Monday 27 January 2014

SURVIVAL LESSONS: THE GREG KLYMKIW STORY - Review By Greg Klymkiw -Forgotten Winnipeg, series of works exploring the mythology of "LittleChicago" at the Winnipeg Film Group Cinematheque, co-presented by theWinnipeg Symphony Orchestra New Music Festival and SPUR

GUY MADDIN on his Longtime Producer GREG KLYMKIW:
"As roommates, occasional nude sightings are inevitable.
One day I spied Greggy sleeping naked, his posterior facing me.
He looked like one of those cute clubbed baby seals."
Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story (2013) ****
Dir. Ryan McKenna
Starring: Greg Klymkiw, Guy Maddin, George Toles, Bruce Duggan, Tracy Traeger, Dave Barber, Matthew Rankin, Patrick Lowe

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It's a grey day in Toronto. What other days can there be in the capitol of Canadian pole-up-the-ass presbyterianism? The camera focuses in tight on the scowling face of a moustachioed, chain-smoking misanthrope in a dog park. Someone off-camera interrupts his interview to compliment him on his off-camera dog. "Yeah," he mutters under his breath. "Really nice dog I have here. Come a little closer and she'll take your fuckin' stupid hand off."

This is Greg Klymkiw - film producer, writer and long-time senior creative consultant at Norman Jewison's Canadian Film Centre - and he's the subject of Ryan McKenna's one-hour documentary about the early days of Winnipeg's prairie post-modernist new wave of indigenous, independent cinema. Blending interviews with the man himself, friends, colleagues and a generous supply of film clips and archival footage, McKenna presents a funny, unbridled portrait of the curmudgeonly film obsessed pioneer of indie production in the middle of nowhere - Winnipeg.

The movie follows Klymkiw's life as a North End lad who alternated between programming rep cinemas, buying films for small town movie theatres, writing uncompromising (and according to screenwriter George Toles, "incendiary") film reviews, conceiving, producing and starring in the perverse community cable cult hit "Survival", producing all the great early films of Guy Maddin and John Paizs and last, but not least, creating an entire mythology around the films being made in Winnipeg as the Director of Distribution and Marketing for the Winnipeg Film Group wherein he masterminded a marketing campaign to bring the films of Winnipeg to the entire world.

Okay, I'm sure you've gathered I'm reviewing a movie that's about, uh, me. It's a strange thing to do, but I have to admit that even though it is about me, I can genuinely attest to its quality, entertainment value and the filmmaking prowess of the talented young director Ryan McKenna who insanely decided I was worthy of my own documentary portrait.

When I first saw the finished product, to say I was delighted and flattered is an understatement. However, I needed to know myself, if the movie was really any good. So, I girded my loins and applied every single element of critical analysis that I'd volley mercilessly upon the shitloads of films I had to mentor at the Canadian Film Centre over thirteen years. The results of this stripping-away of my biases were, I'm happy to report, successful enough to be able to proclaim that, yes indeed, it's a fucking terrific little movie - especially for anyone interested in making independent, indigenous films in the middle of the second armpit of Canada (the first smelly, hairy armpit being Regina).

The real proof in the pudding for me was watching the film with a few audiences. Good deal here. Big laughs were had by all, pretty much from beginning to end.

The most important thing to note, though, is that Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story is playing within the context of a film festival co-presented by SPUR, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's New Music Festival and the Winnipeg Film Group Cinematheque as part of the ongoing series entitled "Forgotten Winnipeg". The film fits the thematic elements of this event like a glove. We're essentially dealing with a biographical portrait that wallows in the mythology of a guy (me) who loves mythology so much that he spends most of his professional life as someone who creates mythologies of all kinds and is finally a proponent of the famous credo John Ford proclaimed loudly and clearly at the end of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: When the truth becomes legend, what do you ultimately print. The legend or the truth?

The legend, of course.

You never let the truth get in the way of telling a good story. McKenna expertly plays with this throughout and as such, creates a pretty indelible portrait of friendship, mutual love for cinema, the absurd and finally, the realties of actually making and marketing movies that nobody cares about - until, of course, someone creates an atmosphere of "must-see" that lays down a fluffy, inviting blanket for all to dive into with relish and anticipation.

So, if you're in the 'Peg this week, you could do a lot worse than spend money on seeing this.

"Survival Lessons: The Greg Klymkiw Story" plays at the Winnipeg Film Group Cinematheque Thu Jan 30, 2014 at 7:00 PM. Get tickets and more info HERE. Oh yeah, Greg Klymkiw (uh, me) will be there in the flesh to provide added entertainment value.

A similar scene to the one experienced by Jim Jarmusch and others in New York during the 70s and 80s and captured in the documentary BLANK CITY as well as many other works in the "Forgotten Winnipeg" series was happening in Winnipeg wherein a very cool explosion in indie underground cinema that I and many colleagues and friends were involved with was spawned. This period, coined by film critic Geoff Pevere as Prairie Post-Modernism included the works of John Paizs, Guy Maddin, Greg Hanec and many others.

A great selection of early Guy Maddin, many of which that I produced and were written by George Toles, can be secured directly through the following links:

Another great film from Winnipeg during this period is Greg Hanec's extraordinary DOWNTIME which has the distinction of being a parallel cinematic universe to Jim Jarmusch's "STRANGER THAN PARADISE". Both films were made at the same time in two completely different cities and scenes and both Hanec and Jarmusch premiered their films at the same time at the Berlin Film Festival. One's famous, the other isn't - but now that the "lost" and "found" DOWNTIME has been remastered from original elements to DVD, it can now be purchased directly online.

Order DOWNTIME directly from the film's new website by clicking HERE

Perhaps the greatest Canadian independent underground filmmaker of all-time is Winnipeg's John Paizs. It's virtually impossible to secure copies of his astounding work which, frankly, is responsible for influencing the work of Guy Maddin, David Lynch, Bruce McDonald and an endless number of great indie filmmakers the world over. Paizs' great short film SPRINGTIME IN GREENLAND is available for purchase in a beautiful remastered edition from a fan website, the inimitable Frank Norman. Norman has Paizs' blessing to provide copies of the film, so feel free to directly make your request to Mr. Norman by clicking HERE.

Visit Frank Norman's CRIME WAVE
fan site by clicking HERE

Alas, it's super-impossible to get a copy of Paizs' masterpiece CRIME WAVE (not to be confused with the super-awful Coen Bros/Sam Raimi film of the same name that was released the same year Paizs' film was NOT released properly by its scumbag Canadian distributor Norstar Releasing, which eventually became Alliance Films (where the boneheads sat on the film and turned down several excellent offers from small indie companies to release the film properly on DVD in super-deluxe special editions because they lazily purported to be negotiating a massive package deal on its catalogue titles with some tiny scumbag public domain company that, as far as I can tell, has neither purchased nor released the film). This truly great and highly influential film is, no doubt, languishing in some boneheaded distribution purgatory within the deep anal cavities of the new owner of Alliance Films, a humungous mega-corporation called E-One. Feel free to repeatedly bug their stinking asses and demand a proper release. In the meantime, VHS copies of CRIME WAVE can still be found with the ludicrous title THE BIG CRIME WAVE. Here's a copy available on Amazon:

BLANK CITY and other works in the "Forgotten Winnipeg" Series can be accessed here: