Tuesday, June 07, 2016


The main characters of "Flashpoint"

Once I figured out Netflix’ outline for exploring more films, I went to the “international” films and I rarely come back.  My favs are Norwegian/Danish/Swedish, Australian and Canadian.  They’re lower key, slower and have a moral center.  The actors are skillful and the plots have content.  Mostly no one has ever heard of them.

“Flashpoint” has been my once-a-night anchor point for as long as there were episodes.  I thought maybe I was the only one who knew this show about a police team responding to high tension emergencies that need psychological and technological skills far above the average. But I gather all of Canada shared my opinion.  They’ve been first place in the Award shows all along.  As complicated and ripped-from-the-headlines as the best “crime scene” shows, they are in-the moment  — the victim is not necessarily dead and that’s the whole point.  The team of six are not always able to save themselves, especially from the high price they pay emotionally, but they are truly a team and not afraid to confront each other.  

Most American shows of this kind assume that it’s possible to be made of steel, to shoot people, witness horror, and bear the burden of decisions that go wrong — all with hardly a ripple in their private lives.  The characters here tend to be presented in pairs and the most riveting are the two top leaders, played by Hugh Dillon and Enrico Colantoni, who worry about each other and aren’t afraid to either confront or enfold, as appropriate.  It is incredibly fine acting of excellent scripts.  
Two leaders run check and balance.

Amy Jo Johnson plays the only woman with convincing strategy and openness and her lover, David Paetkau, comes in new to the team a little too full of himself but then turns out strong once his corners are knocked off.  I mean, he’s the son of a famous general, but that’s incidental.  Sergio Di Zio is just fabulous with cheerful dimples and nerves of steel.  Canadian actors honor their origins — Hollywood would make Di Zio change his name and it would be a mistake.

Their last episode was a two-part tour de force about multiple bomb de-fusings, but it was the next to the last story that gripped me hardest.  The group’s sniper, "Ed Lane," who has struggled all along with having to shoot appealing individuals to protect others and who has the usual pressure to just bend or break rules, has finally hit his limit.  Telling himself he is only returning books to his therapist, he goes instinctively for help and gets it as she unravels how his job and his family cross-tie.  If only we all had therapists as smart and beautiful as this one!

Joel Nathan Evans

Another standout vivid film is “The Lesser Blessed” from a Canadian novel, a bildungsroman about a Dogrib (Ticho) tribe boy who barely survived a demon father.  The father did not survive.  He is a boy with a mystical bent, scarred but gifted.  Because of teaching in Browning and Heart Butte, after the Sixties when people still lived in cabins, this is the kind of kids I know best.  The homes and school look like those in any other place, but the people are still deeply attached to the land.  The unseen forces of survival guilt, terrible suffering and loss, and the relentless expectations of a foreign power (the whites) which is now gripped itself by a Millennial’s standards of sex, drugs and violence.

Astonishingly, Benjamin Bratt shows up, absolutely convincing as a man of the north though his ethnic credentials are through a Peruvian mother.  He says to the boy, “Time to choose between the drum and the fiddle,” and we who know the Metis realize he’s asking whether the boy will go with the old ways or the new?  Ten years ago this part would have gone to Graham Greene, but I do not think it would have been better with him instead of Bratt.  This is a new generation starting.

Benjamin Bratt

One of the things I realized in Saskatoon, where — as is my custom — I read the literature of that place, was that Canadian books were often eerie echoes of better known US books, but when I looked at the copyright dates, it was the Canadian book that had the earlier copyright and the American book was the echo.  This seems particularly true on the prairies and among the indigenous people.  I won’t go farther.

http://www.richardvancamp.com/about-v2.html  is the author of the book that was made into this movie.  He LOVES the movie, though the book is evidently and incredibly full of blue monkeys (see the interview at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IF4acS2hMnE) which were all booted out of the film!  I think I’m grateful.  There are some wolves and they are REAL wolves.  On the whole the film lets the land and the main actor’s face convey the saturating authentic magic of the North.

The trailer for this film is at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2056740/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1  The boy is played by Joel Nathan Evans who — like the whole enterprise -- had the true Napi spirit of ridiculousness mixed with unbearable awe and deep tragedy.  He’s a jokester with terrible burn scars.  He’s a lover who is separated from the girl by his best friend, so accepts a trio until it is the friend who’s ripped away.

I’ve seen versions of this boy’s wry and knowing face for half a century.  They turn out both ways: drum or fiddle, success or alcohol.  I’ve been the boy’s teacher, lived through those classroom power-struggles, but I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so dynamic as this joyful French teacher.  

Trudging along in the snow, baking up some bannock — these things are not exclusive to First Nations people.  Picking up a dead raven (with only two eyes) and tucking it into one’s coat as Evans does, so that the glossy black wings fan out next to his face, is more seamless and meaningful than Johnny Depp with the bird on his head.  But that’s the whole quiet elegance of the film.

This must have been largely due to the director, Anita Doron, who was born in Transcarpathia, part of the indigenous mountain under-culture of the former USSR.  She knows that film is poetry.  Shooting music videos for a while, she relates to the global, subversive, trans-national, guerrilla nature of youth’s music.  Van Camp said that he was a consultant for the film but barred from the filming and saw it for the first time when it was whole and public.  He LOVED it.  Solidarity.  Idealism.  Survival.

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