Darrell Wasyk’s The Girl in the White Coat

April 5, 2012 | By | Add a Comment

A colleague wandered into the old Ammo Video store on College last fall and came across a VHS copy of something called H, and found the basic premise – two heroine-addicted characters attempt to kick the ugly habit – intriguing, but didn’t know much else about the film, hence the hesitation to purchase the tape. When he returned a few months ago, the store was locked, and most likely so went an easy chance to snap up some vintage Canadiana because H doesn’t exist on home video.

A lot of Canadian films – good, bad, and fromage-scented canuxploitation – were released on tape, and then vanished, as far as further home video appearances went. There are the odd TV airings, but I often suspect their play comes not from a smart programmer, but the needs of stations to abide by CanCon rules and fill the time slots with native fodder.

Fair enough, but H is not unlike countless praised and award-winning films that have vanished from distribution. H was shot for virtually nothing, and because of the urgency to put his intense vision on film, writer / director Darrell Wasyk made a personal film which did the film festival circuit, won awards, and was picked up for distribution by Alliance Releasing.

Wasyk made another feature, then did some TV work, and stepped away from filmmaking until 2011 when he returned with The Girl in the White Coat, liberally adapted from Nikolai Gogol’s short story “The Overcoat.” It’s a surreal, dreamy character piece, psychological study, and effective transposition of the chilly Russian setting to chilly Montreal during a brisk winter season. For some, at virtually 2 hours, it’ll be tough going, but I argue that like a dreamy & sometimes meandering Andrei Tarkovsky film, it’s more the mood and the weird aura that’s worth investigating.

The film opens tomorrow at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, and in addition to a film review [M], I’ve posted an interview [M] with Wasyk on the film’s scriptorial and performances nuances. We also discuss H a bit, including the foreign DVD release Wasyk is aiming for, given Alliance has shown any interest in releasing on home video.

In an upcoming Editor’s Blog, I’ll post some thoughts on the strange conundrums Canadian filmmakers face in getting their films to viewers when rights issues are complex, and large monopolistic companies sitting on vast back catalogues have no clue on how to exploit their worth, leaving you and me with little chance of seeing a notable film outside of rare TV airings of old transfers, and cinematheque screenings with prints loaned from the Canadian Archives.

If you’re peeved that our cinematic culture is only accessible via archival loan-outs, beat-up VHS tapes, and Betamax copies from First Choice stay tuned, because I’ll address the issue with related reviews of Dancing in the Dark (1986) and The Grey Fox (1982).



Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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