Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kings and Desperate Men

(Alexis Kanner, 1981)
Go ahead and scorn the vertiginous camera work and the nonlinear montage and the dots-and-loops scoring as mere self-indulgences. They're also gorgeous - as close as Canadian narrative has come to 'pure cinema' outside of Winnipeg - and, after you acclimatize yourself, surprisingly kinetic for an almost two-hour movie. And that's not even mentioning the brilliant, punk-Altman sound design, which winds up being more meaningful than the script itself. The tale of a talk-radio host (Patrick McGoohan) held hostage by a revolutionary cabal of dubious provenance tilts uncomfortably toward brainwashed-masses cynicism and dead-end philosophics. The hyper pyrotechnics also keeps us a long arm's length from the performers, who despite their crucial human frailties wind up functioning more as symbols than characters, an impression undiminished by the stunt casting of Margaret Trudeau as the host's wife. All of which is ultimately okay, because behind the veil of attenuation this movie is a quite committed and expert piece of deadpan comedy. Avant-garde showmanship is something we could use more of, and when things threaten to spin out of control there's McGoohan holding it all together in a great performance that really does have some depth. Shot in '77, festival premiere in '81, and banished to cable in '84, this is not your usual failure story - its discord with the marketplace is conscious and purposeful, and Kanner's years of manual labour under myriad hats is all up there to be seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment