I’m usually hard on myself, but I’m pleased to say that this issue is pretty solid, which is even more surprising to me when I realize that there are so many interviews and articles in here on Canadian film—and one piece on a somewhat controversial film made by a Canadian that doesn’t qualify, for bureaucratic reasons, as a “Canadian film.” Hell, there’s even a Canadian film on the cover. This is not because I feel some sense of patriotism or financial responsibility as this is a Canadian magazine that receives money from the Canadian government. I’ve been thinking about this subject in recent months as due to being responsible for programming films for a festival outside of Canada that included Canadian films, I was able to see up close the way that non-Canadians experience Canadian films. Oftentimes this puzzled me, but just as often, it came with a logic that’s far more grounded in reality than the attitude of Canadians to their own products. This is not a phenomenon that is unique to Canada: in my experience, critics and programmers (especially programmers) cannot be trusted as far as they can spit most of the time when it comes to films from their own country. (See, for example, the French.)

I’m not completely sure why this is the case, but a good starting proposition is that anyone who has to watch more than a hundred Canadian features, without giving enough time and energy to considering what’s going on in the rest of the world, is at a great disadvantage (and quite possibly en route to massive multiple organ failure). Thus, in this issue, we have a mixture of coverage of Canadian films, some written by Canadians, others by foreigners. Films that will be appreciated and/or hated at home that have won major prizes abroad. Some films that have been rejected by pretty much all major Canadian festivals yet programmed at numerous festivals outside of Canada—I’m not naming names, but you can figure it out. (And let’s not even touch the question of different receptions when it comes to English and French Canada.) But when it comes down to it, I trust the foreigners.

It speaks to the point that seems to be preoccupying a certain bored segment of the film world today: the relationship between programming and film criticism. On this point, I’d argue against my general instincts that the two are one and the same and say that when dealing with films made in your own country, a programmer has to be open to the fact that quite often you’re not going to be able to understand how a non-native audience will react to the film or even, sometimes, whether it’s good or bad. It’s just that hard to step outside our preconceptions regarding what a Canadian cinema should be, or should look like. Maybe it’s something to do with how not only culture but quite specifically language operates. Here I’m talking about the impact of subtitles on critical judgment, which deserves a far greater focus when it comes to film criticism and study. (I’m not sure what’s going on in the academic field; this seems like something they should investigate.) I encourage submissions on this topic, and would be happy to dedicate a special issue of Cinema Scope to the impact of subtitles in the near future. I also encourage all Canadians to make films in Esperanto and present them to Canadian programmers with subtitles.

And now, what nobody has been waiting for: namely ten recommendations of films I’ve seen that will be heading your way that Cinema Scope has not yet covered in detail in this calendar year. Note, there are only nine, as I can’t think of ten, and also there are no Canadian films on this list, because most of them suck:

Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari, Greece)
Dissolution (Nina Menkes, US)
Morgen (Marian Crisan, Romania/Hungary)
Mysteries of Lisbon (Raúl Ruiz, Portugal/France)
September 12 (Ozlem Sulak, Turkey/Germany)
The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira, Portugal)
Thomas Mao (Zhu Wen, China)
Winter Vacation (Li Hongqi, China)
And…Rubber (Quentin Dupieux, France. If you want ten, also see, Steak, Quentin Dupieux, France/Canada. Never released with English subtitles, but they exist on the internet. Search them out, as this could be the best Canadian film you’ve never seen. Or learn French.)

—Mark Peranson


Friend me on FacebookFollow me on TwitterRSS Feed

From the Magazine

  • Issue 84 Table of Contents

    INTERVIEWS *The Act of Living: GianfrancThe Act of Living: Gianfranco Rosi on Notturnoo Rosi on Notturno By Mark Peranson*Reconstructing Violence: Nicolás Pereda on Fauna By More →

  • The Act of Living: Gianfranco Rosi on Notturno

    “The night scares me so much,” confesses a courageous Yazidi pre-teen girl to a therapist, remembering the period when she and her younger sister were captured by ISIS. Anyone who was seen crying would be killed, they were told; it turned out to be a vacant threat, but the sisters were still beaten, and now they are attempting to exorcise their memories by drawing pictures of them. Does it help? We never find out. More →

  • Reconstructing Violence: Nicolás Pereda on Fauna

    There’s a point in nearly every Nicolás Pereda film when the narrative is either reoriented or upended in some way. In the past this has occurred through bifurcations in story structure or via ruptures along a given film’s docufiction fault line. Pereda’s ninth feature, Fauna, extends this tradition, though its means of execution and conceptual ramifications represent something new for the 38-year-old Mexican-Canadian filmmaker. More →

  • I Lost It at the Movies: Charlie Kaufman’s Antkind and I’m Thinking of Ending Things

    “It’s all planned, but it isn’t thought out,” wrote Pauline Kael in her review of A Woman Under the Influence (1974), a nifty bit of critical jiu-jitsu turning John Cassavetes’ much-theorized—and, during Kael’s reign at The New Yorker, much-derided—technique of spontaneous improvisation within a dramatic framework against him. More →

  • Open Ticket: The Long, Strange Trip of Ulrike Ottinger

    One of the most surprising things about Ulrike Ottinger’s new documentary Paris Calligrammes is how accessible it is. Some cinephiles may be familiar with Ottinger based on an 11-year period of mostly fictional productions that were adjacent to the New German Cinema but, for various reasons, were never entirely subsumed within that rubric. Others are quite possibly more aware of her later work in documentary, in particular her commitment to a radical form of experimental ethnographic cinema. More →