The Rocket (2005) dir. Charles Binamé
Starring: Roy Dupuis, Stephen McHattie, Remy Girard
By Alan Bacchus
The successful Maurice Richard film from 2005 gets another DVD release from Alliance films, this time dressed up with an accompanying NFB documentary from 1998, also entitled ‘The Rocket’ as the second disc special feature. Considering the worship hockey fans and Quebeckers in general still hold for the man, Binamé’s dramatization idolizes and the hockey great with near-saintly deification.
In traditional biopic fashion the film charts the life and career of the man from his humble working class life to his ascension as the best player in the game. All the touchstone events in his career are hit and handled with great care and emotional poignancy – his first season with the club, and his early injury problems, his 50 goal season and his suspension and the subsequent riots which ensued. In particular, his very public chastising of the league’s racism against French Canadians, which could be seen as a germ for the Separatist Movement, puts his career into an even deeper context and significance for the country.
Unfortunately the film is often let down by the abrupt transitions between these benchmark moments which an elegant montage or two could have smoothed over. The film should be cherished and celebrated for its stunning visual recreation of the 1940’s/50’s hockey milieu. Pierre Gill’s cinematography is simply some of the finest images ever shot in Canada. Recreating a 1940’s hockey game with the pinpoint period accuracy needed to satisfy a highly discriminating hockey-loving audience on a limited Canadian film budget is no small task. But these sequences are so astounding they accurately capture not only the artistry of Richard on ice, but the sounds, smells and even the chilliness of the old Montreal forum.
Thus ‘The Rocket’ is arguably the final word of Canadian hockey on film. Jacques Payette’s accompanying NFB doc is decent, if a little dated by the standard of today’s more polished and flashier documentaries. But it works well as a companion to the dramatic film, reflections from Richard and his contemporaries looking back on Richard’s influence on the game. Other special features includes a number of deleted scenes and a featurette.