Sunday, January 24, 2010


Note: this is a reprint of an old review, reposted to commemorate the film's sudden availability as a newly-subtitled torrent file. The NFB's been sitting on this minor masterpiece for two decades and change - thank God for bootlegs!

(Fernand Belanger/Dagmar Teufel, 1986)
Another in the seemingly endless chapters of shame at the National Film Board of Canada, this dazzlingly ambitious, daring, formally unique movie finally emerged from 22 years of stealth suppression, for a SINGLE subtitled screening at Inside Out last night. No wonder the Board cut and ran, though - this movie gives no quarter. It is 'about' the Pope's visit to Montreal, with a sidebar on the concurrent Jacksons Victory Tour, and the key refrain is "On your knees!" - spectacle equals subservience, and the upward gaze encourages us to forget those left behind. Queers, transvestites, abused women, old people on meds, crazy people, alcoholic rednecks - all are represented, but not as objects of pity, but as active agents on their own, connected if disparate journeys; and what vision it took to make those links in 1986! And what cheek to interrupt the documentary footage with these FICTIONAL scenes and characters, to layer real-life action with wacky sound effect commentary and creative dubbing and unmistakably non-'objective' asides, and that too-cute animated anarchy snake that keeps showing up. By rebelling so vividly and vitally against the strait-jacketing conventions of documentary, the filmmakers lay bare the way that these conventions are only conventions because they serve exactly the interests of power and repression that the film portrays. Never mind the anticlericism: it is expressly forbidden for a state-produced film to have this much FUN! Which is no doubt why the visionary creators of this amazing film were never allowed to make another.

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