Actor Graham Greene was fresh from his Oscar-nominated performance in Dances with Wolves when he punched audiences in the face with the Canadian-made thriller Clearcut.
A thoroughly vicious movie that pitted his vengeful Indian leader against the owner of a pulp mill, with predictably nasty results, Clearcut might have given Greene his greatest ever role. Straight contributor Al MacInnis thinks so.
“It’s a provocative film,” said MacInnis, in a call to the office. “It goes further than any film I’ve seen endorsing direct action for environmental causes, and it’s an amazing performance from Graham Greene. He’s never been more powerful or had as much edge as he does in this movie. It’s also a lot more honest and confrontational when it comes to the treatment of First Nations people in Canada and the frustrations they face.”
Curiously, the film disappeared from circulation not too long after it was released in 1991—MacInnis believes there are only two prints in existence—and Clearcut didn’t make it beyond a long gone VHS incarnation in Canada. In Germany, however, it remains hugely popular. At the Vancity Theatre, on Tuesday (March 10), MacInnis hosts a version prepared for German television which leaked into the bootleg market.
“It’s the first time that a DVD of Clearcut has become available with the correct aspect ratio,” explained MacInnis, quickly adding that he secured “the blessing” of director Ryszard (Richard) Bugajski for the slightly less-than-legit screening. “And we’re going to send him proceeds. As far as we know, he’s the only copyright holder of the film.”
Bugajski is no stranger to making do. Clearcut was filmed in Ontario after the filmmaker ditched his homeland following the release of (the great) The Interrogation in 1989.
“He was told he couldn’t work in Poland again unless he became an informer and spied for the Polish government on the studio system there,” says MacInnis. “And he wouldn’t do that. He managed to make it to Canada, made a few Twilight Zone episodes, and he made one feature film—which was Clearcut.”
Bugajski’s experiences might have stoked the militant fire he brings to Clearcut. MacInnis recalls a Lakȟóta friend who thought it was an “irresponsible” film.
“It came out around the same time as the Oka crisis, and it really didn’t give a friendly face to native activism,” he says. “That’s not my view at all. I actually quite sympathize with the Graham Greene character. He does go a little far, but you know…”
Yeah, we know.
Clearcut screens at the Vancity Theatre on Tuesday (March 10)