Lost classic Clearcut gets Vancity screening

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      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)

      Follw Adrian Mack on Twitter @AdrianMacked



      A. MacInnis

      Mar 9, 2015 at 11:10pm

      Actually, a weird detail that Mr. Bugajski explained to me - and I say this from a faulty memory, since I haven't transcribed this part of the interview yet - was that when The Interrogation was completed, since the Polish authorities would allow no one to see the film, Bugajski himself made a VHS copy of his film to circulate clandestinely! This explains the two conflicting dates you see for the film - it was completed in 1982 or thereabouts, but not released until 1989, when the government changed... Anyhow, this isn't the first time he's endorsed a pirated version of a film of his playing - he's bootlegged himself before, essentially!

      A. MacInnis

      Mar 10, 2015 at 9:00am

      By the way, there *IS* a legit (but R2) DVD release under discussion as we speak, but it's not a guaranteed thing, as I understand it; it's been in the works for some time. Those who want to weigh in or keep abreast of developments can find a "Clearcut the movie" Facebook page...

      A. MacInnis

      Mar 11, 2015 at 10:36am

      Thanks to everyone who came out! A great success. (And those of you who didn't missed David M. doing a caustic, Christmas-themed take on the Squamish Five, "Gerry Hannah's Coming to Town." I think David was a wee bit piqued that he was my second choice for entertainment after Gerry).

      Adrian Mack

      Mar 11, 2015 at 10:45am

      David M made me very uncomfortable. It was great!

      A. MacInnis

      Mar 11, 2015 at 1:05pm

      David can have that effect. At least he didn't do "Fezziwig."

      David Matychuk

      Mar 12, 2015 at 1:06pm

      "Remembering The Squamish Five". Good idea, Allan!