John Paizs’ unsung deadpan masterpiece screens from fully-restored 2K DCP.
“If the great Canadian comedy ever gets made, John Paizs might be the one to make it.”
Jay Scott, Globe and Mail, 1985
In 1986, a cult film named Crimewave was released. Though it bombed, critically and commercially, it was a notable stepping stone in the careers of a many of its key players, who, despite its ignominious failure, went on to have glittering careers that left it only a curious blip in their CVs.In this case, the term “cult” applies only in the sense that completist fans of the Coen Brothers (writers), Sam Raimi (director) and Bruce Campbell (producer, star) will keep its faint flame burning for a good while longer than it demands on its own merits. Meanwhile in Canada, another film, similarly-titled, received blazing reviews on its festival debut then all but disappeared without trace.
John Paizs’ Crime Wave was the culmination of themes and style developed by Paizs in a series of shorts starring the director himself as a ‘silent man’ character, Nick, the predecessor of Stephen Penny, mute protagonist of Crime Wave. Penny is an aspiring screenwriter, afflicted with a peculiar kind of writer’s block – he can only write beginnings and endings for the “colour crime pictures” he aspires to make, and no middles. When he takes a room above a suburban family’s garage, his landlord’s daughter, Kim (Eva Kovacs), discovers his abandoned script pages in the trash and takes it upon herself to help him realise his potential.
The synopsis, however, barely sketches the experience of Crime Wave. Paizs painstakingly shot and styled his film to mimic the Technicolor of classical Hollywood. He also re-recorded all dialogue in post-production, inspired equally by the highly-controlled sound design of radio dramas. The tone, meanwhile, is deadpan absurd, the construction post-modern. Paizs interpolates Penny’s travails and Kim’s enterprise with sequences realising the opening and closing scenes from Stephen’s script fragments. When Kim introduces him to a mysterious Dr Jolly, who promises a solution to Stephen’s dire straits, the film accelerates towards a manic and hilariousclimactic montage.
Crime Wave debuted at the 1985 Festival of Festivals (later to become the Toronto International Film Festival). The screening was also, according to Paizs, essentially a test screening. Writing and producing his own work, he’d gotten used to unusual creative freedom. “I used to just get to the end and I would not show the script to anybody and I would not do another draft, I just applied to the Arts Council for the money and they were less concerned about, ‘Does it have a coherent story?’ They were more into, ‘Well, is it kind of different?’” Crime Wave, like its creator, was certainly different. Following the (successful) festival screening, Paizs was dissatisfied enough to entirely rewrite, re-shoot and re-cut the film’s final 20 minutes.
Justifiably, though unjustly, it remains the high water mark in Paizs’ filmmaking career. “After Crime Wave, expectations were quite high for me,” explains Paizs. “According to the Globe and Mail reviewer, I had to make the great Canadian comedy, and, I’ll tell you, that was the best thing that someone could possibly say to any film-maker, right, but also the worst. And because I decided not to do the ‘silent man’ thing anymore after Crime Wave, not only did I have to come up with something new that I could invest myself in passionately, but it also had to be great and, you know, that in a nutshell is why there was no follow-up to Crime Wave.” Which is a genuine tragedy for cinema, especially since the Globe and Mail review was based on the first, unrefined cut of Paizs’ masterpiece.
Crime Wave could only have been made in Canada, in Winnipeg and by John Paizs, though it’s so much more than just a great Canadian film. Though its theatrical release was thwarted by an ill-advised distribution deal (which complicates its home-viewing release to this day), Crime Wave’s timeless originality,meticulously-crafted aesthetic and the singular voice of its creator stake a claim for it in film history, exclusively on its on terms.
Crime Wave screens at Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend on Sunday 3rd June. Tickets from £5, day and weekend passes are available. All tickets available from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online: bit.ly/weirdweekend. #makeitweird
A 1976 UPI article by Vernon Scott on Craig Denney’s The Astrologer, as it appeared in The Ottawa Journal (14/01/1976)
If you are Aquarian with Uranus in the third house, the sun in Capricorn, bestride Scorpio with Virgo ascending and the moon over Miami, you are probably in deep trouble or at least about to meet a tall dark stranger. Devotees of the zodiac will be hit with that sort of thing in The Astrologer, a new movie starring Craig Denny [sic] who also directed the film. Until now, astrology has been ignored by moviemakers. But Denny, 31, is founder of Moonhouse International, a computerized horoscope service which, for a price, whips out detailed astrological forecasts for individuals and corporations.
