquetteurs Michel Brault et Gilles Groulx
1959 La canne à pêche, Fernand Dansereau
1959 Il était une guerre, Louis Portugais
1959 Les petites sœurs, Pierre Patry
1959 Les 90 jours, Louis Portugais
1961 Golden Gloves, Gilles Groulx
1962 À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre, Hubert Aquin (Jacques Godbout)  
1962 Bûcherons de la Manouane, Arthur Lamothe
1962 Pour la suite du monde, Pierre Perrault, Michel Brault
1962 Seul ou avec d'autres, Denis Hértoux, Denys Arcand, Stéphane Venne
1962 Voir Miami, Gilles Groulx
1963 À tout prendre, Claude Jutra
1963 Montréal, une ville nommée Marie,  Anton van de Vater
1963 Les petits arpents,  Raymond Garceau
1964 Le chat dans le sac, Gilles Groulx
1964 Trouble-fête, Pierre Patry
1965 Le festin des morts, Fernand Dansereau
1965 Le révolutionnaire, Jean Pierre Lefebvre
1965 La vie heureuse de Léopold Z.,  Gilles Carle
1966 Il ne faut pas mourir pour ça, Jean Pierre Lefebvre
1967 Ça n'est pas le temps des romans, Fernand Dansereau
1967 C'est pas la faute à Jacques Cartier,  Clément Perron, Georges Dufaux  
1967 Entre la mer et l'eau douce, Michel Brault
1967 La visite du général de Gaulle au Québec, Jean-Claude Labrecque
1968 Avec tambours et trompettes, Marcel Carrière
1968 Valérie, Denis Héroux
1970 The Act of the Heart (L'acte du coeur), Paul Almond
1970 Deux femmes en or, Claude Fournier
1970 On est loin du soleil, Jacques Leduc
1971 Faut aller parmi l'inonde pour le savoir,  Fernand Dansereau
1971 1XE-13, Jacques Godbout
1971 Mon oncle Antoine, Claude Jutra
1971 Tiens-toi bien après les oreilles à papa..., Jean Bissonnette
1972 Le bonhomme,  Pierre Maheu
1972 Le temps d'une chasse, Francis Mankiewicz
1972 Tranquillement, pas vite, Guy L. Coté
1972 La vraie nature de Bernadette, Gilles Carle
1973 Action : The October Crisis of 1970 (Les événements d'Octobre), Robin Spry
 1973 Les dernières fiançailles, Jean Pierre Lefebvre
1973 La faim, Peter Foldes
1973 Richesse des autres, Maurice Bulbulian
1973 Taureau, Clément Perron
1974 Bingo, Jean-Claude Lord
1974 Les filles du Roy, Anne claire Poirier
1974 Night Cap, André Forcier
1974 Les ordres, Michel Brault
1975 Gina, Denys Arcand
1976 J.A. Martin, photographe, Jean Beaudin
1976 Le paysagiste,  Jacques Drouin
1976 24 heures ou plus..., Gilles Groulx
1977 Le château de sable, Co Hoedeman
1977 Jeux de la XXIe Olympiade, Jean-Claude Labrecque
1978 L'âge de la machinne, Gilles Carle
1978, 1986 The Champions (Les champions),  Donald Brittain
1979 Les bons débarras, Francis Mankiewicz
1979 L'hiver bleu, André Blanchard
1979 Mourir à tue-tête, Anne Claire Poirier
1981 Le confort et l'indifférence, Denys Arcand
1981 Crac, Frédéric Back
1981 Depuis que le monde est monde,  Serge Giguère
1981 Not a Love Story — A Film about Pornography (C'est surtout pas de ramer — Un film sur la pornographie), Bonnie Sherr Klein
1981 Les Plouffe, Gilles Carle
1982 Souvenirs de guerre, Pierre Hébert
1983 Bonheur d'occasion, Claude Fournier
1983 Mémoire battante, Arthur Lamothe
1983 La turlute des années dures,  Richard Boutet, Pascal Gélinas
1984 Les années de rêves, Jean-Claude Labrecque
1984 Democracy on Trial : The Morgentaler Affair (La justice en procès: l'affaire Morgentaler),  Paul Cowan
1984 Jacques et Novembre,  Jean Beaudry, François Bouvier
1985 Caffè Italia, Montréal, Paul Tana
1985 Elvis Gratton, Pierre Falardeau
1985 Le film d'Ariane, Josée Beaudet
1985 « Quel numéro What number ? », Sophie Bissonnette
1986 Bach et Bottine, André Melançon
1986 Le déclin de l'empire américain, Denys Arcand
1986 L'homme renversé, Yves Dion
1987 La guerre oubliée (Fragments de mémoire), Richard Boutet
1987 Train of Dreams, John N. Smith
1987 Un zoo, la nuit, Jean-Claude Lauzon
1988 À corps perdu, Lée Pool
1988 Alias Will James, Jacques Godbout
1988 Chronique d'un temps flou, Sylvie Groulx
1989 Jésus de Montréal, Denys Arcand
1989 Portion d'éternité, Robert Favreau
1990 The Company of Strangers, Cynthia Scott
1990 Le party, Pierre Falardeu
1992 Léolo, Jean-Claude Lauzon
1992 Requiem pour un beau sans-coeur, Robert Morin
1993 Because Why, Arto Paragamian
1993 Deux actrices, Micheline Lanctôt
1994 L'âge de la performance. Messe pour le temps des gagnants, Carole Poliquin
1995 Le confessionnal, Robert Lepage

