|Canada's Great War Hero,|
Andrew Mynarski VC,
Shooting Star of
a man of Bronze.
Mynarski Death Plummet aka Mynarski chute mortelle (2014)
Dir. Matthew Rankin
Starring: Alek Rzeszowski, Annie St-Pierre, Robert Vilar, Louis Negin
Review By Greg Klymkiw
The true promise, the very future of the great Dominion of Canada and La Belle Province lies beneath the soil of France and Belgium. Between World Wars I and II, Canada lost close to 2% of its population, the vast majority of whom were the country's youngest and brightest from the ages of 16 to 30. Canadian lads bravely served on the front lines, well ahead of the glory-grabbing Americans, the Yankee Doodle mop-up crew that dandily sauntered overseas after all the hard work was paid for by the blood spilled upon European soil by the very heart and soul of Canada's future and that of so many other countries not bearing the Red, White and Blue emblem of puffery. As a matter of fact, any of the best and bravest in Canada came from Winnipeg and if you had to pick only one hero of the Great Wars from anywhere in the country, Andrew Mynarski, a gunner in the famed Moose Squadron, would be the one, the only. He is the subject of Matthew Rankin's perfect gem of a film, the one, the only genuine cinematic work of art to detail the valiant sacrifice, the one, the only, the unforgettable Mynarski Death Plummet.
Played dashingly in Rankin's film by a real, live, honest-to-goodness, in-the-flesh, Goralska-Sausage-Slurping Polish-Canadian actor, Alek Rzeszowski, Mynarski himself was a fearless Polish-Canadian kid born and raised in the the North End, the only neighbourhood in Winnipeg (alongside St. Boniface, 'natch) that bears any real historical significance in Canada's keystone to the west, the former "Little Chicago" perched majestically on the forks of the mighty Red and Assiniboine Rivers. In 1944, Mynarski flew an Avro Lancaster bomber into the heavy action of northern France. After taking out his fair share of Nazi Pigs, the plane was aflame. He ordered the other lads aboard to drop the Polski Ogórki from his Mom, grab their chutes and bail. They did so with pride in a job well done.
Mynarski was last to leave. Or so he thought until he realized that Officer Pat Brophy (Robert Vilar) was trapped in the tail gun compartment. Our North End Hero did everything possible to save his friend until Brophy demanded Mynarski save himself. The lads exchanged salutes and the Polish Prince of King Edward and Isaac Newton schools, his chute now sadly in flames, took a fateful plunge from the plummeting Avro. His fire-engulfed body shot itself over the fields of France, mistaken as a bomb by some, including a rural mayor (Louis Negin, Canada's greatest actor - like, ever), but was correctly identified by a ravishing, babe-o-licious, though simple country girl of France as 100% REAL MAN, his body melted to bronze as the woman shot beams of love and gratitude from her heart into the spirit of the eventual posthumous recipient of the Victoria Cross and honoured by Winnipeg's citizenry with a legendary North End Junior High School in his name.
This is such a great film. I could have watched all seven minutes of it if they'd somehow been elongated to a Dreyer-like pace and spread out over 90 minutes. That said, it's perfect as it is. The fact that you don't want it to end is a testament to director Matthew Rankin one of the young torchbearers (along with Astron-6) of the prairie post-modernist movement which hatched out of Winnipeg via the brilliantly demented minds of John Paizs and Guy Maddin. Blending gorgeously arcane techniques from old Hollywood, ancient government propaganda films with dollops of staggeringly, heart-achingly beautiful animation - bursting with colour and blended with superbly art-directed and costumed live action - Mynarski Death Plummet takes its rightful place alongside such classic Canadian short films as John Martins-Manteiga's The Mario Lanza Story, John Paizs's Springtime in Greenland, Guy Maddin's The Dead Father and Deco Dawson's Ne Crâne pas sois modeste / Keep a Modest Head.
In many ways, Rankin's film is history in the making of history. Most Canadians of my generation know Andrew Mynarski's story by heart, but even still, Rankin's film is so compelling, I kept hoping it wouldn't end as tragically as it did. Thankfully, Rankin infuses his tale with the sumptuous, wildly romantic image of the French babe looking longingly into the night sky and her magical explosion of squid-like polyps from within her big heart, allowing them to sail into the black Gallic atmosphere and plunge into Mynarski's very soul before he transforms into the likeness of the bronze memorial statue erected in Ottawa, the capital of our fair Dominion.
The other part of the story that all Canadians of my generation know is that Officer Brophy actually survived the crash. He was not only able to recount Mynarski's bravery and sacrifice, but he was kept alive by the strength and just-plain brick shithouse qualities of the Canadian-invented-and-manufactured Avro Bomber - an incredibly moving moment Rankin recreates in his film. (And sadly, the AVRO corp and its eventual superior aircraft, including "The Arrow", were decimated by the Americans into smithereens when Uncle Sam couldn't hack the fact that Canada had actually created something, uh, better than they could.)
A final important thought about Rankin's astonishing film. There is so much ludicrous, politically correct lip service paid to the new "face" of Canada and the need to represent the histories and stories of the said "new face". I'm all for that, but the problem is that Canadian Cinema has not even properly addressed its own history prior to the "new face of Canada". Until that happens, I think it might not be a bad idea to begin recounting and mythologizing Canada's true heroes as Rankin has done with Mynarski Death Plummet.
