CanFilm Five: Ottawa Screenwriter and Mayfair Theatre partner Ian Driscoll

“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.

Ian Driscoll is the screenwriter of numerous gutter-level features and short films including the HARRY KNUCKLES series, JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE DEAD SLEEP EASY, VAMPIRO: ANGEL, DEVIL, HERO and SMASH CUT. He has also worked as a story editor on a number of feature films, and makes (mercifully infrequent) appearances in front of the camera.  Since 2008, Ian has been a partner in Ottawa’s oldest surviving cinema, the Mayfair Theatre, which has been voted Ottawa’s “best alternative to a multiplex movie theatre” three years running. You can read more of his writing on films, Canadian and otherwise, at The Cultural Gutter

For this CanFilm Five, Ian presents his five favourite Canadian films (and a whole lot of honourable mentions!), in chronological order. 

Gerald Potterton, 1965

One of Buster Keaton’s final starring roles, this cross-country travelogue is one of the greatest pleasures in the NFB catalogue. It opens in London, with Keaton standing on the Westminster Bridge, overlooking the Thames. He’s reading a newspaper, and in the paper is a full-page ad that reads: SEE CANADA NOW. Keaton promptly jumps off the bridge into the water, and, an edit later, emerges from the ocean on Canada’s east coast. He discovers an unattended railway speeder, and sets off for the Pacific.

Along the way, the film provides a rare glimpse of the Canada of 1965 (the rail line Keaton rides into Ottawa no longer exists, for example) — images that carry with them a powerful wave of false nostalgia.

The film reminds me of what I love about Buster Keaton — his tranquil death-defiance, the way he and the camera become a comedy duo, his dedication to jokes that serve the story, and his hat.

But it’s also very much about how we Canadians view ourselves, and our country. Our landscape is a parade of natural wonders, to be sure. But to anyone who lives here, and lives through our seasons, it’s also exactly what Keaton shows us: a succession of epic sight gags. (I’m pretty sure that you could read the film as a parable about the Canadian immigrant experience, too, especially with the images that bookend it. But that’s a bit highbrow for me.

Potterton also directed HEAVY METAL (not on my list) and an animated version of Leacock’s MY FINANCIAL CAREER (which, at under seven minutes, is probably essential viewing).

You can watch THE RAILRODDER in its entirety below or on the NFB website.

Peter Carter, 1972

Director Carter also helmed RITUALS (which I’ve written about here), as well as numerous episodes of “Wojeck,” which is a CBC TV series I’d really like to catch up on. (In a perfect world, I’d spend my days writing a fan-fiction novel about a case that takes the combined efforts of Wojeck, Kojack and Kolchak to solve. But I digress.) … Continue Reading