Thursday, 26 March 2015

SHOOTING THE MUSICAL - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Humanity takes centre stage! Absolute Must-See at the 2015 Edition of the Canadian Film Fest in Toronto!

Shooting the Musical (aka After Film School) (2014)
Dir. Joel Ashton McCarthy
Starring: Bruce Novakowski, Chris Walters, Rebecca Strom, Lisa Ovies, Rory W. Tucker, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Casey Margolis

Review By Greg Klymkiw

After film school, the talented young filmmaker Maximus Park managed to generate one highly revered short film after another and became the esteemed, multi-award-winning darling of the avant-garde. Having just completed the writing of his first feature-length screenplay, "Now They Are Nothing", he sits in front of his computer screen, wracked with emotion, trying desperately to hold back tears until he is able to, through pain-wracked gasps, inform us that he's just swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills. This one last Maximus Park film, a Photo Booth video selfie, allows him to declare that his script is an elaborate suicide note and that, soon, very, very, very soon, he'll be dead.

Powerful stuff! A powerful opening to a powerful motion picture - so powerful that it delivers a whole new dimension to the word "powerful". I daresay, it might even be on a par with the subject of actor Perry King's immortal line of dialogue in Richard Fleischer's Mandingo when he opines, "But Pappy, that Big Pearl, she be powerful musky."

That's pretty goddamn powerful!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, finally, a picture of importance and delicacy blesses the silver screen. In fact, I'm compelled to state unequivocally that no film in recent memory has come even close to the sensitivity displayed in Shooting The Musical, a stunning tribute to love, friendship and artistry of the highest order.

So please, I respectfully ask - nay, demand - that Yasujiro Ozu, Jean Renoir, Francois Truffaut and all the other purported humanitarians of cinema, to just up and move right the fuck over.

Writer-director-editor Joel Ashton McCarthy is indie cinema's new gunslinger in town and he's locked and loaded his picture to splooge the nutritious buckshot of human kindness and understanding, square in the puffy, oh-so-concerned faces of all movie-goers expecting taste and restraint.

Yes, your glop-greedy faces will be lovingly desecrated with the dripping goo of McCarthy's cinematic ejaculate - especially, when after the on-screen death of young Maximus Park, we're introduced to the stiff's roommate Adam Baxter, who makes a surprise visit, frantically requiring his pal to kindly lend him some weed. He speaks and acts with the kind of delicacy one expects in friendships rooted in deep respect, and upon discovering that Maximus is "passed out", Adam procures a felt pen and lovingly etches a penis, replete with a grotty ball sack and pubes on his pal's face.

Yes, we've all done this at one point or another in our lives, only we probably haven't actually desecrated (wittingly or unwittingly) the face of a recently-deceased corpse.

Adam is also a filmmaker, though less celebrated than Maximus since his post-film-school desires are in the realm of making commercial films which, he suspects he'll probably never get a chance to make since he lives in Canada where more emphasis is placed upon indigenous art film purveyors and where many of the officially government financed non-art-films merely purport to be commercial, but are, more often than not, pathetic, pallid and revoltingly twee versions of what Canadian financing bureaucrats think is commercial. However, being a hustler, liar and opportunist, several key attributes for any filmmaker to have, he hides the contents of the suicide video, rewrites his old pal's script, rallies together a cast, crew and financing based upon exploiting the memory of his deceased roomie, then proceeds to make his own version of the Maximus Park screenplay.

He bravely, callously and delightfully sets out to make a musical about a high school massacre that makes Columbine and all other bloody mass killings in educational institutions look like by-law infractions of the parking ticket order.

Shooting The Musical (formerly known as After Film School) is one of the most outrageous, offensive and laugh-out-loud comedies ever made. Framed within a mockumentary approach (which happily adheres to the genre), McCarthy's picture is a triumph of the kind of fresh, skewed and utterly insane filmmaking that the best Canadian films are known for in the international arena.

The film is never played as a spoof and/or sketch comedy, but successfully adheres to its genuinely satirical and darkly comedic roots. The performances are pitched perfectly with the talented assemblage of bright young actors playing a variety of roles perfectly straight. Leading man Bruce Novakowski as the charmingly sleazy director Adam is a revelation and then some. The camera loves him, he's got an impeccable sense of comic timing and delivery and most of all, he embodies his scumbag character with all the qualities that allow us to root for his otherwise reprehensible behaviour throughout.

The movie is so full of surprises (including a magnificent shocker of a supporting cameo role) that I'm loathe to ruin it for an audience by regurgitating them here. Suffice to say, that Shooting The Musical has its share of familiar and not-so familiar targets of what life is genuinely like for the myriad of unemployed/unemployable graduates of film schools the world over. If the movie has anything in it that irked me at all, it's an opening title card which attaches a quotation from Mark Twain that reads: "The secret source of humour is not joy but sorrow. There is no humour in Heaven."


This title card is so completely unnecessary that it feels like a cop-out excuse to give audiences permission to laugh. That might not have been the intent, but that's how it comes off. (As well, the production company logos are so funny and offensive, that they too come across in a similar fashion to the Twain quote.) If there's any justice in the world, the filmmakers will relegate the Twain quote and the two production company logos to the end of the film, so an audience can laugh as heartily as their mouths are agape at some of the picture's more delectably offensive elements are.

Yes, this is a genuinely abhorrent, repugnant, reprehensibly repulsive shock-mock-doc that's as surprisingly (occasionally) sweet as it is nauseatingly, screamingly, shockingly, knee-slappingly and hysterically laugh-filled. And guess what, the biggest non-surprise of all is that the picture is happily bereft of the most grotesque credits of all: "Produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada".

The Film Corner Rating: **** 4 Stars

Shooting The Musical screens at the 2015 Canadian Film Fest in Toronto.