The International Lens: Polytechnique (dir by Denis Villeneuve)


On a snowy day in Montreal, a nameless young man (Maxim Gaudette) wanders about a cramped apartment.  He loads a rifle.  He drives to his mother’s house and leaves a note in her mailbox.  He goes to École Polytechnique, the engineering school where he’s a student.  Leaving the rifle in his car, he walks around the school.  He stares at the students in the cafeteria, observing them with a hatred that they might not notice but which we’ll never forget.  He goes back outside.  He sits in his car while the snow continues to fall.

As we watch him, we hear him reading the suicide note that he’s written  for the authorities.  He talks about his belief that the world has been destroyed by feminists.  He writes that he’s offended that he is expected to compete with women and that women have an unfair advantage in both the academic and the professional world.  He brags about the good grades that he gets, despite the fact that he rarely attends school.  He says that he’s never fit in with the world and that woman are to blame.  He complains about women competing at the Olympics, showing that he views everything through the filter of his own misogyny.  At one point, he apologizes for not being as eloquent as he believes he could be.  He explains that he only had 15 minutes to put down his thoughts.

Inside the school, another engineering student, Jean-Francois (Sébastien Huberdeau ) struggles to complete an assignment before his next class begin.  He sits in the cafeteria with open books scattered across the table in front of him.  Later, we’ll see Jean-Francois running through the hallways of the school, trying to warn the other students that something terrible is happening.  He’ll run to a security officer and ask him to call the police, just to be given a somewhat confused look in response.  Later still, we’ll see Jean-Francois outside of the school, visiting his family and haunted by guilt.

One of Jean-Francois’s classmates, Valerie (Karine Vanasse), goes to a job interview where the older male interviewer states that he’s shocked that Valerie wants to go into engineering after graduation.  Most women, he says, don’t do that.  It’s a profession that requires a lot of hard work and it’s not ideal for someone who wants to start a family.  Stunned, Valerie lies and says that she doesn’t have any desire to start a family.  Throughout the film, we watch as Valerie stop several times at her locker so that she can switch shoes.  When she has to deal with stuff like her job interview, she puts on high heels that are obviously very uncomfortable for her.  When she just wants to go to class, she has to stop and switch to shoes that she can actually walk in and, at that moment, I knew exactly what she was feeling.  Every woman watching will instantly know what she’s going through.  Later, she complains to her friend and roommate, Stephanie (Evelyn Brouchu), about how condescending the interview was.  Stephanie tells her not to obsess on it.

Outside, the snow continues to fall in the night, creating a bleakly cold landscape and making Montreal look like a barren and bombed-out wasteland.

Later, we’ll see Jean-Francois arriving late for a class.  Valerie and Stephanie are already in the class, listening to the lecture.  Not long after Jean-Francois claims his seat, the unnamed man steps into the room, carrying his rifle.  He orders the males to gather on one side of the room and the women on the other….

These are the moments and images that stick with you, long after the 2009 Canadian film, Polytechnique, concludes it’s brief 77-minute run time.  It’s a haunting film, definitely not one to watch if you’re already feeling depressed.  What makes it especially disturbing is that it’s based on a true story.  On December 8, 1989, an Algerian-Canadian student opened fire at École Polytechnique in Montreal.  (The film does not name the killer and I won’t either, because to name him without naming his victims does a disservice to their memory.  Those who really want to know his name are free to look it up on Wikipedia.)  As seen in the film, the gunman specifically targeted women and even ordered all of the males in the classroom to leave before he opened fire.  Also, as seen in the movie, the men did just that, with not a single one trying to stop the gunman or warn others until they were already out of the classroom.  The character of Jean-Francois stands in for all of the men who were haunted by their decision to leave.  As I watched the film, I had mixed feelings about the men who left that classroom.  Yes, the gunman was armed but there were enough men in that classroom that it’s hard to justify the fact that not a single one attempted to intervene.

Before shooting himself in the head, the gunman killed 14 women and wounded 10 women and 4 men.  It remains the deadliest mass shooting in Canada’s history.  When the police found his body, they also found a suicide note in his pocket, the same note that we hear read at the beginning of this film.  In memory of the lives lost, the anniversary of the massacre has been commemorated as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Poltytechnique, which is dedicated to those who died, was directed by Denis Villeneuve, long before he would come to America and make a name for himself with films like Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049.  Polytechnique is filmed in harsh black-and-white and Villeneuve skips around in time, often showing us the consequences of the killer’s actions before showing us the actions themselves.  It’s an approach that reminds us that the Montreal Massacre and all other acts of violence are events that will forever haunt us.  The past will always cast a shadow over both the present and the future.

As I said, it’s not a happy film but perhaps not every film needs to happy.  With Polytechnique, Villeneuve mourns for the lives lost on that day in 1989 and he encourages us all to try to create a better world for the future.

Zombies run amok in the Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula teaser!