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Entretien avec Edouard Sivière à propos Positif (FR and EN)

Edouard Sivière’s excellent new book L’Esprit Positif: Histoire d’une revue de cinéma 1952–2016 (Eurédit édition) is now on the shelves of film bookstore (I reviewed it on The Review). So here’s a bilingual interview with Sivière where he talks about the genesis of the project, his relationship with Positif and what he would like to see more of from the magazine. – D.D.
***

DD: Comment as-tu découvert Positif ? 
ES: J’ai découvert la revue au début des années 90, en 1992 exactement, c’est-à-dire à l’époque du quarantième anniversaire. J’ai commencé à vraiment entendre parler de Positif à cette occasion et je suis tombé le mois suivant sur leur numéro affichant The Player de Robert Altman en couverture. Étudiant, je cherchais depuis longtemps une revue qui recouperait mes goûts tout en m’indiquant de nouvelles voies. J’ai donc gardé l’œil sur elle les mois suivants et il s’est avéré qu’en mettant successivement en couverture le premier film de Tarantino puis les films de Kiarostami, Iosseliani et Zhang Yimou, elle a aussitôt comblé mes attentes. L’objet était un peu cher mais d’une belle rigueur dans la présentation. Une autre chose m’a alors épaté : cette revue pouvait consacrer, comme cet été-là avec Orson Welles, 60 pages au passé du cinéma sans lien particulier avec l’actualité.     
DD: Est-ce que tu la lis encore ? 
ES: Je la lis encore… mais avec beaucoup moins de passion et de curiosité qu’auparavant. Je ne la lis d’ailleurs plus intégralement, laissant passer plusieurs textes et me contentant souvent des critiques des films que j’ai vu ou des plumes qui m’intéressent. Avant de me replonger dans son histoire pour la rédaction du livre à partir de l’été dernier, j’avoue même avoir fait l’impasse sur deux ou trois numéros, ce qui ne m’était jamais arrivé en 25 ans.     
DD: À Positif, quels sont tes critiques favoris, anciens et actuels ? 
ES: Pendant les années 50 et 60, Positif a proposé une critique explosive, passionnée et excessive, particulièrement vivante jusqu’à paraître désordonnée. Les traitements injustes envers des cinéastes et des films n’ont pas manqué mais il me semble que l’écriture d’Ado Kyrou, par exemple, emportait tout par sa ferveur, et que, d’un autre côté, celle de Louis Seguin, moins fantasque, touchait souvent juste ou au moins provoquait la réflexion. Gérard Legrand a aussi écrit de très beaux textes, pas toujours simples à suivre, mais remarquables notamment par leur caractère très personnel et l’approfondissement perpétuel qu’ils cherchaient à effectuer. Ce flambeau me semble avoir été repris ensuite par quelqu’un comme Vincent Amiel, à l’esprit particulièrement ouvert. Il y a tant de noms que je pourrais citer sur ces 65 années : Robert Benayoun, Michel Sineux, Michel Ciment pour ses textes des années 60-70, N.T. Binh, Christian Viviani, Jean-Pierre Coursodon, Noël Herpe… Sans compter que, parfois, les textes les plus stimulants sont signés de critiques accompagnant la revue sans être au comité de rédaction, comme Barthélemy Amengual hier, Michel Chion ou Fabien Gaffez pour les années plus récentes. Aujourd’hui, alors que les écrits publiés sont de moins en moins différenciés et de moins en moins tranchants, ceux qui m’intéressent le plus sont ceux qui osent tenir des positions fermes et n’hésitent pas à franchir quelques lignes bien tracées, des gens comme Fabien Baumann, Adrien Gombeaud, Jean-Christophe Ferrari…  
DD: Quels sujets aimerais-tu voir traités dans la revue sous la forme de dossier ?
ES: Aujourd’hui encore, la plupart du temps, l’établissement de dossiers solides est l’une des activités que ses détracteurs ne reprochent pas à Positif, en tout cas pour ce qui est des dossiers consacrés à l’histoire du cinéma. Concernant les problématiques actuelles autour du cinéma, c’est surtout un problème de timing qu’a Positif en général. La revue, toujours soucieuse de ne pas céder à la mode, prend régulièrement du retard dans le traitement de certains sujets comme internet, les séries télévisées... Mais au-delà de cette réticence à aller voir ce qui se fait ailleurs que dans le cercle de la cinéphilie « officielle », il me semble que la revue gagnerait à effectuer, à l’occasion de ses dossiers rétrospectifs, des mises à jour, de vrais retours sur elle-même, sur la façon dont elle a pu accueillir certains films dans le passé. Et il faudrait peut-être qu’elle pense un jour à publier un dossier Godard, qu’il aille dans un sens ou un autre, afin qu’elle ne continue pas seulement à repousser ses films contemporains en disant regretter ceux des années 60 alors que les rédacteurs de cette époque les avaient démolis aussi sévèrement.   

