The vagaries of the movie distribution business are too arcane to detail here. Suffice it to say a distributor invests or buys the rights to sell the film to cinema chains and then hopes enough people like it to recoup their investment and make a profit. That's usually easier to do with American titles that Canadian films. And with more product sitting on the shelves the job of getting theatres to take Canadian films becomes harder. A quick read of our look at how Canadian films fared in Toronto last year will give you some idea of the staying power of most Canadian films. Short-lived doesn't begin to describe it. Earlier this week to of Canada's major distributors were in the news when it was announced that Québec-based Remstar has signed a deal with burgeoning eOne Entertainment to handle its distrubution business outside of Québec, and Goldman-Sacks announced it was looking foir a buyer for its share of Alliance Films. The Alliance Films website was under construction when we last checked.
Several of the titles that follow have yet to have any fixed release date so we thought we'd start with those we know about and then go on in alphabetical order after that.
We're starting 2012 with what might be David Cronenberg's best film yet. A Dangerous Method continues his move toward mainstream movies and features a cast lead by Keira Knightly,
Viggo Mortensen and
Michael Fassbender. The film had its world premiere at the 2011 Venice Film Festival and played at TIFF. Drawn from true-life events, the story takes a glimpse into the turbulent relationships between fledgling psychiatrist Carl Jung, his mentor Sigmund Freud, and Sabina Spielrein, the troubled but beautiful young woman who comes between them. Part costume drama, part love triangle, part psychological thriller with scenes of S&M that caused costar Knightly some concern. In an article published by newspapers in the Postmedia Group, she is quoted as saying, "I wanted it to be shocking, and he wanted it to be shocking, and when you watch a lot of his work, it is very shocking. This one is very different in a lot of ways from his work, but I also think it's perfectly clear it's a Cronenberg movie..." Earlier in the article she referred to Cronenberg as a "magician" as a director. A Dangerous Method opens on January 13th. Cronenberg has another moving opening much later in the year that we'll look at in our alphabetical listing.
The Québec film La peur de l'eau (The Fear of Water) opens in that province on January 27. Directed by Gabriel Pelletiet, the film stars Pierre-François Legendre, Brigitte Pogonat, Normand D'Amour, Pascale Bussières and Stéphanie Lapointe. The thriller is set on Îles-de-la-Madeleine where a body has been discovered. It all seems too much for the local Sûreté du Québec Sergeant, André Surpenant, played by Legendre. The plot thickens when Detective Sergeant Gingras (Normand D'Amour) is parachuted in from Montréal and discovers there's far more to life as we think it might be lived in the outposts of rural Québec.
On February 3rd Lovers in a Dangerous Time opens. Subtitled A Canadian Love Story, the film is about Todd Timmins the small town glory boy turned delinquent could-have-been, and Allison Adamson, a hopelessly nostalgic illustrator with a thirst for escapism and a longing for childhood. The two former childhood friends set out to relive their childhoods after they reunite at their 10-year high school reunion. This low budget feature stars May Charters, Mark Hug and Saskia Gould. Charters and Hug are also co-producers.
On February 17 the Québec film, Mesnak, opens. If there are echoes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in this movie those echoes are intentional. A young Montreal actor name Dave, played by Victor Andres Turgeon-Trelles travels to a small Québec community after receiving a photograph of the mother (Kathia Rock) he never knew. She’s a recovering alcoholic about to take a new husband, and she wants nothing to do with the son she gave up years earlier.
Michael Dowse returns to the big screen with Goon on February 24. It's a comedy but we're just not sure how a film based on a hockey enforcer will play when there's been so much bad publicity for the NHL over brain concussions and their effect on players as a result of goon-like behaviour.
Shot in British Columbia The Odds opens on March 2nd. The plot revolves around illegal gambling. Costarring Tyler Johnston, Calum Worthy
when his best friend is murdered, a 17-year-old gambler decides to find the killer before the illegal gaming operation is exposed.
Two Canadian films open on March 16. One is the latest documentary from Jennifer Baichwal, titled Payback. The project takes its title from Margaret Atwood’s visionary book of essays about systems of wealth, justice, and reparation and turns her words into a cinematic experience. Ranging across the very different worlds of migrant tomato pickers in Florida, feuding clans in Albania, victims of BP’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and a repentant inmate. Their views and comments and take on the world of high and low finance are cut together with learned insights from the likes of theologian Karen Armstrong, ecologist William
Rees, public critic Raj Patel, Conrad Black as well as author Margaret Atwood. Payback traces the links between debtor and creditor across centuries and cultures – in politics, literature, religion, sociology and economics – showing how debt has become an innate part of the human experience.
The other film opening on the 16th is the Québec title L'Empire Bossé. Directed by Claude Desrosiers, the films costars Guy A. Lepage, Élise Guilbeault,
Claude Legault and others as it details the career of a man who starts with nothing and grows to become one of the richest men in the world, participating in all sectors of the provincial economy that have made money since the Quiet Revolution. A man like Bernard Bossé will have a lot of friends, and a lot of enemies.
The month ends when Warren P. Sonoda, who must be one of the busiest directors in Canada, brings Servitude to the big screen. Opening on March 30, Servitude stars Joe Dinicol as Josh Stein, who dreams of becoming a writer. But instead of going after that dream he decides to go to law school. But as the deadline for enrolment quickly approaches, he's reluctant to walk away from his job waiting tables at the Ranch Steakhouse.
This decision makes his girlfriend furious, so
Josh decides to work just one last shift—and it turns out to be hugely eventful when he uncovers a secret memo from the new owners.
We haven't been able to find any Canadian films in April, but that can change. Movies often get shifted around as the calendar progresses. Indie films pop up, American films have their run extended, anything can happen.
