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  Crime Wave Does Canada Have Oscars?
Year: 1985
Director: John Paizs
Stars: Eva Kovacs, John Paizs, Darrell Baran, Jeffrey Owen Madden, Tea Andrea Tanner, Mark Yuill, Neil Laurie, Bob Cloutier, Donna Fullingham, Mitch Funk, Angela Heck, Martin Bresin, M.B. Duggan, Douglas Syms, Gerry Klym, Rachel Toles, Shawn Wilson
Genre: Comedy, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Steven Penny (John Paizs) is a struggling screenwriter who lives on the property of a Canadian family whose daughter Kim (Eva Kovacs) is fascinated by him, because she loves the movies and would dearly love to be part of them, if only tangentially. Steven is a talented man, and dreams of making the classic colour crime film that will be a definitive statement on the style, but he has one major problem: he cannot write middles. Take his latest idea for a story about musical tribute acts, where three would come to dominate the world, then an usurper Elvis Presley impersonator arrived on the scene to threaten them all... and then, um, well Steven knows what could happen at the end...

Write about what you know, is the maxim many a budding writer is told, and it would appear that Canadian auteur Paizs did just that if this was in any way accurate to his experiences - did he really suffer writer's block that saw him have such trouble he could not complete his screenplays? If so, the solution he settled on was to not bother with the middle at all, indeed this particular movie consisted of multiple beginnings and finales which sort of passed for a complete plotline yet was often so random that they barely qualified. The result was one of the most Canadian comedies ever made in that it sought to distance itself from the Hollywood film industry south of the border.

Or even the companies making films in New York City, Crime Wave was incredibly dedicated to specifically not being like anything The United States of America would have concocted, yet it did so by seemingly sending up clich├ęs that were inextricably linked to American genres rather than Canadian ones. It was as if the further it tried to pull away from the South, the closer it became, despite its overarching narrative featuring a relationship that most would shy away from unless they wanted to craft a horror movie or some kind of psychological drama, and even today there would not be many filmmakers brave enough to make a story about the non-familial bond we saw here.

A movie where a little girl and a grown man hang out would only raise questions, especially if they were not father and daughter, but that was what we were asked to accept here, and it was a project that was aware of the uneasiness of that. Yet it played the discomfort of the audience for laughs, or at least you assumed they were trying to make us laugh and not generate shivers, as if taunting the viewer with the bad places their minds were going to, then performing a quick reveal that would ask you pointedly what the hell you were thinking, and how could you consider those thoughts anyway? What kind of sick mind did you have, huh? You had to assume this was Canadian humour, as the vast majority of the film's cult of fans were from the Great White North, for the non-Canadians would be baffled.

There was no getting away from it, Crime Wave was one weird movie, though it did not help that it almost shared a title with a Sam Raimi cult movie, from the same year, Crimewave, not that they would be mistaken from one another. That's not to say there were no similarities, there was a strong element of camp in both, and an artificiality that spoke to the eighties love of pastiche that had emerged from all the tropes of various genres being played out by that point, so instead of coming up with something new, filmmakers would either ironically hark back to them or outright parody them. This was different in that its approach was so off the wall, to the extent of being confounding, that it would be speaking to a very specific (local?) audience, but with all those misgivings there were scenes here that nobody sensible (or with major investors to answer to) would have ever included. So it remains, well, what it was: not for everyone. Music by Randolph Peters.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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