FAMILY VIEWING
DIRECTOR:                     ATOM EGOYAN
COUNTRY:                     CANADA 1987
CINEMATOGRAPHY:    ROBERT MACDONALD
MUSIC:                            MYCHAEL DANNA
CAST:                               David Hemblen (Stan), Aidan Tierney (Vern), Gabrielle Rose (Sandra), Arsinee Khanjian (Aline), Selma Keklikian (Armen)
SUPER FEATURES:         A bit strange film.... figure it out.?



Atom Egoyan is not easy to figure out. We don't really know if he wishes to become a bit of a David Lynch, or if he wishes to become a bit of a Luis Bunuel. His films are full of surrealistic details which keep our attention, but unlike Bunuel, or even Lynch, the storylines are rather weak, and tend to be evasive. Bunuel, we always knew that the story was immediate, and that tomorrow and yesterday were always around, we just never knew when. But with Egoyan, the concern seems to be how the characters are feeling now, and that's that. It may be surreal, but it should have much interest for psychiatrists and psycho-analysts, which,  unfortunately, we are not.

Egoyan even goes so far, on occasion, as to replay the scene in its entirety, but unlike Godard, he does not give us a different conclusion to direct us to a different set of circumstances. The characters are trapped in the play/replay of their videos and life. They are not connected. And the film seems to be a series of slight vignettes that eventually come together to tell a basic story of the teenage son that is trying to grow
out of his father's shadowy image. The film tends to blame that image on the fact that the father has no liking for his mother. The son, seems to know that, and is trying to correct it. He doesn't exactly dislike his step mother, but he is not about to like her either. But then, he doesn't know his own mother, until the end of the film.

There are some curious thoughts here.... television provides a focal point, but no connection to anything within it in particular, starting with the ageing grandmother. And then, there are telephones, which DO make connections but not quite the right ones. In almost all the situations, all the phone calls are used for the wrong purposes, and not to make things right, nice, or ok.

While Egoyan makes a valid point in his film, and the later one THE ADJUSTER, he is still lacking in the one part of this kind of filming that defines whether a viewer stays or goes. He doesn't let us in, what is going on. Everything is hidden, as it usually is, be it behind the tv camera, the telephone, or just appearances, like those of his childhood. But this part is, in this film, the one thing that is probably best be left alone to die. It drags the meaning, and the resolutions into a film that lures you into wondering what it is about, but not really giving a darn about what it really is about. This, it seems to this reviewer, is a terrible attitude to take when it comes to this film. It destroys it, and makes it no fun to sit through.

But there are enough eccentricities to keep us amused. The satirical side of this film is deadly, and one could only hope that it had been able to explore that side a bit more.

3 GIBLOONS

 

   

      

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