|The Many Faces of Atom Egoyan|
& his Trademark Head-Tilt Poses
Including (at bottom) a rare Sans-a-Tilt
My Love Affair With Atom Egoyan
By Greg Klymkiw
A STUPID ARTICLE in the Huffington Post and some really cruddy reviews of The Captive by Peter Bradshaw and others of Petey-Boy's loathsome ilk were annoying enough to make me want to spew the following thoughts about Atom Egoyan.
With respect to the aforementioned Huff Post piece, some have suggested it's not worthy enough to dignify a response, but frankly, when a supposedly respectable journal chooses to print such nonsense, it seems ludicrous not to eject vomit upon it. We are, after all, and with thanks to The Huffington Post, treated to the anal drippings of yet another "film journalist" or, as he's described by the publication, a "Pop Culture Blogger".
He's ultimately full of shit and as he's chosen a public forum to dispose of his waste matter, this is surely an environmental concern as well as a cultural one.
The clown demonstrates, like so many of his ilk do, a lack of film history and appears to be infused with all the critical acumen of Ben Mulroney, a smarmy Canadian sycophant purporting to be a journalist specializing in entertainment. This is probably enough to dismiss the guy's loathsome jottings.
That said, though, I'm often the first to crap on Canadian Cinema. I do think many of the problems with our nation's film product, most notably in English Canada, are tied oh-so resolutely to the "powers that be" (including government financiers, distributors and the biggest exhibition chain in Canada) far more than the filmmakers who pinch their cinematic loaves into the bowl of rejection for nobody to see. One might argue against my point by asserting that taste, especially as it relates to opinion, is subjective. I can't necessarily disagree with this, but I prefer to follow the delectable credo of Science Fiction writer Harlan Ellison regarding opinion - that nobody is entitled to one, but those who register one that's informed, are most certainly allowed to do so.
From my informed perspective, then, I agree that Atom has ground out a few stinkers, but the man is prolific and all filmmakers are allowed to make crappy movies from time to time (John Ford, Frank Capra, Alfred Hitchcock anyone?) - even if they receive public funds. Most often it's an artist's failures that contribute to their canon in mysterious ways - allowing them to do work that might fail, but eventually leads them to work that soars high indeed. Their failures also provide a body of work that will prove, over time, to be all the richer for critical study and analysis. (I have no use for the ephemeral properties ascribed to the worth of things - what counts is a work's universality: commercially, critically, academically.)
Whether his critics want to believe this or not, Atom has made any number of fine films that WILL live on once the mediocrity of so many others will be forgotten. Next of Kin is as sweet and engaging a feature debut as any of our best have generated. Family Viewing and Speaking Parts are delectably and perversely funny. Yes, what many don't recognize is Egoyan's perverse sense of humour - it's intentional and pervasive. Hmmmm, I like that "Pervasively Perverse" notion. Perhaps an essay along those lines is in order.
I don't especially like The Adjuster, but find there is much to admire in it, especially Elias Koteas's performance and the notion of ascribing monetary value to that which is beyond mere shekels. Exotica feels like a major misfire and a lost opportunity for Egoyan to plunge himself and us into some dangerous territory, but he gets points for even flirting with "danger". Mostly, I have my North End Winnipeg Ukrainian Boy prejudice against films about lap dancers that don't have enough nudity in them.
Calendar, as even the loathsome Huffington Post writer acknowledges, is a wonderful film. I'd go so far as to suggest it might be Egoyan's masterpiece - so wryly humorous and deeply moving, it is layered with complexity beneath its seemingly simple structure. Ararat, is an odd patchwork quilt, but I was ultimately spewing tears on several occasions in his evocation of the Armenian Holocaust.
Felicia's Journey also falls into the potential masterpiece category for me - a daring attempt at finding humanity in a monster, infused with plenty of chillingly creepy moments, an astounding Bob Hoskins performance and overall, being imbued with such skill, craft and directorial aplomb that I will maintain and defend to the teeth my assessment that the film is Hitchcock's Frenzy on lithium. Now THAT is perverse.
The last clutch of films (Where The Truth Lies, Adoration, Chloe and Devil's Knot) have been, for me, out and out failures, but they do have the distinction of remaining true to Egoyan's "voice" and I also suspect they represent an important transition for him as an artist. Thanks to my colleague Alan Bacchus, however, I am now excited to dive into Where The Truth Lies again as I might well be wrong about that one. (As well, I have seen all four of the films I just dismissed at least twice each and will, no doubt revisit them all again. God knows, I recently had a fresh helping of Frank Capra's most reviled film Pocketful of Miracles and maintain it's not awful at all and has much in it to admire.)
You'll note I've thus far ignored talking about his Oscar-nominated The Sweet Hereafter. Strictly from a taste standpoint, I most certainly do not like the film - the whole Pied Piper thing is clever, but it's self-consciously clever in a way that detracts from the impact the material could have had. However, I cannot deny that it's a pretty damn great film. Does that sound dichotomous? Goddamn rights it is! That is also the hallmark of a genuine artist - to make work that some might not like, but that also bears the indelible trademarks of artistry that guarantee its importance and that its detractors cannot ignore - so much so that it has drawn me back to it on subsequent occasions to reassess and appreciate it.
As for Egoyan's new film, The Captive (produced by Jennifer Weiss, Simone Urdl, Stephen Traynor and co-written by David Fraser), I've yet to see it (no Cannes for this fella) and I'm not sure when I shall see it since the head (or in this case, decidedly wrong-headed head) of E-One's publicity unit has seen fit to ban me from their screenings for some mysterious reasons she'll not adequately reveal.
I suspect the banning has more to do with my crapping on a few of their releases (which, now that I garner a worldwide readership over half a million, might be egregious enough, though I've raved far more frequently about their more worthwhile films than the risible ones). I consider their banning a badge of honour no matter how much an inconvenience it is and maybe I'll need to catch up with The Captive at the Toronto International Film Festival (if it plays there) or wait until it opens theatrically (whereupon I can buy a ticket to a different movie and waltz into the Egoyan to avoid donating any dinero to E-One).
I do, however, look forward to seeing it.
You see, as my readers and those who know me are well aware of, I normally refuse to read reviews before seeing movies I have not seen and written about, but with The Captive, my eyeballs were drawn to a tweet about a pan from Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian. Bradshaw is, to my mind, one of the worst film critics in the world and I was chomping at the bit to see what inanities he might have spluttered about Egoyan's new film.
It was a fine review.
Every fucking crap he took on the film was a reason to suggest I'd love the film. I then did the unthinkable (for me) and read another review. It was from Jonathan Romney, a film critic who is one of the best in the world (I can count those on the fingers of one and one-half hands). Everything he admired about The Captive suggested that Egoyan's new film is something I'm going to love. I was also taken with one more review. Written by Robbie Collin of The Telegraph, the third paragraph was such excellent film writing, I decided to stop reading, bookmark it and take a full gander once I've seen The Captive and have had a chance to write about it. Of course, the reason I hate reading reviews in advance are the expectations they set up and that most critics fulfil little more than the needs of studio flacks, revealing far too much of the content of the films to appease their brain-bereft editors, publishers and readers.
So I HOPE I love it.
My fingers are crossed.