CanFilm Five: Programmer and Filmmaker Dion Conflict

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

Dion Conflict is Toronto-based film historian/film maker/programmer. From its beginning showing film prints in the back room of Toronto Queen Street haunt The Rivoli , his CONFLICT ARCHIVES celebrates its 20th year of putting neglected celluloid back on the screen with eclectic programs that have entertained audiences not only in Canada, but also the United States, Estonia, and Finland (where one of his screenings clobbered Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE). Dion is the man behind many film screening series including Hunka Junk, Midweek Mondo Madness, Trailer Trash and, most recently, SHOCK AND AWE, the all-night Grindhouse film fest showcasing 16mm and 35mm film prints unseen on any big screen in Canada in decades. The latest SHOCK AND AWE marathon screens at Toronto’s Revue Cinema on June 23, 2012 and will include SLEEPAWAY CAMP, RAPPIN’, HORROR HOSPITAL and more (see Dion’s blog for more details and ticket info).

Dion is also the founder of the world’s first 24 hour online streaming video superstation (Paxels) which not only included 50% original content and ran endless short films, music videos, interviews, films, seminars and sports. Currently, Dion is developing his feature film script (a comedy) and speaking with other production companies and producers. He notes, “If I could have ideal casting for the project, it would have Boris Kodjoe, The Situation, Ron Jeremy, Tyler Medeiros, Canadian Ben Johnson, and Men Without Hats on the soundtrack.”

 Dion sez:

As a kid, and still today, one of my favorite cartoons is DAVY AND GOLIATH, the claymation religious cartoon with young Davey (wearing his checkerboard shirt which looks like it was made from a tablecloth at a Big Boy Restaurant) and his dog Goliath. They usually would get into some adventure where something goes wrong. Goliath would kinda egg the kid on, and his sister Sally would snitch. Davy’s Dad would go “Did you learn something Davy?” Davy would reply and God would also be thrown in the equation.

You don’t need to watch DAVY AND GOLIATH to learn some valuable life lessons, or listen to a Play-Doh dog egg you on to get in trouble. All of the most important lessons I have learned in life have been from Canadian cinema. Here’s my top five most valuable life lessons from Canadian film.

LE PARTY (1991)
When I went to Montreal to screen “Dion Conflict: Trailer Trash”, I told the audience that the best Canadian film ever was from Quebec was LE PARTY, a statement that made the audience both gasp and laugh at the same time.  The late Pierre Faladeau made this trashy little opus about a travelling troupe of “entertainers” doing their annual show at a Quebec prison–including a drag queen singing about his/her mother, a magician (who complained about working for the CBC and a fibreglass factory), a Francophone country singer belting out a song about penetration, a comedian named Leo with terrible jokes, and not one, but two strippers (and one fake leopard skin/rug).  While the show goes on, there’s plenty of copulation, contraband drug use, and crying.  The band “Rapid Fire”, looking like a Trooper cover band, plays on while the prison officials look away.  LE PARTY is so friggin awesome, I could talk about it endlessly, but I would rather you see it and agree with me that it’s the best Canadian film ever. 

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: If you have to get thrown in the clink in Canada, INSIST it is in Quebec.

It ran endlessly on First Choice Pay TV (before the crappy merger with Superchannel, and not the new one) and I would watch it every time.  Chris (Wally Wodchis) ends up getting shipped off to “Camp Bottom Out” where owner Hardy Bassett (a fairly sauced Foster Brooks) considers selling until his grand-daughter convinces him to give the summer camp a chance.  Can Mr. Skinner and his goofy son Chadwick sabotage the camp’s success in order to turn the camp into a shopping mall?  ODDBALLS is filled with tons of gags (complete with goofy sound effects) as Chris and the boys are endlessly looking to get laid.  Funny because most of them look like they are not old enough to have a wet dream (and it’s an all-boys camp).  You find yourself groaning so much at the gags, that it ends up being somewhat funny. ODDBALLS might be the Maury Povich BABY DADDY offspring of MEATBALLS.

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: Not everyone in Southern and Central Ontario will sell their land for shopping malls or condos.

When an interviewer from Global TV spoke to Atom Egoyan about THE ADJUSTER on its initial theatrical release, he snappily commented to Egoyan “I think this film is porno Robin Hood!”.  On that stellar recommendation, I RAN to the cinema to see it.  Elias Koteas plays Noah, an insurance adjuster when he’s not comforting them about their fire insurance claims, he’s fucking them.  His wife (Arsinee Khandian) spends her time watching pornographic films at the film board and has Don McKeller occasionally play with her pussy during screenings. That’s OK, as Gabrielle Rose is getting her honey pot stirred by a homeless man (the late Maury Chaykin) while riding the TTC.  Visually rich and  with an incredible soundtrack by Michael Danna (and Rough Trade), this is my favorite Egoyan flick.  I’ve seen it about 40 times. 

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: If your house burns down in the Greater Toroto Area, and you get an insurance adjuster, you’re gonna get laid.

During TIFF, I hang with friends that come into town, which usually consists of my booker in Finland and my buddy Mike White who does the publication CASHIERS DU CINEMART.  One year I invited Mike to my place, set the projector up outside, and offered to screen a print or two from my collection of his choice.  He chose VISITING HOURS, a good selection.  The story follows a deranged serial killer (Michael Ironside) attacking people in a hospital with a target on a feminist talk show host (Lee Grant).  The scene with Ironside cutting the oxygen line of a senior citizen while snapping polaroids sitting on her bed watching her flatline might be one of the most disturbing moments in Canadian cinematic history.  Bill Shatner delivers a great ‘cut the check’ performance and Ironside gives the second best loathsome on screen performances in Canadian cinema (just behind Henry Czerny in THE BOYS OF ST. VINCENT).  It’s a shame the film doesn’t have more of a following. 

LIFE LESSON LEARNED:  If you find out a serial killer is attacking people in the hospital you are at, hide a blade under your pillow, or get a gatt.

When people ask me what I believe is the worst Canadian film ever, I have no problem pointing them to KILLER IMAGE.  Michael Ironside (again!) stars in this film about a man looking for the killer of his photographer brother.  Nothing meshes whatsoever.  Characters talk to one another, with little connection or chemistry with every scene falling flat and with little connection between one another.  KILLER IMAGE makes THINGS look like CITIZEN KANE, it’s that bad.  Those that can sit through it, should be given a Governor General’s Award.  Why Michael Ironside and M. Emmett Walsh signed onto this POS is like the Caramilk secret, one of life’s greatest mysteries. 

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: If this can get a greenlight, ANYTHING is possible.

My archive has many orphaned film prints, and some could be the last possible film prints of many features, camera footage, etc.  One particular Canadian production, FAILURE TO REMAIN, is a gripping, well-acted live drama about a Canadian house party with too many stubbies where someone drives and kills someone, and the inner battle of turning himself in.  While we all know that booze and cars are a bad mix, remember this was 1960.  The gripping CBC live production also is peppered with live ads for Canadian tourism.  It’s a shame we don’t get to see this early document of Canadian television, which I am wondering if it was archived properly besides myself.  My print was found in a garbage dump in Newfoundland. 

LIFE LESSON LEARNED (and one we should always remember): Don’t Drink and Drive.

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