DD: Comment et pourquoi l’histoire de Positif écrite d’abord pour le blog Nightswimming a-t-elle été publiée en livre ? As-tu effectué beaucoup d'autres recherches et as-tu beaucoup retravaillé le texte ? Que penses-tu de ton livre maintenant qu'il est terminé ? 
ES: J’ai fermé mon blog Nightswimming lorsque j’ai mis en ligne la quatrième et dernière partie de cette histoire de Positif. Honnêtement, je pensais en avoir fini avec ce travail, même si l’éventualité d’une publication papier pouvait toujours se présenter. J’avais même complètement tourné la page lorsque j’ai reçu une proposition ferme de mon éditeur l’été dernier. J’ai donc tout repris car ce n’était pas publiable en l’état sous forme de livre. La première partie, consacrée à la période 1952-1965, était beaucoup trop courte par rapport aux autres et la dernière devait être mise à jour puisque trois ans avaient passé entretemps. Mais c’est la totalité qui a été considérablement augmentée. J’ai tenté de fluidifier l’ensemble, d’une partie à l’autre, et j’ai ajouté un grand nombre de citations afin que le lecteur se plonge plus facilement dans cette critique « à la Positif », ainsi qu’une conclusion reprenant l’évolution de la revue et évoquant mon ressenti par rapport à celle-ci. 
J’espère que les lecteurs en apprendront beaucoup sur cette histoire, qui est relativement méconnue, ce qui m’a poussé d’ailleurs à la rédiger. Le livre est sans doute, dans certains passages, trop basé sur l’énumération des noms et des titres, ressemblant alors à un éditorial de Michel Ciment, mais j’ai essayé de trouver un équilibre entre les données historiques et l’expression d’un ressenti, qui est assez partagé, me semble-t-il. Mon travail sur le blog avait été bien accueilli et encouragé, mais était resté très confidentiel. Cette édition papier lui donne forcément plus de poids. Quelques articles dans la presse et une mention dans la grande émission de radio « Le Masque et la Plume » le prouvent.     
DD: Ta conclusion est un peu sévère (même si je partage ton avis). Quelles réactions imagines-tu qu'elle suscitera chez les rédacteurs ? 
ES: Cela dépend évidemment des rédacteurs. Je formule des reproches et j’exprime des inquiétudes qui sont partagées par certains mais probablement pas par d’autres, satisfaits du fonctionnement de la revue et de ses choix. J’espère au moins que mon travail ne sera pas balayé d’un revers de manche sous prétexte que la conclusion n’est pas très rassurante. Et au mieux, qu’il provoque un débat au sein de la rédaction. Un compte-rendu du livre devrait être publié dans le numéro de Positif du mois de mai. J’ai entendu avec plaisir qu’au « Masque et la Plume », Michel Ciment l’avait déjà accueilli positivement, malgré les critiques que j’ai pu lui adresser.     
DD: As-tu déjà rencontré des rédacteurs de la revue ? Que disent-ils de ton travail ?  J’en ai croisé deux ou trois au cours de festivals ou de présentations, à l’époque où je tenais le blog. Ils connaissaient mon travail, qui avait donc déjà circulé parmi eux, et l’ont salué cordialement. Plus tard, grâce aux réseaux sociaux, j’ai pu avoir des échanges un peu plus approfondis avec deux ou trois autres. Malgré les désaccords sur tel ou tel détail et les différences de point de vue sur le fonctionnement de la revue selon que l’on est rédacteur ou simple lecteur, ils ne m’ont jamais laissé dans l’idée que je faisais fausse route, bien au contraire. Qu’ils me disent que mon livre leur apprenne, à eux aussi, des choses sur l’histoire de Positif ou leur permette de retrouver des plumes appréciées me fait évidemment particulièrement plaisir.    
***
DD: How did you discover Positif ? 
ES: I discovered the magazine in the early 1990s, in 1992, exactly, at the time of the fortieth anniversary. I started to hear about Positif on this occasion and I stumbled upon the following month on their issue with Robert Altman's The Player on the cover. As a student, I had long sought a journal that would overlap with my tastes while pointing out new paths. So I kept an eye on it the following months and it turned out that by successively covering the first Tarantino film and then the films of Kiarostami, Iosseliani and Zhang Yimou, it immediately fulfilled my expectations. The magazine was a little expensive but of a good rigor in the presentation. Another thing impressed me: this magazine could devote, as that summer with Orson Welles, 60 pages to the past of the cinema without a particular link with the actuality.     
DD: Do you still read it ? 
ES: I still read it... but with much less passion and curiosity than before. I do not read it any more completely, letting pass several texts and often content with the criticisms of the films that I saw or writers that interest me. Before I plunged back into its history for the book's writing from last summer, I even admit to having ignored two or three issues, which had never happened to me in 25 years.     
DD: At Positif, who are your favorite writers, old and current ? 