Whoa!! It looks like we have a sequel to 2016’s smash hit, Train to Busan! Train to Busan Presents Peninsula takes place four years after the events of the original film. The zombies have taken over the land, and what’s left is more of a post-apocalyptic setting, with armored vehicles and cage matches. Director Yeon Sang-Ho returns for this update.

A Release Date hasn’t been set, though we’re told the film is coming soon. Until then, enjoy.

Music Video Of The Day: Stacy’s Mom by Fountains of Wayne (2003, directed by Chris Applebaum)


Adam Schlesinger, R.I.P.  Fuck COVID-19.

Adam Schlesinger wrote this song and he intended for it to be a tribute to the Cars.  The opening guitar riff was meant to sound like the riff from Just What I Needed.  The video itself is full of references to the Cars.  Keep an eye out for the license plate that reads, “I ♥ RIC,” not to mention the the boy in the opening scene who appears to be meant to be an adolescent version of Ric Ocasek.  Schlesinger even invited Ocasek to appear in the video but Ocasek never replied to the invitation.

The video also pays homage to Fast Time At Ridgemont High, with Stacy’s mom taking the place of Phoebe Cates.  Stacy’s mom is played by Rachel Hunter, so who can blame the main character for having a crush?  Apparently, before settling on Hunter, the band hoped to cast Paulina Porizkova in the role.  Porizkova was, of course, married to Ric Ocasek.

Enjoy!

Thank you for the music, Adam.

 

A Gift From The Not-So-Distant Past : Noah Van Sciver’s “Slow Graffiti” #3


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Believe it or not, good things still happen in this world — as evidenced by the fact that cartoonist extraordinaire Noah Van Sciver recently came across 50 unsold copies of the long-out-of-print third issue of his self-published mini, Slow Graffiti.

Released back in 2017, the no-doubt small print run of this comic was originally allocated entirely for its Kickstarter backers and the cartoonist’s own Patreon subscribers, but this unexpected discovery means that you can — provided you’re quick — finally procure a copy for yourself, at long last. And John Porcellino recently came across some in his stock, as well, so there may be a bit of cosmic-level serendipity at play here. Why, it’s almost as if the universe itself wants you to read this comic.

And why shouldn’t it — hell, for that matter, why shouldn’t you? There are some intriguing sketchbook entries to be explored here…

View original post 541 more words

Song of the Day: That Thing You Do (R.I.P., Adam Schlesinger)


Earlier today, COVID-19 claimed the life of singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger.  Schlesinger was only 52 years old.

Adam Schlesinger may be best known for his work with Fountains of Wayne but he also wrote and produced songs for several films.  He was Oscar nominated for writing the title song to That Thing You Do, one of the best rock and roll films of the 90s.  The song was not only catchy but it was also the epitome of everything that was great about pop music.  With this song, Schlesinger and the film paid tribute to every single band that has ever had a one-hit wonder.

In tribute to Adam Schlesinger, here’s That Thing You Do:

You,
Doin’ that thing you do,
Breaking my heart into a million pieces,
Like you always do
And you,
Don’t mean to be cruel,
You never even knew about the heartache,
I’ve been going through
Well I try and try to forget you girl,
But it’s just so hard to do,
Every time you do that thing you do
I,
Know all the games you play,
And I’m gonna find a way to let you know that,
You’ll be mine someday
‘Cause we,
Could be happy can’t you see,
If you’d only let me be the one to hold you,
And keep you here with me
‘Cause I try and try to forget you girl,
But it’s just so hard to do,
Every time you do that thing you do
I don’t ask a lot girl,
But I know one thing’s for sure,
It’s the love I haven’t got girl,
And I just can’t take it anymore
‘Cause we,
Could be happy can’t you see,
If you’d only let me be the one to hold you,
And keep you here with me
Cause it hurts me so just to see you go,
Around with someone new,
And if I know you you’re doin’ that thing,
Every day just doin’ that thing,
I can’t take you doing that thing you do
RIP, Adam Schlesinger.

After Reading This Comic, I’m Still “Lost In A Tree Of Thought”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Ethereal, mysterious, and unfolding at something more like a patient crawl than an actual storytelling “pace,” the latest self-published mini from veteran (though far from prolific) cartoonist Kade McClements, Lost In A Tree Of Thought, is something of a gorgeously impenetrable puzzle cleverly disguised as a garden-variety domestic drama. Appearances can be deceiving, of course, but in this case they both are and aren’t — and it may very well be beyond my meager intellectual abilities to flesh that statement out beyond “you’ve gotta read the comic to see what I mean,” but I’m damn sure gonna give it a try.

Ostensibly focused on an aging couple named Rita and Frank who happen across a small icon in the course of their yardwork that (remainder of sentence redacted, because that would be telling), despite its short length and loose, freehand style of illustration (reminiscent, at least in my view…

View original post 536 more words