Friday, May 20, 2011

The Deserters

(Jack Darcus, 1983)

Here the 'Vancouver New Wave' gets seriously long in the tooth. Even if this draft-dodging allegory script is NOT based on a stage play - a long shot - it is still one of the least cinematic ‘adaptations’ I’ve ever seen. An opening scene on a train, a subsequent scene in an office, and a climactic two minutes of somebody walking down the front steps are the only escape we get from the single, dreary townhouse set, and they are so gratuitous and unintegrated that they’re more of a disfigurement than a relief – especially the first scene, where a bunch of characters we expect to be focal points pop their heads in and then vanish. It’s really saying something to note that Alan Scarfe’s bombastic, tight-ass sergeant gives you something to watch – his character reveal from fierce patriot to delirious casualty of war is definitely the stuff of theatrical cliché, but his rendition is perfectly modulated and more or less spellbinding. Otherwise, we are stuck sharing these cramped quarters with a gratuitously prissy pacifist, a shrill housewife on the make, and a simpering oaf. Darcus tries to use these characters to broaden the antiwar commentary into class and gender analysis, but his erratic grasp of these issues and his stunted staging makes you pine for a car chase.

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