Astrology has made Denny a rich man. He says Moonhouse grossed $31 million last year with corporations paying as much as $20,000 for the service. “There’s never been a movie based on astrology,” said Denny, a handsome and intelligent man who is steeped in the lore of the zodiac. “Surprising, isn’t it? Especially when you consider there are 33 million individuals in the United States alone who are interested in astrology and buy astrological books, magazines and horoscopes.”
“So there is a huge audience waiting to see a picture based on astrology. The concept has been ignored all these years because it was new and different and didn’t follow any trends or patterns. Our story is about a gypsy fortune teller – me – and what happens to him as he predicts the future. We don’t preach astrology in the movie. There are five different story lines and plots. There’s a great deal of fantasy. The picture is visual. Even though it includes some heavy knowledge about astrology, the film is entertaining. We aren’t trying to make converts. This is a contemporary story with a great many optical special effects. I’m sure the picture has a basic appeal for everyone, including non-believers.”
Webster’s defines astrology as: “A pseudo science claiming to foretell the future by studying the supposed Influence of the relative positions of the moon, sun and stars on human affairs. Primitive astronomy.” Denny, of course, views astrology as the mother of all sciences. “It is 5,000 years old,” he said. “I’ve been involved in astrology for 10 years. I don’t try to influence skeptics. Either you believe in it or you don’t. I have all the proof in the world that astrology is a true science.”
Denny embarked on a discourse of dates, planets and stars in a terminology which defies analysis by laymen. He holds theories which would shock other astrologers. His eyes gleam with teal. One is well advised not to take issue with him on the subject. A former radio broadcaster, Denny began The Astrologer in 1972 with a budget of $1.5 million. Three years later and at a total cost of $10 million, the picture was completed.
“Astrology has had a tough time with radio and television,” be said. “The government has a law that all astrological information must have a disclaimer before and after any programs dealing with the subject. It can’t be promoted on the air. The National Association of Broadcasters and the Federal Communications Commission have ruled that astrology is not a true science.” Denny’s disdain for the patented foolhardiness of the NAB and FCC was clearly reflected in the expression on his face. The Astrologer will open in prime American cities’ theatres Jan. 14, a date not selected at random. “The astrological aspects for the picture’s release were considered,” Denny admitted. According to the stars, the timing couldn’t be better.
The Astrologer screens at Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend on Sunday 03/06/18. Tickets from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online here.
Matchbox Cineclub announce Scotland’s first cult film festival
Matchbox Cineclub presents Weird Weekend, a whole weekend of strange and unseen cinema from around the world. Scotland’s cult film festival brings orphans, outcasts and outliers from across time and space to the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd June, 2018. Weird Weekend presents long-lost cult classics alongside premieres of future favourites, with a host of special guests, Q&As and events.
Among the highlights, Bill & Ted star Alex Winter will take part in a Skype Q&A after a screening of his directorial debut Freaked (1993); Glaswegian director Bryan M Ferguson will attend a Q&A following Anatomical Gunk, a retrospective of his short films; a 40th anniversary screening of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s midnight movie classic The Holy Mountain (1973); Sogo Ishii’s The Crazy Family (1984), unseen on UK screens for over 30 years; and an extremely rare screening of the long-lost, now fully restored cult classic The Astrologer (Craig Denney, 1975).
Matchbox Cineclub programmer Sean Welsh says: “Although we have many, many film events, Scotland is long-overdue a dedicated cult film festival. With Matchbox Cineclub, we’ve always aimed to screen films you can’t see anywhere else, so Weird Weekend is a logical extension of all of that. We’re very proud of the programme we’ve put together, which uncovers lost gems, debuts new versions of classics and presents some of the wildest brand-new films in the world today.”
Tickets from £5, day and weekend passes are available. All tickets available from CCA’s box office, 0141 352 4900, or online: bit.ly/weirdweekend. #makeitweird
Ela Orleans brings her stunning score for Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend The Knee to the Scottish Borders
Ela Orleans is taking her spectacular new score for Guy Maddin’s Cowards Bend The Knee to Alchemy Film and Moving Image Festival! First commissioned by Matchbox for performance in Glasgow during 2017’s Scalarama programme, Ela’s director-approved live score will have only its second outing at the prestigious festival, based in Hawick, on Sunday 6th May.