ES: During the 50s and 60s, Positif proposed an explosive, passionate and excessive criticism, particularly alive until appearing disorderly. Unfair treatment of filmmakers and films has not failed, but it seems to me that the writing of Ado Kyrou, for example, carried away everything with his fervor, and that, on the other hand, that of Louis Seguin, less whimsical, often touched fairly or at least provoked reflection. Gérard Legrand also wrote very beautiful texts, not always easy to follow, but remarkable in particular because of their very personal character and the perpetual deepening they sought to perform. This torch seems to me to have been taken up again by someone like Vincent Amiel, with a particularly open mind. There are so many names that I could quote over these 65 years: Robert Benayoun, Michel Sineux, Michel Ciment for his texts from the 60s and 70s, N.T. Binh, Christian Viviani, Jean-Pierre Coursodon, Noël Herpe ... Besides, sometimes the most stimulating texts are signed by critics accompanying the magazine without being on the editorial board, like Barthélemy Amengual yesterday, Michel Chion or Fabien Gaffez for the more recent years. Today, while the published writings are less and less differentiated and less and less sharp, those that interest me most are those who dare to hold firm positions and do not hesitate to cross a few well-drawn lines, people like Fabien Baumann, Adrien Gombeaud, Jean-Christophe Ferrari...
DD: What topics would you like to see treated in the journal in the form of a dossier ?
ES: Even today, the establishment of solid dossiers is one of the activities that its critics do not retort Positif for, at least in the case of the dossiers devoted to the history of cinema. Concerning the current problems around the cinema, it is mainly a problem of timing that Positif haves in general. The magazine, always anxious not to yield to fashion, regularly falls behind in the treatment of certain subjects like internet, television series... But beyond this reluctance to go see what is done elsewhere than in the circle of "official" cinephilia, it seems to me that the magazine would gain, in the course of its retrospective dossiers, of updates, real returns on itself, how it was able to accommodate certain films in the past. And perhaps Positif should one day think of publishing a dossier on Godard, that he go one way or another, so that it does not just continue to reject his contemporary films by saying agreeing with regret the sentiments of the 60s writers that demolished him so severely.     
DD: How did your history of Positif  that was first written for the Nightswimming blog get published in book ? Have you done a lot of other research since and have you reworked the text a lot for the book ? What do you think of your book now that it is finished ? 
ES: I closed my blog Nightswimming when I posted the fourth and final part of this story from Positif. Honestly, I thought I was done with this work, even if the possibility of a paper publication could still arise. I had even turned the page completely when I received a firm proposal from my publisher last summer. So I took it all back because it was not publishable for book form. The first part, devoted to the period 1952-1965, was far too short compared to the others and the last part had to be updated since three years had passed in the meantime. But it is the totality that has been considerably increased. I have attempted to make the whole process more fluid from one part to the other, and I have added a large number of quotations so that the reader can immerse themself more readily into this criticism “à la Positif” and a conclusion resuming the evolution of the review and evoking my feelings in relation to it. I hope that readers will learn a lot about this story, which is relatively unknown, which led me to write it. The book is undoubtedly, in some passages, too based on the enumeration of names and titles, resembling an editorial of Michel Ciment, but I tried to find a balance between the historical data and the expression of a feeling, which is fairly shared, it seems to me. My work on the blog was welcomed and encouraged, but remained very confidential. This paper edition inevitably gives it more weight. A few articles in the press and a mention on the major French radio show Le Masque et la Plume prove it.     
DD: Your conclusion is a bit severe (even if I share your opinion). What reactions do you think it will cause among the editors ? 
ES: It obviously depends on the writers. I am expressing reproaches and concerns that are shared by some but probably not by others, who are satisfied with the way the journal works and its choices. I hope at least that my work will not be swept away by a brush of the sleeve under the pretext that the conclusion is not very reassuring. And at best, it provokes a debate at Positif. A review of the book should be published in the May issue of Positif. I was pleased to hear that in Le Masque et la Plume, Michel Ciment had already welcomed it positively, despite the criticisms I included.     
DD: Have you ever met editors of the magazine ? What do they say about your work ?
ES: I saw two or three of them at festivals or presentations, at the time I wrote my blog. They knew my work, which had already circulated among them, and greeted it cordially. Later, thanks to the social networks, I was able to have a little more in depth exchanges with two or three others. In spite of the disagreements on this or that detail and the different views on the functioning of the magazine, depending on whether you are one of its writers or a simple reader, they never left me in the idea that I was wrong, on the contrary. When they tell me that my book teaches them things about the story of Positif or allow them to find appreciated writers, it obviously makes me particularly happy.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