On May 11, Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy is scheduled to open. It's a dark romantic comedy film adaptation of the short story The Undefeated from the #1 best-selling book Ecstasy by Irvine Welsh. Directed by Rob Heydon, the film stars Adam Sinclair as Lloyd Buist who is a drug addict who smuggles ecstasy from Amsterdam. He is also about to meet someone named Heather. Frustrated with her boring middle class and loveless marriage, Heather Thompson (Kristin Kreuk) seeks a change in her life. At a club, she finds just that in Buist. Heather falls hard for Lloyd despite the fact that most of their time spent together is under the influence of illicit substances. As they experiment with this new lifestyle, they are faced with the question of whether they love their drugs, each other, or are just drugged into loving each other.
The last Canadian film that we've been able to find with an announced release date is Sarah Polley's second feature, Take This Waltz. We interviewed Polley last year just before the film screened at TIFF. Michelle Williams plays a young wife whose wandering eye is drawn to a handsome stranger across the street, played by Luke Kirby, while funnyman Seth Rogen reveals a tender side of himself as her unsuspecting husband. Take This Waltz opens on June 29.
Other Canadian films to look forward to in 2012 (listed alphabetically) include:
Antiviral. Produced by Niv Fichman, the film is directed by Brandon Cronenberg. The thriller stars Caleb Landry Jones and features Sarah Gadon, who appears in father David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. Look for a cameo appearance from Malcolm McDowell. The story line is about a celebrity who donates a diseased sample and what happens when it goes viral. The Cronenberg dynasties gets a boost when...
Cosmopolis, the second film scheduled for release this year from Cronenberg senior is based on the book by Don DeLillo. It's the story of a 28 year old multi-billionaire asset manager, Eric Packer, who sets out in his stretch limo to get a haircut across midtown Manhattan. The car isn't your average limo. In addition to being extremely luxurious, it's filled with television screens and computer monitors, bullet-proofed and floored in Carrara marble. It is also cork lined to protect against street noise, though somewhat unsuccessfully, as Packer notes in the novel. Similar to the James Joyce epic, Ulysses, the story of Cosmopolis takes place in just one day as he tries to make what should be a simple, short, journey. But his excursion seems doomed to failure. The limo is blocked at almost every turn by various traffic jams caused by a presidential visit to the city, a funeral procession for a Sufi rap star and a full-fledged riot. As he makes his way, albeit slowly, Packer keeps seeing his wife. First she is in a taxi, then in a bookstore, and later lying naked in the street, taking part in a movie as an extra. Sounds like a return to the kind of quirky story Cronenberg was famous for before moving toward the more mainstream with films like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. The book came out in 2003. News that Cronenberg was working on it first broke in 2009.
Edwin Boyd is a stylish retelling of the life of the man called The Gentleman Bank Robber. It is the story of the real Edwin Boyd and the infamous Boyd Gang that took 12 years in development to bring to the big screen. It played the festival circuit last year and is still looking for a firm opening date this year. First time feature director and screenwriter Nathan Morlando and producer Allisob Black were helped in their research by Edwin Alonzo Boyd himself who not only allowed full access to the story of his life, but helped with the script before he died in 2002 when he was 88 years old.
Mars et Avril has no opening date as yet. It's from the brother of Denis Villeneuve. Set in the future in Montréal and based on the original graphic novels of screenwriter and director Martin Villeneuve. Humanity is ready to move to Mars, but not everyone is ready to go. Jacob Obus, a charismatic and beloved septuagenarian, leader of the anti-cybernetic movement, takes pride in slowing down time. He plays captivating music on instruments inspired by women's bodies and designed by his friend, Arthur. It's when Jacob and Arthur are smitten by Avril, a young and short-winded photographer, that the true nature of the old sex symbol is revealed. After making love for the first time in his life, Jacob is ready to leave for Mars in search of his muse. Terrific costumes and marvelous effects surround a stellar cast including lovely Caroline Dhavernas as Avril and Robert Lepage, who plays a cosmologist whose head is actually a hologram, with all of his ideas, memories and thoughts stored electronically.
Midnight's Children from Deepa Mehta is one of the most anticipated films of the year. Based on the 600-page magical book of the same title from author Salman Rushdie, it was thought the book was unfilmable, partially because there are more than 80 named characters in the original story. After he and Metha decided to work together on this project, Rushdie took two years to pare the book down to a 130-page retelling and it is on this edited version that the film is based. There are numerous dream sequences that allow the story to move backward and forward in time. Time being critical as the story is told by one Saleem Sinai, who was born at the exact moment when India became an independent country. Sinai is played by Satya Bhabha.
The Samaritan is an indie neo-noir thriller from director David Weaver who co-wrote the script with Elan Mastai. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson who has played a few criminals in his time and also played men looking for redemption. In The Samaritan he gets to play both. His character is named Foley, a talented grifter who decides that he’s had enough of cheating people and wants to live life on the straight and narrow after spending 20 years locked up in the slammer. But because there’d be no drama if he just found a nice house, redecorated and spent the rest of his years in peaceful reflection, that’s not quite what happens next. No release date has been set.
Stories We Tell will be the second feature from Sarah Polley to be released this year. Mongrel Media has it on its list but will only say it will be out in the Fall of 2012. It was announced earlier this week that Polley had received script development money from the Harold Greenberg Fund to work on a screenplay of Alias Grace. It's based on the Giller prize-winning novel by Margaret Atwood that is based on a true story about a notorious Canadian 19th century murder. But that's for next year, or the year after.
Keep up to date with Canadian movies or movies with Canadians in them by checking with our Coming Soon page, which is updated weekly, or more often as things change, which they often do.
Here's to 2012 being a great year for Canadian Film.