Alchemy Film & Moving Image Festival is an international festival of experimental film and artists’ moving image. The festival, in its eighth year, is produced in partnership with Heart of Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The 2018 festival will screen 133 films from 30 countries over five days, with 36 world premieres, 18 European premieres, 24 UK premieres, 20 Scottish premieres and over 50 filmmakers in attendance.
Ela will also debut Apparition, a work extending from Gustave Moreau’s sketches exploring the character of Salome, on the same evening.
Full details can be found at Alchemy’s website here.
Book tickets for Apparition & Cowards Bend The Knee: Ela Orleans Live Score, 06/05/2018 at Tower Mill, Hawick here.
We’re delighted to announce that Marco Kyris, Nicolas Cage’s official stand-in for over 10 years, through his iconic Action trilogy and almost 20 films, will be joining us for a live Skype Q&A on Saturday at Cage-A-Rama 2018!
Marco Kyris was born and raised in Toronto, Canada on Oct 14, 1961 [Nee Evrimahos Kyriakakis] to Greek immigrant parents. Growing up in a non English speaking house in Greektown with two siblings proved difficult for Marco, who was challenged academically and never kept up with school or family ties.
He was more of talker, like a TV show host, and worked that naturally into retail and restaurant skills over his teens and twenties.
Moved to Paris at 21 to soak in the culture and learn French while waitering, then to Los Angeles to try his skills in acting while working as a maitre’d, and meeting the stars of that era. Taking acting classes and getting bit parts that came and went, Marco was disillusioned by LA and not succeeding, so after several years he moved back home to Toronto to start over again.
While settling back, he had an audition to be Nicolas Cage’s stand-in for a winter theme film there. He got the gig, and ended up befriending Cage. Nic thought Marco was just right to be his permanent stand-in, as Cage was becoming an A list actor and was building a traveling team of hair, make-up, wardrobe, stunt, and stand-in. This turned into a 10-year-long career of almost 20 films with Mr Cage and his entourage.
All on buddy terms, they travelled many cities, states, and countries over those years, working on Cage’s most iconic and memorable films to date, including his trio of action films. Hard working and well respected as all of Cage’s team was, it was time to move on as the biz was changing, and Cage seemed like he needed a fresh start, as he masterfully re-invents himself when necessary.
Marco and the team were also ready to retire into a more calming life. It was a welcome halt from movie madness travel in the Cage Wage World.
Marco has been living in Toronto ever since, and bought into real estate holdings as a long term retirement, but travels back to LA yearly to enjoy winter with film friends.
He is currently working on his memoirs of that time, and has a podcast with guests of his film past (Babble B.S. And Beyond). Check out his website at www.mkyris.com for more fun photos from behind the scenes of your favourite Cage flicks.
Marco is recording a special introduction to the action trilogy and will be joining us live from Toronto after the screening of Con Air.
“Imagine if Steve Buscemi’s character from Ghost World made a movie, with levels of deadpan that make Jim Jarmusch look like Baz Luhrmann… but with a lurid perversion in every lovingly Bolexed frame that would make Baz blush.” Castle Cinema
“It’s a joyous, uninhibited film, with each frame fit to burst with visual jokes and ideas. Scenes resemble at times live action Far Side panels, delivering buckets of deadpan, obsidian-black comedy. If there’s a funnier Canadian film out there, we haven’t seen it.” The Skinny
We first screened John Paizs’ incredible lost classic Crime Waveat Glasgow Film Festival 2017. Thanks to GFF’s partnership, not only were we able to bring John across for the screening, we also screened TIFF‘s 2K digital restoration of the film, the first time audiences outside North America had seen it. We then partnered with Canadian distributors Winnipeg Film Group to bring Crime Wave back for a series of screenings, first for Scalarama in September, and then across the UK throughout October and November.
Now, thanks to the Castle Cinema in London (and some final testing at the Grosvenor Cinema, Glasgow), we have our very own DCP to screen from. A DCP is essentially the digital version of a 35mm print. Having one in the UK will hopefully lead to many, many more screenings of John’s amazing, criminally underseen film (read more about Crime Wavehere).
Matchbox Cineclub are acting as proxy for Winnipeg Film Group in booking UK screenings. If you’d like to book a UK/DCP screening of Crime Wave, email us for details/terms: email@example.com
Scalarama is just around the corner and we have some of our biggest and best events lined up for it this September. First, we team up with Video Namaste for an event inspired by Everything Is Terrible, the Found Footage Festival and Adam Buxton’s Bug. Then we have a very special event celebrating the 20th anniversary of Chris Morris’ landmark TV comedy Brass Eye. Our Glasgow events culminate on our regular date at CCA with our very first live score commission. Finally, we’re using Scalarama to launch our first ever tour, bringing back John Paizs’ masterpiece, Crime Wave for its theatrical debut across the UK.
The ‘90s in cinema were an amazing nightmare. A sugar-syrup throb of VHS scanlines, dire fast food tie-ins and probably the weirdest time in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s life. Come join the Video Namaste boys in a wee trip through the weird videoshop hellscape of 90s cinema and all the amazing stuff that orbited it. Have a drink, gawk at us forgetting to remember and then have a wee dance with us as we play some Exxtra Special ‘90s soundtrack songs afterwards.
Made from hundreds of hours of unseen material from his personal archive, director Michael Cumming’s film shares insights into the process of making the legendary TV series Brass Eye. Michael directed both the pilots and the series and, over a two-year period, witnessed the highs and lows of Brass Eye from a very personal perspective.
Part documentary, part artwork – the film is designed solely for live screenings and is made up almost entirely of never before seen footage. Oxide Ghosts carries the blessing of Chris Morris and provides a rare glimpse of his extraordinary working practices.
Michael will be doing a Q&A after the film – spilling beans, shattering myths and letting a few cats out of the bag. Celebrating 20 years since Brass Eye’s transmission in 1997, this film and Q&A session are a must for fans of the series but will appeal to anyone with a curiosity about how great comedy is made.
Guy Maddin is one of the most distinctive and idiosyncratic directors currently working. The Canadian auteur has mined and subverted the imagery and style of late silent and early sound cinema in such films as The Forbidden Room and The Saddest Music In The World to disorientating, often hilarious effect. Cowards Bend The Knee is one his greatest, but least-known films. Originally conceived of and presented as a peephole show, the film’s ten chapters concoct an alternative cinematic biography for Maddin, torn between the influence of his hockey star father and his attraction to Meta, the beautiful girl from the local beauty salon / illegal abortion clinic.
This is Guy Maddin in purest form, the most concentrated and probably craziest film of his career. Never have hockey, hairdressing, homophobia and hand amputations collided to such dizzying effect, in perhaps the most authentically surrealist film of the 21st century. For Scalarama, Matchbox Cineclub have commissioned Ela Orleans to write a new score.
Ela Orleans has gained an international cult reputation for her haunted, noir-inflected torch songs. She recently came to more mainstream attention when her magnum opus Circles of Upper and Lower Hell was nominated for the SAY Awards. However, the Polish-born musician has a parallel career, scoring film soundtracks having studied composition under David Shire (The Conversation, The Taking of Pelham 123) in New York. She has composed new soundtracks for films as diverse as Frank Borzage’s Lucky Star, Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr and Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures.
After the screening, journalist Brian Beadie will discuss Ela’s work and approaches to film scoring.
One of the greatest and yet most perversely overlooked debuts in Canadian movie history, writer-director John Paizs’s Crime Wave announced the birth of a new genre in Canuck cinema: what cultural critic Geoff Pevere dubbed “prairie postmodernism.” Crime Wave’s recent restoration by TIFF debuted to a rapturous reception during Glasgow Film Festival 2017, programmed by us. Still unavailable on DVD, VOD or streaming, Paizs’ lost classic now comes to UK theatres for the first time. Dates are confirmed at DCA (Dundee), Castle Cinema (London), Hawick and HOME (Manchester).
Our next screening is a co-presentation with GFT, of the documentary The Search For Weng Weng. Director Andrew Leavold will be present to introduce the film and take part in a post-screening Q&A, hosted by journalist Graham Rae. Check out the trailer:
Australian video store owner-turned-guerrilla filmmaker Andrew Leavold stumbled across a dubbed copy of B-movie For Your Height Only, featuring a 3-foot tall James Bond–type character, played by Filipino actor Weng Weng. This hugely entertaining documentary follows Leavold’s ensuing two-decade obsession with Weng Weng, as he travels to Manila to try and track down the elusive former novelty star. Comprising of interviews with filmmakers and footage of Leavold’s adventures, The Search For Weng Weng is a surprisingly moving exploration of the life and career of the obscure actor.
Saturday 05/08 at GFT. Tickets are available here.