Thursday, June 17, 2010

Year of the Carnivore - Sook-Yin Lee's new film.

Amongst the many things in life that annoy me is the attitude the general population has towards Canadian film. While living in Montréal, I was told how the Québec film industry was amazing and alive and well, while the rest of Canada was somehow culturally dead in terms of film.

Of course this is anything but true.

Last night I attended the premier of Sook-Yin Lee's film, Year of the Carnivore, a sweet dramedy about those awkward first steps of sexual exploration. It follows Sammy Smalls, a brilliant name under any circumstances, a grocery store detective, a job I would very much like to apply for. She is a very cute tomboy who uses her job as a reason to wear shapeless outfits, which in turn allows her to largely ignore her own body.

I will not delve too deeply into the intricacies of the plot. The sex scenes are not the stuff of porno, but are instead quite honest and I would say true to life in that they are clumsy. Such life lessons probably never resemble our imaginations, and I love that Sook-Yin went in that direction. If you are searching for passionate romance and long love scenes or even raunchy sex scenes that excite, you will likely be disappointed.

You may find yourself mildly repulsed by scenes involving a pair of new parents who have lost that sexual connection... it ends in a strange clothed sex scene involving a lactating mother... and I'll leave the rest to your imagination. Both humorous and disturbing; my favourite sort of scene.

For a movie about sex, there is surprisingly little nudity and it doesn't seem necessary. Although some scenes are shocking, there is also an innocence about it. I am not sure how much of the writing was fully auto-biographical, though through the oddest skype conversation I have ever been a part of, Sook-Yin explained from the comfort of her kitchen that it was based on her first love with a musician.

If you find other reviews, notably the one from the Globe and Mail, you will perhaps think that this isn't the fine little film I have made it out to be. I can assure you that it is. Some strange need to dismiss Canadian cinema seems to drive not only the canadian public, but also the critics. No one in the theatre last night seemed upset by the film, but the critics aren't happy at all. I will grant them that there were a couple of points where the plot was a touch slow, but if I'm willing to forgive that in most other films I watch, surely it can be overlooked for a director/writer's first feature. I firmly believe that critics owe their readers some perspective. This was a film made for well under 2.5 million and was a rather personal story dealing with sexual awakening. The reality of those times is that it never goes as smoothly as in Hollywood romances and Sook-Yin should be applauded for sticking to the reality of the situation. Perhaps it was too real for some people. Perhaps they would have preferred a slick love scene and some explosions. I suppose The A-Team movie might offer some of that up for the true cinephile.

The film opens today and it should not be forgotten. While I don't think films should ever be defined by the nationality of their creators, it pains me to see so many brilliant Canadian movies disappear into the back of the alternative section of the video store. Perhaps we should prevent this sad fate and ensure that Canada maintains a respectable film industry by actually going to see the damn films.

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