This Movie is Broken (2010) dir. Bruce McDonald
Starring: Greg Calderone, Georgina Reilly, Kerr Hewitt and Broken Social Scene
By Alan Bacchus
Bruce McDonald has found er, rediscovered, his place in the world. From Tracey Fragments, Pontypool, this film and two others in the can and in post-production (Trigger and Hard Core Logo 2), he’s on a string of mighty good films, a rare Canadian filmmaker that just keeps on working and makes one intriguing film after the next.
I have no reason to pause when I say he’s a national treasure, one of the most exciting filmmakers who, with each new film can bring a refreshing mix of experimental indie cred with genuine audience-pleasing satisfaction. Such is the case with the high concept ‘Broken Social Scene movie’. For those who may not know Broken Social Scene (aka BSS) is a Toronto-based band, known as much for its large extended family, numbering 14 or so, as the quality of its audience and critically-appreciated music. They also love their own city, Toronto, and in this film desire to paint a portrait of hogtown life in addition to expressing themselves on film.
McDonald would likely be the first to admit, the concept’s not all that original, the idea of shooting a concert documentary film and intertwining a loose fictional narrative. Michael Winterbottom did it with 9 Songs, but you could go back to Haskell Wexler’s Chicago Democratic National Convention film , Medium Cool, as well another antecedent.
Via first person narration we’re introduced to Bruno (Greg Calderone), a hip cat who is over the moon because he just woke up next to, and thus slept with, his long time crush – Caroline Rush (great character name) . Caroline (Georgina Reilly) is much more reserved than Bruno and passes off their tryst as a playful one-time thing than a real relationship, after all she’s moving to Paris at the end of the summer.
Sucks to be Bruno. But enter, Bruno’s BFF Blake (Kerr Hewitt) who pushes Bruno to aggressively throw on the charm in hopes of making her stay. As it so happens, Caroline’s favourite band BSS is playing a concert that night, and Bruno and Blake endeavour to get backstage passes for Caroline. The rest of the day plays out like a Nouvelle Vague film, a breezily paced and shot romantic ode to the city, the band and the easy unencumbered relationships of youth. The trajectory would appear to be familiar when Bruno’s blissful evening is interrupted with Caroline’s sudden cold feet towards the relationship, but writer Don McKellar stings us with an unexpected but wholly invigorating third act twist.
McDonald, along with McKellar who helps out behind the camera, shoot the narrative with an easy-going, handheld, follow-them-around-town style, through Toronto’s Kensington market, Harbourfront - even the Toronto Indy figures prominently. If anything McDonald’s compositions are at times tight and restrictive, closing off the background when shooting his characters. I suspect the guerrilla –shooting style is the reason for this, to avoid framing up bone-headed bystanders who stare into the camera. It’s a shame, because the activity of the city in the summer is exciting and vibrant and there’s a missed opportunity to capitalize on that more.
No bother though, because there’s also a fabulous Broken Social Scene concert on the big screen as well which is wide open and full of the scope we expect from a concert film. An army of high def cameras capture a dozen or so truly awesome rock/pop songs. Matthew Hannam finds the absolute right tone when intercutting the movements and emotions of Bruno and Caroline with the performances of the band. BSS fans will recognize the classics tunes as well as some from the new album. And the final coda, 'Lover's Spit' which brings us into the rolling credits sores and sends the audience home with the chills of romantic melancholy.
We don’t ever have to confuse the film as an advertisement for the band or its new album. Whether you’re from Toronto or not, and thus get all the references should not affect the enjoyment. Canadians (and Torontonians) tend to have some penis envy when it comes to the notion of culture. What is Canadian culture? And what is Toronto culture? Cities like Montreal, Halifax, Vancouver have an easier time self-identifying themselves. For Torontonians, we now have This Movie is Broken to reference - freespirited, slightly neurotic, but open-minded and hopelessly romantic hip-cats. I'll take that.
'This Movie is Broken' will be released by Alliance Films in Canada this week.