I hope this film is shown everywhere - especially in schools, especially to our "new" faces. It's bad enough Canadian History is so poorly taught in our schools, but maybe, just maybe, a super-cool new masterpiece of cinema is a good first-step to begin writing wrongs that the past century has wrought upon our great Dominion. When I say our future was decimated in the World Wars, I'm not exaggerating, but there's more to it than that. Our country has long been besieged by a cultural colonialism that has stifled genuine creativity and placed far too much emphasis on staid approaches to the cultural industries decided mostly by unimaginative bureaucrats who seek either the Status Quo of dull-edged blades or worse, hang pathetically onto their jobs by promoting "diversity" rather than genuinely looking to find ways of dramatically and artistically render a history and stories that have sadly been neglected.
Mynarski Death Plummet is a mere seven minutes long, but its impact and lasting value can be multiplied to the power of the infinite - a fine equation, if you ask me.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars
Mynarski Death Plummet is part of TIFF14's Short Cuts Canada program. Visit TIFF's website HERE for more info.
|A maze that begins|
and never ends.
and the Shadowboxer (2014)
Dir. Randall Okita
Review By Greg Klymkiw
One of Canada's national filmmaking treasures, Randall Okita (Portrait as a Random Act of Violence), takes the very simple story of two brothers and charts how a tragic event in childhood placed them on very different, yet equally haunted (and haunting) paths.
Mixing live action that ranges from noir-like, shadowy, rain-splattered locales to the strange, colourful (yet antiseptically so) world of busy, high-tech, yet empty reportage, mixing it up with reversal-stock-like home movie footage, blending it altogether in a kind of cinematic mixmaster with eye popping animation and we're offered-up a simple tale that provides a myriad of levels to tantalize, intrigue and finally, catch us totally off-guard and wind us on a staggering emotional level.
Okita's cinematographer Samy Inayeh is more than up to the challenge of attacking a variety of visual styles with superb compositions and gorgeous lighting. Editor Mike Reisacher knocks us on our proverbial love-buns with his thrilling slicing and dicing.
As per Okita's mise-en-scene, Reisacher's challenge is to maintain the film's avant-garde nature with its equally profound narrative and thematic elements. He's more than up to the challenge and cuts a picture that we're unable to ever look away from and follow a trajectory that wends its way like a complex maze between two different characters and lands us to a spot that kicks us in the solar plexus and wrenches our hearts.
Unbelievably for some, this was produced by the National Film Board of Canada, but it appears to have been seeded and birthed out of the Montreal offices which still manages to consistently escape the often dour safety-zone prevalent in much of the Board's English Canadian output.
As for Okita, he's delivered yet another roundhouse for the ages. This is what cinema should be. Screw ephemeral needs. Immortality is, uh, like, better, eh.
THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars
The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer is in TIFF14's Short Cuts Canada program. Visit TIFF's website HERE for more info.
|We're all cockroaches.|
Don't forget it.
Dir. Michelle Latimer
Starring: Omar Hady
Review By Greg Klymkiw
What's especially fine in this slice-of-life/slice-of-consciousness dramatic cinematic tone poem is how it presents a contemporary political and social reality that's seemingly the exclusive domain of a very specific segment of our population. Through its careful mise-en-scene, that comes close to overplaying its metaphorical hand, but pulls back in time to maintain the necessary poker face (as it were), The Underground deftly creates feelings that can, indeed, be universal.
Inspired by Rawi Hage's novel "Cockroach", the film feels all of a piece rather than some horrendous calling card for an eventual feature length adaptation. If, God forbid, it's supposed to serve this purpose, it would be a tad disappointing to know, but at least it has a singular integrity that allows it to work as a piece of film art unto itself. Cleverly rooted in simplicity to yield complexity, we follow a young refugee from some Middle Eastern hell hole as he lives out his lonely life in Canada within the isolation of a filthy, cockroach-infested slum apartment.
Part of the reason for the cockroaches could be his fascination with these seemingly vile creatures and his penchant for capturing them and setting up strange domiciles in glass jars. He spends much of his time on the floor of his filthy suite intently examining his "pets", but also experiencing flashbacks to the horror of what must have been his incarceration and torture. When a notice is slipped under his door to prepare for a visit from a pest control company, the film truly takes on the feeling of a living nightmare.
We become immersed in paranoia through a cockroach-eye-view and indeed, the images of hooded pest-control guys take on the same kind of creepy horror so prevalent in David Cronenberg's very early genre features that featured similarly-masked and/or accoutred killers/exterminators. There's a truly sickening and recognizable sense of fear, paranoia and loneliness so acute one wants the protagonist to scream. He won't, though. His is a silent scream.
And though we might all not be or can even fully comprehend what it's like to be a political refugee in a strange land, the film does make us feel and believe that at some point in our lives, if not for always and for ever, we are all little more than cockroaches in a world hell-bent upon weighing us down. We cower, hugging our floors as if we were a fetus in a blood-lined belly of viscous fluids and we wait for the secret police to drag us out of our home, or our cell, to be ripped from the safety of a womb we've made for ourselves.
And then, and only then, are we plunged into sheer horror.
The Film Corner Rating: ***½ Three-and-a-half Stars
The Underground is in TIFF14's Short Cuts Canada program. Visit TIFF's website HERE for more info.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ORDER ANYTHING FROM AMAZON BY USING THE LINKS BELOW. CLICKING ON THEM AND THEN CLICKING THROUGH TO ANYTHING WILL ALLOW YOU TO ORDER AND IN SO DOING, SUPPORT THE ONGING MAINTENANCE OF THE FILM CORNER.
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. A very cool explosion in indie underground cinema that I and many colleagues and friends were involved with was spawned during these halcyon days. 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
|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: