Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Film and the City: The Urban Imaginary in Canadian Cinema/World Film Locations: Vancouver

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Film and the City: The Urban Imaginary in Canadian Cinema/World Film Locations: Vancouver

Article excerpt

George Melnyk, Film and the City: the Urban Imaginary in Canadian Cinema, (Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, 2014), 250 pp. Paper. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-927356-59-3.

Rachel Walls (ed.), World Film Locations: Vancouver (Bristol: Intellect, 2013), 128 pp. Paper. £15.50. ISBN 978-1-84150-721-7.

In Film and the City George Melnyk makes a great deal of the paradox at the heart of much English language Canadian film making, that, while rather more features are produced than was the case forty years ago, the industry exists in a state of 'relative invisibility' (p.14). As ever in such books, there is envy of the far larger audience for indigenous cinema in Quebec. Melnyk is interested in postmodern work, postmodern in time rather than ideologically or aesthetically, and he concentrates on the period 1990-2010. Central to his analysis is the auteur approach and he argues that that is much more characteristic of Canada than the United States where the director is far less central to the filmmaking process. It is the urban experience on which he chooses to focus and the approaches to that of thirteen directors, three of them women. He considers how each of them responds to particular urban environments and draws some striking contrasts between, for example, Atom Egoyan's version of Toronto in Exotica and Clément Virgo's in Rude. Likewise, Robert Lepage's Quebec City in Le Confessional can be contrasted with Denys Arcand's vision of Montréal in Jésus de Montréal. The approach of the book is to combine analyses of the chosen films with biographical information about the directors; this is very useful for readers who have not seen all of the films, least of all on a cinema screen. The quasi-biographical approach can be particularly illuminating with a filmmaker like Guy Maddin, whose The Saddest Music in the World this viewer found somewhat perplexing on first encountering it. While some of the cities chosen appear as vibrant and challenging locales, Calgary in the eyes of Gary Burns (waydowntown) and Melnyk himself emerges as the most dystopian urban environment of all, with its Plus-15 system of walkways and its allegedly soulless suburbs. …

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