100 Best Canadian Films – Piers Handling

The reputation of Piers Handling precedes him: not only is he the director of TIFF but also a passionate cinephile and a valuable supporter of Canadian cinema. This includes having published two books on some of Canada's most important directors: Donald Shebib and David Cronenberg. Other contributions to 100 Best Canadian Films include those by Marcel Jean, Mike Hoolboom and myself. They’re meant to be fun, subjective forays into the history of Canadian cinema. I’m also excited to to highlight the great new TIFF Canada on Screen website where many of these films are beautifully described and illustrated. There’s more to come! – D.D.
***
Piers Handling’s 103 Best Canadian Films
- Back to God's Country (David Hartford, 1919)

- Carry on Sergeant! (Bruce Bairnsfather, 1928) 
 
- Rhapsody In Two Languages (Gordon Sparling, 1934)

- Churchill's Island (Stuart Legg, 1941)
- Listen to the Prairies (Gudrun Parker, 1945)

- Neighbours (Norman McLaren, 1952)
- Corral (Colin Low, 1954)
- Paul Tomkowicz: Street-railway Switchman (Roman Kroitor, 1954)
- City of Gold (Colin Low, Wolf Koenig, 1957)
- Les raquetteurs (Michel Brault, Gilles Groulx, 1958)
- The Days Before Christmas (Wolf Koenig, Terence Macartney-Filgate, Stanley Jackson, 1958)

- Very Nice, Very Nice (Arthur Lipsett, 1961)
- Lonely Boy (Roman Kroitor, Wolf Koenig, 1962)
- Bûcherons de la Manouane (Arthur Lamothe, 1962)
- Jour après jour (Clément Perron, 1962)
- Pour la suite du monde (Pierre Perrault, Michel Brault, Marcel Carrière, 1963)
- À tout prendre (Claude Jutra, 1963)
- Le chat dans le sac (Gilles Groulx, 1964)
- Nobody Waved Good-bye (Don Owen, 1964)
- Memorandum (Donald Brittain, John Spotton, 1965)
- La vie heureuse de Léopold Z (Gilles Carle, 1965)
- Winter Kept Us Warm (David Secter, 1965)
- Entre la mer et l'eau douce (Michel Brault, 1967)
- Warrendale (Allan King, 1967)
- Il ne faut pas mourir pour ça (Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1967)
- Wavelength (Michael Snow, 1967)
- Rat Life and Diet in North America (Joyce Wieland, 1968)
- A Married Couple (Allan King, 1969)
- Good Times Bad Times (Donald Shebib, 1969)

- The Act of the Heart (Paul Almond, 1970)
- Surfacing on the Thames (David Rimmer, 1970)
- Sad Song of Yellow Skin (Michael Rubbo, 1970)
- Goin' Down the Road (Donald Shebib, 1970)
- Les mâles (Gilles Carle, 1971)
- Mon oncle Antoine (Claude Jutra, 1971)
- The Only Thing You Know (Clarke Mackey, 1971)
- La vraie nature de Bernadette (Gilles Carle, 1972)
- La vie rêvée (Mireille Dansereau, 1972)
- Wedding in White (William Fruet, 1972) 
- Le Temps d'une chasse (Francis Mankiewicz, 1972)
- Réjeanne Padovani (Denys Arcand, 1973)
- Les dernières fiançailles (Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1973)
- The Hard Part Begins (Paul Lynch, 1973)
- Paperback Hero (Peter Pearson, 1973)
- Between Friends (Donald Shebib, 1973)
- Les Ordres (Michel Brault, 1974)
- Bar Salon (André Forcier, 1974)
- Cree Hunters of Mistassini (Boyce Richardson, Tony Ianzelo, 1974)
- The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (Ted Kotcheff, 1974)
- Waiting for Fidel (Michael Rubbo, 1974)
- Montreal Main (Frank Vitale, 1974)
- She Is Away (Bruce Elder, 1976)
- The Far Shore (Joyce Wieland, 1976)
- J.A. Martin photographe (Jean Beaudin, 1977)
- Chronique de la vie quotidienne: Samedi (Pierre Bernier, Jean Chabot, Roger Frappier, Claude Grenier, Jacques Leduc, 1977)
- Le vieux pays où Rimbaud est mort (Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1977)
- The Rubber Gun (Allan Moyle, 1977)
- Mother Tongue (Derek May, 1979)
- Mourir à tue-tête (Anne Claire Poirier, 1979)

- Les Bons débarras (Francis Mankiewicz, 1980)
- La cuisine rouge (Paule Baillargeon, Frédérique Collin, 1980)
- Sifted Evidence (Patricia Gruben, 1981)
- The Grey Fox (Phillip Borsos, 1982)
- Poetry in Motion (Ron Mann, 1982)
- La bête lumineuse (Pierre Perrault, 1982)
- Videodrome (David Cronenberg, 1983)
- Sonatine (Micheline Lanctôt, 1984)
- La femme de l’hôtel (Léa Pool, 1984)
- Crime Wave (John Paizs, 1985)
- My American Cousin (Sandy Wilson, 1985)
- Le Déclin de L'empire Américain (Denys Arcand, 1986) 
- White Museum (Mike Hoolboom, 1986)
- Family Viewing (Atom Egoyan, 1987)
- Un zoo la nuit (Jean-Claude Lauzon, 1987)
- Life Classes (William D. MacGillivray, 1987)
- I've Heard the Mermaids Singing (Patricia Rozema, 1987)
- Loyalties (Anne Wheeler, 1987)
- Dead Ringers (David Cronenberg, 1988)

