Saturday, July 10, 2010

One Man

(Robin Spry, 1977)
Spry shows ample signs here of the random didacticism that corrupted his 80s work - did he actually think that running a sotto voce litany of vaguely relevant biochemical disasters over the end credits would enhance the impact of his narrative, or was it just a sop to the doc-hoppers at the NFB? Either way, the Film Board aesthetic of grainy intimacy certainly does his headline-chasing agenda more favours than the remote slickness of his later work. It also reflects the dominance of human over rhetorical concerns - the corporate-conspiracy details of the narrative are secondary to the dilemma of Len Cariou's conscience-plagued newsman. The struggle with the oppressively immediate real-life consequences of speaking truth to power - or not - is captured with appropriate urgency and gravitas, so that with the help of some genuinely inspired tension sequences we really get inside Cariou's doubts and fears. This is an unusual emphasis for a seventies paranoia thriller, and it's directly attributable to the strong, complex female characters that share the foreground - Carole Lazare's tormented whistle-blower and especially Jayne Eastwood's beleaguered housewife take the piss out of the usual system-smashing heroics in a smart, illuminating way. One man indeed!

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