Saturday, July 01, 2006

How do you know it's Canadian?

Relapsed Catholic has a spot-on piece on crappy Canadian filmmaking. She's absolutely right - there's just something about a Canadian-made film that tips you off immediately. I'm not sure just what it is, either, but her correspondents make some good suggestions.

I tend to notice the visual style first, though I'm aware of something weird going on in the audio, too. The colour palette is "off", somehow; outdoor scenes seem washed-out and pale. Someone once suggested to me that it might be because we're further north, and the angle of the sun has something to do with it; less intense outdoor light, perhaps. But Hollywood studios film up in Canada all the time, and their films don't have that problem. If it's there, then it seems that with sufficient money for good filmstock, cameras and post-production adjustment, it can be compensated for. Canadian filmmakers don't spend the money to correct these natural defects, so we're stuck with this sort of raw, unpolished look.

Interiors look funny to me, too - very unnatural and "built" somehow. I always feel that the rooms are too shallow; I don't know enough about cameras to tell if this is the result of equipment with poor depth-of-field capabilities, or if the cameras are just honestly delivering the poor product that the set designers came up with. You'd think that *space* is one thing that we're not short of in Canada.

Then there's the sound; Kathy Shaidle writes, "I still think I "hear" a hollow void of "ambient silence", though. Because I'm very very strange." She's not completely strange, though; I hear it, too. I too can hear the silence BEHIND the words, and it doesn't sound right. Flatter than in a Hollywood film - I don't know how to describe it, but it's there. It's a silence that just sounds unfamiliar, somehow; if you encountered it in real life, you'd notice it, but it doesn't exist anywhere except in a Canadian film.

I remember lots of these productions from watching Canadian TV growing up (now that I'm an adult, I can watch more interesting things), but MST3K also spoofed a lot of Canadian movies, so I've had lots of opportunities to study them. "Overdrawn at the Memory Bank" (available on the vol. 4 of the MST3K dvd collection from Rhino) is a beautiful example. But they also did a hilarious movie called "Space Mutiny" that fooled me (and them, for awhile) into thinking it was Canadian - in fact, it was filmed in South Africa. So perhaps lack of money really is the main problem.

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