Sunday, February 22, 2015

BC film: Sitting on the Edge of Marlene

I did a fair bit of writing, reviewing, and film-watching during the last VIFF, and as any critic will tell you, you don't always have time to do justice to certain films. One that I failed to fully take in was Sitting on the Edge of Marlene. I liked it enough that I thought I might want to see it on the big screen, so I didn't finish the online screener I'd started; then when the VIFF actually began, my schedule didn't allow me to catch it. Admittedly, the most unsettling/ memorable thing about it for me is that it  uses several locations I know very well from having grown up in Maple Ridge. There's a strange little pedestrian tunnel that I always thought would make a great location, so I was happy to see it appear onscreen. I was unsettled, on the other hand, to find my own present APARTMENT BUILDING in the movie; I'd never had the experience of sitting inside a building watching a movie and seeing an image of that same building from the outside, like I was suddenly caught in some weird surveillance feedback loop or something; the space-time continuum seemed briefly to be in jeopardy. But nevermind all that, Sitting on the Edge of Marlene is coming up again at the Vancity Theatre, so maybe I'll get to finish it properly this time? 
The description on the Vancity site does it justice, for those who want to know the story. It's a "dealing with an impossible parent" narrative - one you can't help love, but who is undoubtedly toxic. People with remarkable-but-toxic others in their lives will find things to identify with in the movie. It has terrific performances from its leads, and is really nicely designed and shot; the film has a lush, Sirkian retro quality that rather spoils the eye. It also has, at least in the version I saw, a very strange "timelessness." I couldn't begin to figure out what decade the film was set in. The money we see is contemporary Canadian stuff; the swindles and the decor/ hairstyle/ costuming of the title character - played by Suzanne ClĂ©ment, above left - is very 1950's; and the evangelical group seems to favour a sort of square 70's roller-disco-Christian aesthetic or something. I actually asked the young star of Black Fly, the excellent Dakota Daulby - who also appears in this film, and whom I interviewed just a few blocks from the locations mentioned above, in the Starbucks attached to our now-doomed Target - whether he could figure out what decade the film was set in, and while I don't recall his exact answer, the very clear upshot was, "no." Which makes me curious to revisit the film, to see if this anachronistic quality comes across as a deliberate stylistic choice - some sort of meta-cinematic way of connecting the film to other genres or movies? (Or perhaps it was an error not yet corrected, and the brand new Canadian bills will all be CGI'd to appear older or something?). 
I'm more excited about Clearcut, sure. (See below). And about my favourite life of Christ movie, the provocative, political, unabashedly Marxist Pasonli film, The Gospel According to St. Matthew. But still: this is a neat BC film. And hey, Callum Keith Rennie is in it! Those cinephiles in whom I have an interest will more or less see anything that he's in, just on principle...

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