- The Making Of Monsters (John Greyson, 1990)
- Archangel (Guy Maddin, 1990)
- The Adjuster (Atom Egoyan, 1991)
- Highway 61 (Bruce McDonald, 1991)
- Calendar (Atom Egoyan, 1993)
- Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (François Girard, 1993)
- Kanehsatake 270 Years of Resistance (Alanis Obomsawin, 1993)
- Save My Lost Nigga Soul (Clement Virgo, 1993)
- Picture of Light (Peter Mettler, 1994)
- Rude (Clement Virgo, 1995)
- Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996)
- Last Night (Don McKellar, 1998)
- The Five Senses (Jeremy Podeswa, 1999)

- The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, 2000)
- Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001)
- Gambling, Gods and LSD (Peter Mettler, 2002)
- La neuvaine (Bernard Émond, 2005)
- Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
- C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée, 2005)
- Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal, 2006)
- My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
- Polytechnique (Denis Villeneuve, 2009)

- Laurence Anyways (Xavier Dolan, 2012)
- Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
- Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau (Mathieu Denis, Simon Lavoie, 2016)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Matt’s Movie Posters

“Going to lounge at a friend’s house and play board games and just waste their time. That’s one of the great... That is what our society… Like all of this stuff. Like the doctors, the energy, all of the wars, all of this brutality. It’s so that we can have those moments!” – Matt Johnson

