THE CINEGEEK’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF WHAT OUR COUNTRY HAS TO OFFER ON SCREEN
Story by Ari Grief
When asked “What’s the last Canadian film you’ve seen?”, often Canadians have trouble naming even one. Don’t expect more than a blank stare if you further qualify the question and ask for a Canadian film seen on the big screen.
Believe it or not, Canada has a rich and diverse film heritage spanning the history of film. Here is just a few of Plaid’s picks. If the list is foreign to you, great – you’re in for a treat.
What’s your favourite Canadian film?
GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD (Donald Shebib –1970)
The Canadian film version of Jack Kerouac’s beat classic On the Road economically documents the Toronto of the late 1960’s in this classic buddy tale of desolation, failed hopes, and broken dreams. When two bumpkin buddies from Cape Breton, convinced that a better life awaits them, hit the road for the Big Smoke, things don’t go quite as planned. This film inspired a generation of Canadian independent filmmakers. Donald Shebib revisited the story and characters with the sequel Goin’ Down The Road Again in 2011.
THE SWEET HEREAFTER (Atom Egoyan – 1997)
As of late, Atom Egoyan seems to have lost his touch, with his recent works taking a beating at the box office. But this does not discount the genius found in his earlier films like Exotica, and the touching, sensitive story that is The Sweet Hereafter. Starring Sarah Polley, the film focuses on a small community torn apart by anger and despair after a tragic bus accident kills many of the town’s children.
PORKY’S (Bob Clark – 1982)
Most people are not aware this is a Canadian production. One of those lightning-in-a-bottle comedies, it spawned two sequels, Porky’s 2: The Next Day (1983) and Porky’s Revenge (1985). The original follows the antics of a group of Florida teenagers from the fifties looking to lose their collective virginities while trying to outmaneuver a sleazy nightclub owner and his Sheriff brother. The film launched Kim Cattrall’s career with her small but memorable portrayal of “Lassie”. Although, at times crude, Porky’s was a commercial success and the all-time grossing Canadian film for years until surpassed by Men With Brooms (not on this list).
NEIGHBOURS (Norman McLaren – 1952)
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one (okay, there are two) National Film Board of Canada (NFB) production. For me, Norman McLaren’s short serves as a showcase of all the great things that were happening at the NFB at the time, especially in documentary and animation. Shot using the pixilation technique – applying stop-motion animation to live actors – the actors float across the screen in unnatural but fluid movements as two neighbours fight over a flower that pops-up on their shared property line. The story takes on added significance when viewed against the backdrop of the Cold War. This is “Film 101” people. You can watch the film online at NFB.
MON ONCLE ANTOINE (Claude Jutra – 1971)
Another small town affair, this Claude Jutras NFB classic was Canada’s answer to François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups). Set in snowy, rural Quebec, this coming-of-age tale shows us life in- and-around a general store in the forties, as told through the eyes of a pubescent boy on the cusp of manhood. The story tracks the boy’s experience coming to terms with the end of his innocence. Amazing cinematography by cinema vérité guru Michel Brault. You can watch the film at online at NFB.