Earle Peach, Vancouver musical genius, wrote so many beautiful tunes for a movie that has been shelved for a few years now. Here’s the first of his beautiful piano miniatures. “Kanada (45 minutes 1993) is that rare thing, a work from the avant-garde with wit, passion and just enough slickness to sweeten its message: Canada is threatened with enemies without and within, the future’s not what it used to be. That’s right, another dystopia. This is Canada ten-to-twenty years from now, and it sure doesn’t look like a tea party. Structured like a channel-surfer’s Intolerance, Kanada‘s cross-cut with enough dynamism (and Brechtian alienation effects) to keep you absorbed throughout.
Four channels, four stories. A skull-faced anchorman briefs us on the dire straits we’ve sailed into. Jean Chretien has been replaced by Prime Minister Wayne Gretzky, and Lucien Bouchard is committing atrocities upon anglophone schoolchildren. The PM and his boot-licking aide hammer out strategy, sequestered in a black-and-white hell. A mad bride spray paints graffiti while fleeing an unseen pursuer. Central to all this is a pair of women lovers, laughing and fighting while the country goes down in flames around them. To play Bobbie and Charlie (a social worker and her hooker girlfriend) Hoolboom had the good fortune to get Gabrielle Rose and Babz Chula. Bits that sound like effortless improvisation alternate where each woman in turn expounds on men, sex and the state of the union.
Visual technique, often the only thing a good experimental film has going for it, is unconventional to the point of assault. The over-exposed colour shots of Bobbie and Charlie lend an other worldly air to their remarks, while hairless Prime Minster Gretzky and his aide (actors Andrew Scorer and Sky Gilbert, both familiar from Toronto’s alternative theatre scene) emote on Expressionist sets right out of Dr. Caligari – jagged strips in forced perspective, or huge representations of the human brain. The Bride is transmuted by another trick in the experimentalist’s repertoire: hand-doctored film emulsion, complete with scratches and tinted stock that blooms and fades with a mind of its own.” David Roche, Festival Guide