Sunday, March 21, 2010


(Anne Wheeler, 1987)
This film made me very angry. Its central conceit is to portray repression by being repressed itself - a high-stakes gambit that fails spectacularly because Wheeler's directorial artistry has no vigor. Vic Sarin's attenuated cinematography is always suffocatingly clinical in wide shot and maddeningly neutral in closeup, whether the subject is the desperately neurotic white family with the pedophile at its nucleus or the conflict- and poverty-ridden First Nations clan who would be more effectively used for instructive contrast. It's arty nonsense to taint the northerners with the same arid inexpressiveness as the good-and-proper interlopers. But the most aggressively offensive failure comes at the film's so-called 'resolution'. At this point we've been waiting around for at least an hour in the full knowledge that Kenneth Welsh's relentless creep is destined to molest Tantoo Cardinal's young daughter Diane Debassige, and meanwhile Susan Wooldridge has been investing untold shading and complexity to her initially remote, neurotically enabling wife. The filmmakers are right to foreground Wooldridge's tangled psyche, and as the situation explodes you are genuinely invested in how she plays her hand. But after the agonizing, sensationalized assault sequence (you've never seen a film that uses thunder cues so ham-fistedly), it's as though the filmmakers have exhausted their attention span; Welsh is never seen again, Debassige is never granted the dignity of a single close-up to convey her pain, Wooldridge resolves her arc not by actually doing anything but by phoning the fucking police, OFF SCREEN - and worst of all, we are asked to believe that this anti-dramatic, wildly insufficient corrective will inspire Cardinal to repress all her raw maternal fury and invite this basket case to move in with her without a single word of reprimand. Absolutely incredible, 'women's' film or no; viewers of all genders deserve to see their representatives resolve their own narratives! While the camera is rolling, okay!!!

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