The posters in Matt and Jay’s house in Nirvanna The Band offer suggestive references to larger subjects and themes of particular episodes and the series. The background pictures and posters hanging on the walls of the living rooms and workspaces in Matt Johnson’s work have slowly evolved over time: In the original Nirvana web-series there were images of popular culture and personalized pictures adorned on the walls. In The Dirties there’s plenty of posters from mainstream nineties films in the basement and what makes them unique is that they have been grafitied, illustrating what Henry Jenkins describes as the participatory textual poaching of convergence culture. In Operation Avalanche, which is set in 1967, there is a well-selected arrangement of vintage posters of the classic films of that historical period. And now in the reboot of Nirvanna their living room includes a wall layered with the highly esteemed Criterion Collection posters.
Matt Johnson’s Nirvanna The Band The Show, similar to videogames, creates a playful, virtual world full of references that act like interactive hyperlinks that allows its viewers to participate in their meaning by pursuing them IRL to better understand their significance (I’ve definitively taken up playing pool at The Rivoli because of the show). These textual references through movie posters was always there in Johnson’s work and they culminate in the pop DVD covers turned posters of the Criterion Collection films that layer the walls of the Zapruder Films studio in Nirvanna. It was probably during the transition from the original web-series to The Dirties that Johnson leaped exponentially as a filmmaker. While the first Nirvana series seems more influenced by popular television and reality shows, mainstream movies and alternative music, video games and digital media, afterwards starting with The Dirties the history of cinema and its masters became his biggest rivals. Though it’s still popular culture (‘His name is John Cena!’) and movies from a nineties childhood (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, F. Gary Gray’s The Negotiator) that’s usually at the forefront of each episode, these tucked away references add depth to the work and participates in a larger circulation of film forms. From what’s available so far in the Criterion Collection, I’ve counted twenty titles that are directly engaged with in Johnson’s work (though there’s many others that appear through the posters).
François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) seems like the obvious choice: a delinquent teen in Paris of the fifties who skips school and spends his time hanging out with friends and fighting with his mother. The Dirties has been said to owe a lot to Rémy Belvaux, André Bonzel and Benoît Poelvoorde’s Man Bites Dog (1992), which is dark comedy that follows a serial killer as a documentary crew is making a film about him. Johnson has spoken highly of Orson Welles (a The Stranger poster is on their office wall in Operation Avalanche) and the film of this star-director that has been the most cited is F for Fake (1973) for revealing the illusionary nature of the medium and for being about the creation of a film. One of the special features on the DVD of The Dirties is Johnson editing the film on his Mac computer, which is the most direct connotation of the Welles documentary (and perhaps also Filming Othello). Lindsay Anderson’s If…. (1968) starring Malcolm McDowell as a rebellious teen in the academy who takes to violence is a staple of the school shooting genre. When Matt is in drag singing ‘Malkovich, Malkovich…’ making their student film in The Dirties it’s a direct reference to Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich (1999). The two secret, hidden references in The Dirties are Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold home videos (the Columbine shooters) and Ben Coccio’s Zero Day (2003).
In Operation Avalanche there’s a scene where Matt is talking and in the background Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) is playing in the background and they also visit Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). The direct cinema style of the film was said to be influenced by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin’s documentary on The Rolling Stones Gimme Shelter (1970). One particular great introductory medium shot of Matt reminded of how John Ford introduced John Wayne in Stagecoach (1939). The hidden references in Operation Avalanche are the moon landing conspiracy films Peter Hyams’s Capricorn One (1977) and William Karel’s Opération Lune (2002).
