Happy Fourth of July weekend to all my neighbors to the south, and as you spend the weekend grilling, drinking, and blowing things up, at the end of it all you are probably going to want to kick back on the couch and nurse your sunburn (and your hangover) with a few movies. So after you have worked your way through some Fourth of July favorites, why not take a chance on the strange and exotic world of Canadian cinema.
Granted, our two countries have plenty in common, but we couldn't be more different if we tried (I believe that The Simpsons probably sum up how most of the world sees us...including our neighbors to the south). But one of the greatest differences between us is that we Canadians have a reputation for being a somewhat 'staid' nation. We are thought of as polite, quiet, observant of the rules and we're always apologizing...in a word: boring. But I'm here to tell you the big secret; it's all an act. We Canadians are just as strange, obnoxious, silly, and brilliant as any nation on earth.
Luckily the easiest way to get an idea about the 'flavor' of a country is to watch a few of their movies, so with no further ado, let me introduce you to the 'dark side' of Canada...
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When you think punk you think New York or London but you sure as hell don't think Saskatchewan. But, Bruce McDonald's faux documentary about the reunion of an imploded punk band is just about the perfect punk movie, and was ranked as one of the best films to come out of Canada. Not to mention, it proves that musically it's not all about Celine Dion and Bryan Adams north of the border.
In the history of dumb R-rated comedy, it doesn't get any worse (or better) than this 1982 sex romp. But, without Meat and Pee Wee we wouldn't have had the birth of a brand new genre of teen comedy, so like it or not, Porky's is one of Canada's greatest contributions to film history. And as any Canadian film geek worth their salt knows, it remains the highest grossing Canadian-produced film of all time -- and we wear that fact like a badge of honor/shame.
The inspiration for van art the world over may not have made a very coherent film. But you can't tell me that coke-snorting robots and naked chicks riding dinosaurs in a drug-fueled freak out flick is the kind of movie that you normally expect from a nation of people associated with maple syrup, hockey, and lumberjacks.
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
OK, so you are thinking fine, Canadians can make stoner fare and soft-porn comedies, but what about art? Well, look no further than François Girard's abstract film about the life and career of famed Canadian pianist Glenn Gould. Before Haynes was expanding our expectations about music biopics with I'm Not There, Girard and co-writer Don McKellar used brief moments in Gould's life as well as recollections from those who knew them broken into short films (a format inspired by Gould's most famous recording; Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations) to create a portrait of one of Canada's greatest and most complex artists.
Set in some of the most breathtaking locales in Quebec City, first time director, Robert LaPage crossed the language barrier in his 1995 dramatic thriller, with the added buzz of a little film history speculation. LaPage was a stage director before his first feature and clearly has an eye for the dramatic. He uses inside jokes about The Master of Suspense to draw you into the story of Pierre Lamontagne (Lothaire Bluteau) searching for his brother to unravel a family mystery, set against the backdrop of the filming of Hitchcock's 1953 thriller, I Confess.