The only movie I've seen at the LightBox in Toronto was the premier of Bruce MacDonald’s latest, HCL2, and it was the kind of good that sits in your stomach long after you’d left the theatre on unsure legs.
The sequel doles out a wealth of fare for the intellectuals charged with writing essays about Canadian film. He tackles, wrestles and alternately pins and is pinned by the grand themes of film theory, the role of documentarian, the weight of success, desire, gender, and authenticity. But he does it with nakedness, humour and simplicity unseen outside of Calvin and Hobbes. There’s no spoon-feeding of ascetic, and no snobbery that goes unpunished.
MacDonald has finally embraced and wrought joy out of the juxtaposition of his work. His eye is a gentle one, even if it’s clumsy, and he’s made a career casting it upon the scrappy, broken, angry subjects of his work exemplified in Care Failure, the lead singer of Die Mannequin and the subject of the fictionalized filmmaker’s obsession. She is the chain-smoking Mona Lisa muse who treats the camera like it’s a talking rattlesnake even as it tries at every turn to treat her like a heavy metal fembot.
This is rock n’ roll outrage clanging around between the poles of contrived and chaos as seen through a gentrified eye that manages to respect, mock and love both soft, lazy middle-age and angry, and ultimately dumb, youth.
It’s a hell of a thing but above all it’s beautiful. Duff Smith has turned in a genuine masterpiece via the editing suite and if decades from now they aren’t naming high schools after him or handing him the Order of Canada it’ll be a crying shame. It’s a movie that has perfected its cadence even as it borrows from Michael Moore, the Trailer Park Boys, and the Rob Zombie Art house in equal measure.
This movie really is special, the sort of flick that in ages past you’d find on the final third of a VHS tape and wish that you’d had the chance to see in the theatres. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE, it’ll be playing now everywhere, go check it out on the good screen and see the perfect example why our Canadian movies can do things nobody else can.