VIC THEATRE: Interesting characters feature in June screenings

Kathy Kay’s picks for the month offer dramatically different approaches to filmmaking

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a book publisher in the nature of Jack McClelland who ran McClelland and Stewart.

He drank, loved writers (discovering Atwood, Richler, Berton, Mowat, and Cohen), pulled off notorious promotional stunts and lived large.

He was the Canadian literary world.

My path went in a different direction and I never did work in the world of books, but instead found film to be the opportunity to showcase great talent.

June at the Vic Theatre presents us with two unique characters: one on screen and one behind the scenes.

Paul Schrader is presenting his 32nd film, First Reformed (June 22 to 28). Schrader, made (in)famous with a bad boy lifestyle but also some remarkable films, wrote both Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and then went on to a directing career that included American Gigolo and Affliction, both of which he also wrote.

First Reformed, starring Ethan Hawke as Reverend Toller, takes a page from filmmaker Robert Bresson, whom Schrader has long admired. It is a film of conversations and explores the dilemma of a pregnant parishioner (Amanda Seyfried) whose husband is a radical environmentalist. With an adept hand, Schrader takes the film beyond the conventional and breaths a whisper of a gripping thriller into it. The film is so full of nuance and great acting that a second viewing is highly recommended.

At the other end of the world and this time as a featured subject is Helen Clark, in the documentary My Year With Helen, directed by Gaylene Preston. The larger than life figure this time was the first female prime minister of New Zealand, who went on to run a UN development program and is seen in the film campaigning to be the first female secretary-general of the UN.

There are several unguarded moments shown in the film – whether helping her dad or talking to a young woman. Even more revealing, however, is the realization that the old boys network is closing its ranks.

There is only one screening coming to Victoria (5 p.m., June 23) and Clark will be present for a Q&A afterward.

Kathy Kay is director of the Victoria Film Festival.

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