Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Greg Klymkiw's TOP TEN CANADIAN FILMS of 2012


By Greg Klymkiw

Tonight (December 4, 2012), The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) will be unveiling their choices for both the Top Ten Features and Top Ten Shorts (TIFF CTT 2012). I'm certainly looking forward to the announcements this evening. I'm especially looking forward to the free drinks and food, but this year, I might actually restrain myself from bringing a doggy-bag.

So, until TIFF reveals their own selections at 6:45pm (ET), here are my own choices for Canada's Top Ten. In ALPHABETICAL ORDER, here's the GK CTT 2012 - The Greg Klymkiw Canadian Top Ten:

AMERICAN MARY dir. Jen and Sylvia Soska
American Mary is a dazzlingly audacious sophomore effort from the Vancouver-based twisted twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska. With this new picture, the sisters are on (at least for some) shaky moral ground (and/or crack), but happily, they maintain the courage of their convictions and do not tread lightly upon it. This movie is some mighty nasty stuff - replete with elements of slashing satire that hack away and eventually tear open "normally" accepted versions of right and wrong whilst grasping the exposed nerve endings of morality, holding them taught and playing the jangling buggers like violin strings. The picture will provoke, anger, disgust, horrify and scandalize a multitude of audiences - it's one grim, horrific and darkly hilarious fairy tale. On its surface, the picture is a rape revenge fantasy set against the backdrop of body modification, but deep below, it roils with the sort of subversion Canadian filmmakers have become famous for all over the world.

Beyond The Black Rainbow features one of the most thrilling directorial debuts in years. Panos Cosmatos, who both wrote and directed this supremely enjoyable first-feature - a 70s/80s-style "head" film that has "cult" emblazoned upon its celluloid forehead. Gorgeously shot, vigorously edited, blessed with a cool score/soundscape as well as an imaginative production design, the movie is replete with a delicious combination of creepy psychiatric experimentation sequences, dollops of shockingly grotesque bloodletting and several dreamscape montages that are pretty trippy all by their lonesome. If truth be told, the movie can work quite nicely without added stimulants, but far be it from me to deter anyone from enjoying the movie with a massive ingestion of some fine west coast weed. So settle back, folks. Fire up a fat doobie and enjoy!

CLOUDBURST dir. Thom Fitzgerald
The Hanging Garden director delivers a beautifully written ode to love on the run - replete with k.d. lang music, pickup trucks, roadside cafes, Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker and a Nova Scotia that's never looked more heart-achingly beautiful. Fitzgerald's tale is a sort of gentle retirement-age Thelma and Louise. He wisely and bravely delivered a story that's as mature as it's downright universal. Love should have no boundaries and his direction indelibly captures a love story that's familiar, but bolstered by such genuine compassion, that I frankly can't imagine any audience not succumbing to its considerable charms.

THE END OF TIME dir. Peter Mettler
Nobody makes movies like Peter Mettler, so it stands to reason that when Peter Mettler makes documentaries, you're in for an experience like no other you've ever seen before. This hypnotic, riveting, provocative and profoundly moving exploration of time is one of the most original films of the new decade. And yes, time! TIME, for Christ's sake! Of all the journeys a filmmaker could take us on, only Mettler would have the almost-gentle Canadian audacity to explore the notion of time. And damned if Mettler doesn't plunge you into an experiential mind-fuck that both informs and dazzles. Lava flows both scarily and beautifully in Hawaii, Switzerland's particle accelerator seeks answers to the questions of creation, the place of Buddha's enlightenment reveals that the end of time, might just well be the beginning - all this and more are all under the scrutiny of Mettler's exquisite kino-eye (one of the best in the world, I might add). Mettler always journeys far and wide to seek answers, enlightenment and maybe, just maybe, both terrible and beautiful truths. And he lets us all come along for the ride.

FORTUNATE SON dir. Tony Asimakopoulos
This stunning personal documentary is a perfect companion piece to Sarah Polley's Stories We Tell. Telling a brave and identifiable story about love, loyalty and family that extraordinarily mirrors the lives of all who watch it, the picture demonstrates the inescapable truth that love is not easy. For love to BE love, for love to really count, it takes work, courage and fortitude. It means giving up ephemeral happiness for the happiness of endurance, of perseverance, of never giving up - the happiness and fulfillment that really counts. Tony Asimakopoulos is one of Canadian cinema's great unsung talents. His work has been charged with a unique underground flavour - a kind of Greek-Scorsese "boys in the 'hood" quality of obsession, dapplings of George Kuchar melodrama and lurid high contrast visuals. And Fortunate Son is, quite simply, a genuinely great film.

