TIFF 2022 | Nightalk (Donald Shebib, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman

A baffling yet not altogether unenjoyable exercise in late style, Nightalk finds the now-84-year-old Don Shebib working—incongruously to say the least—in Brian De Palma mode. An early dream sequence set on a hurtling TTC subway car and featuring a lurking, faceless assailant evokes the ambient psychosexual menace of Dressed to Kill (1980); the dreamer is Brenda (Ashley Bryant), a middle-aged, unattached detective whose pursuit of an elusive killer has roused something kinky in her subconscious. The film’s title refers to a strangely lo-fi phone-sex app that serves as a lubricious conduit between cop and suspect, enabling a series of heavy-breathing dialogue scenes that suggest a prime-time CTV police procedural mutating into Red Shoe Diaries (or maybe the Showcase Revue). While we’re taking inventory, the frequent Pucini needle-drops could be a reference to Fatal Attraction (1987), or a reminder that Shebib first twinned high-culture and low-down desire back in the record-store sequence of Goin’ Down the Road (1970)—the canonical classic the director probably suspects he’ll never live down, nor live up to, no matter what he does. So, with this in mind—and with a superfluous, symbolically valedictory Goin’ Down the Road sequel already ten years in the rearview—why not make something like Nightalk? Whatever else you can say about it, it isn’t boring.