But the difference between the use of posters in Operation Avalanche and Nirvanna is comparable to the difference between Hollywood Canteen and the Criterion offices on Fifth Avenue. In episode six The Boy there are two miracles: discovering the boy is able to walk and Jay coming to terms with his severe mother. These reminded me of how the fifties Cahiers critics saw in the films of Rossellini (Journey to Italy) and Hitchcock the creation of miracles. In episode seven The Buffet the episode revolves around the premise of My Dinner with André (1981) and there’s even an insert shot from it at the beginning. Matt also describes being really moved from a scene from Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata of Ingrid Bergman’s saying, ‘I could always live in my art but never in my life.’
            But its episode five The Big Time where the most posters appear in the frame, as opposed to mostly just being in the background of some of the interior shots, and it’s the one where Matt becomes a filmmaker and takes his film to Sundance (also explicitly referenced is the Entourage episode The Sundance Kids). In their living room, surrounded by their piano, television and N64 and other collectibles these Criterion posters are on full display on the west wall by the bunkbed. These include: Sam Fuller’s White Dog (1982), which makes one think if is it’s the Matt character whose racist or if it’s a show about racism? Though the blunt insensitivity to racial issues probably owes more to the shtick of certain gonzo comedians and their characters like David Brent (Ricky Gervais), Jonah Takalua (Chris Lilley) and Ali G (Sacha Baron Cohen). There’s Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989). So is Matt just trying to do the right thing? I’m not so sure… Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). Is this to suggest Matt is a Christ-like martyr, suffering for all of our sins? Maybe a bit of stretch… Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960) is there. The Antonioni film transitioned cinema to its modernity with its narrative and ambiguity, sense of alienation and duration. Would Nirvanna be bringing the cinematographic medium into its next phase? The Beastie Boys Video Anthology, and perhaps to a lesser extent Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991) and Dazed and Confused (1993), culminates the MTV music video mashups of styles and nineties pop joyfulness that they would expand on. Chasing Amy (1997) because Kevin Smith (who has a cameo in the series) would help Johnson earlier in his career by distributing The Dirties. Rainer W. Fassbinder’s World on a Wire (1973) predicts the virtual, simulated world of spectacle that modern society is wrapped up in but also Fassbinder the filmmaker, working with a tightly-knit troupe, starring in his work and making auteur television (Fox and His Friends is another example of a work with similarities). Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up (1990) which is about a con-artist being so moved by a film that he pretends to be its director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and is then caught, charged, released and then finally accepted as the illusion. Finally, and I think most importantly, David Lean’s adaptation of the Noël Coward play Brief Encounter (1945) where a chance encounter leads to a change of ones life, giving meaning to its existence and whose memories will always be fondly remembered. As great a description of what makes Nirvanna so valuable if Ive ever heard any.
So all of these references contribute to the DNA of cinematographic forms in Johnsons’s work, which I think him makes one of the most sophisticated directors working today, even though they are tucked underneath the work’s overt silly and adolescent narratives. Just like the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock these little details in the mise en scène can contribute to the plot and themes or just only be suggestive red herrings. It makes one wonder: where’s the Psycho poster hiding?