GOON dir. Michael Dowse
A Great Canadian Hockey Movie to follow in the footsteps of Canuck "Lumber-in-the-Teeth" Classics as FACE OFF, PAPERBACK HERO and, of course, the most Canadian Movie Never Made By A Canadian, George Roy Hill's Classic SLAP SHOT. Etching the tender tale of the kindly, but brick-shit-house-for-brains bouncer recruited to a cellar-dweller hockey team in Halifax as an enforcer, Dowse captures the sweaty, blood-spurting, bone-crunching and tooth-spitting circus of minor league hockey with utter perfection. The camaraderie, the endless bus trips, the squalid motels, the brain-dead fans, the piss-and-vinegar coaches, the craggy play-by-play sportscasters, the bars reeking of beer and vomit and, of course, Pogo Sticks - it's all here and then some. GOON delivers laughs, fisticuffs, mayhem and yes, even a dash of romance in a tidy package of good, old-fashioned underdog styling.

KEEP A MODEST HEAD (Ne crâne pas sois modeste) dir. Deco Dawson
Oh, Glorious surrealism! Oh, Canada! Oh, Headcheese de Cinema! Deco Dawson delivers his most mind-blowing magic to date with this delirious ode to French surrealist Jean Benoit. No longer content to volley mere scuds into cinema’s boundaries, Dawson hits all the buttons from mission control at Burpleson Air Base in Gimli, Manitoba to launch several A-bombs and a few H-bombs (for good measure) at the sturdy bastions of convention, thus fulfilling the true glory, madness and poetic potential of the greatest art form of all.

KRIVINA dir. Igor Drljaca
Not a single shot is fired in Canadian director Igor Drljaca's stunning feature debut, but the horror of war - its legacy of pain, its futility and its evil hang like a cloud over every frame of this powerful cinematic evocation of memory and loss. The film's hypnotic rhythm plunges us into the inner landscape of lives irrevocably touched by man's inhumanity to man - a diaspora of suffering that shall never escape the fog of war. Krivina is an astounding film - a personal vision that genuinely affects our sense of self to seek out our own worth, our own place in the world. Like Olexander Dovzhenko, Sergei Paradjanov and, to a certain extent, Tarkovsky, Drljaca achieves what I believe to be the fullest extent of what cinema can offer - the ability to touch the souls of its characters and, in so doing, touching the souls of those lucky enough to experience the magic that can only, I think, be fully wrought by the art of the motion picture.

PEACE OUT dir. Charles Wilkinson
This a powerful, persuasive and important film that focuses upon the environmental decimation of Canada's northwest. It's about energy and the horrible price we all pay for our hog-at-the-trough need for Hydro. The picture takes you by surprise and leaves you breathless. Diving into this vital film, we're witness to activist cinema of the highest order. Clever, subtle juxtapositions, smooth transitions between the beauty of nature, the destruction of the environment, the fluorescent-lit government and/or corporate offices, the dark, almost Gordon Willis styled shots of energy executives and in one case, an utterly heartbreaking montage of energy waste set to Erik Satie's Gymnopedie #1 - all of these exquisitely wrought moments and more, inspire sadness, anger and hopefully enough of these emotions will translate into inspiring action - even, as a Greenpeace interview subject suggests - civil disobedience.

STORIES WE TELL dir. Sarah Polley
Sarah Polley’s latest work as a director, a bonafide masterpiece, is first and foremost a story of family – not just a family, or for that matter any family, but rather a mad, warm, brilliant passionate family who expose their lives in the kind of raw no-guts-no-glory manner that only film can allow. Most importantly, the lives exposed are as individual as they are universal and ultimately it’s a film about all of us. Love permeates the entire film – the kind of consuming love that offers (as does the film itself) a restorative power of infinitesimal proportions. Sarah Polley is often referred to as Canada's “national treasure”. She’s far more than that. She’s a treasure to the world – period. And so, finally, is her film.

THE WORLD BEFORE HER dir. Nisha Pahuja
What is the future for the young women of modern India? Is it adherence to thousands of years of subservient tradition or finding success through beauty? Is it deepening their love for the Hindu religion through rigorous paramilitary training or maintaining their ties to religion and culture while engaging in the exploitation of their sexuality? The chasm between these two polar opposites couldn't be wider and yet, as we discover in Nisha Pahuja's extraordinary and compelling documentary feature The World Before Her, the differences are often skin deep as parallel lines clearly exist beneath the surface. All of this makes for one lollapalooza of a movie! Vibrant, incisive, penetrating and supremely entertaining, director Pahuja and her crackerjack team deliver one terrific picture - a genuine corker!

Oh, you might have noticed there are actually 11 films here. Don't like it? Fucking sue me!