Big hang ' theory
The clock is counting down the seconds until the end of the world, but director DON McKELLAR feels fine.
Words: Alan Morrison
For some people. the biggest worry at midnight on 3] December I999 will be whether or not they’ve bought enough aspirins for the Millennium-sized hangover coming tomorrow. Others. however. will be fretting over the likelihood that some end-of-the- world crackpot theory is about to become terminally true. 'What would you do if it was all going to end‘?’ might become the most discussed topic at the dinner table and in the pubs. It’s a question that Canadian actor Don McKellar asked himself and his friends before embarking on his debut feature as director. Last Night.
‘The most common answer was sex.’ he confesses. ‘for both men and women. Either that or something creative that they never had a chance to do. or a big party with their family. And there were people who suggested they would want to spend time alone: they’d go to some beautiful place that meant something to them.’
Last Night is a gem of a movie. one of those small. unexpected treats that's like finding a forgotten fiver crumpled in a coat pocket. The film plays out over the last six hours of human existence, before the world disappears in an unexplained burst of white light. McKellar — who also wrote the script and takes one of the key roles — follows an overlapping group of characters as they prepare for their final moments. The result is a film that is funny. thought-provoking
‘Every Canadian teenage boy has a crush on their French teacher.’ Don McKellar
‘b‘., ‘_ L . The end is nigh: Don McKellar in Last Night
and exceptionally moving. without ever becoming sentimental.
‘The characters all have an acceptance that the world is going to end.’ McKellar says. ‘No one is in denial — they may be in denial about how they are acting. but nOt about that. All of them have come up with some kind of defence mechanism. some sort of ritual that’s going to help them deal with this terrible eventuality. I didn’t deal with characters who were trying to stop the world ending or characters who had just gone insane. Presumably there are those too. and I suggest them in.the peripheries.’
McKellar is probably best known for his role in Atom Egoyan’s Erotica. and he’s already been seen twice this year. in The Red Violin (which he co-wrote) and David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. Cronenberg returns the favour by appearing in Last Night as a rather anal company executive. while fellow directors Bruce McDonald (Roadkill) and Francois Girard (Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Could) also have cameo roles. Canada does appear to have created a mutually supportive industry for itself. but one McKellar believes can at times be too introspective.
‘I think I was making fun of certain Canadian types. certain cliches.’ he admits. ‘Canadian film-makers are usually afraid to be culturally specific because they’re so conscious of being international. because they want to be successful like American films. Take the scene with the French teacher. played by Genevieve Bujold. It’s not that I wrote it because I’m Canadian. but obviously we have a particular relationship with our French teachers. Every Canadian teenage boy has a crush on their French teacher — it’s just a fact. there’s no denying it. They’re always a little chic-er. a little younger. and they’re asking provocative questions - in French — like "What are you doing this summer?” l’ve learned that’s one of the things that keeps us together as a nation — the crushes we have on our French teachers.’
Last Night opens on Fri 2 Jul. See review.
Lights, camera, action. . . ,
THE LATEST SCREENPLAY by Bernard MacLaverty (writer of Cal and Lamb): will be presented in a rehearsed reading by the Scottish Actors Studio at Glasgow's Gilmorehill Centre on Wed 30 Jun at 7.30pm. Perugia is based on the true story of the first man to steal the Mona Lisa. This reading follows a five-day workshop during which Tony Smith — director of TV series Tutti Frutti - will lead a team of professional actors through scenes in the as-yet- unfilmed script. Free audience seats can be reserved for the reading of Perugia by calling Andrew Byatt at SAS on 0700 022 9288.
THE SECOND MATINEE IDLE event. to be held at St Columba's By The Castle in Edinburgh on Sun 4 Jul, examines the usefulness of courses available to new filmmakers. Susan Kemp, Mark Greig and BAFTA- winner Morag Mackinnon will discuss their experiences at Movie Makars, Moonstone and the First Film Foundation from 2-3.30pm, with an opportunity to network afterwards. Entry is £3 and information is available on 07803 207619.
CINEWORKS, THE SHORT film award scheme run by Glasgow Film and Video Workshop, has announced the five winning projects — selected from around 150 submissions - that will go into production before April 2000. Experimental documentary! Am Boy inspects the life of a Siberian DJ and 'cultural spectator'; Sex And Death is a fairytale drama about a woman trying to keep her relationships alive; historical drama The Important Parts Of A True Story follows the events surrounding the case of alleged murderer Oscar Slater; in Guardian Angel, 3 young mother's trust in mankind is challenged when she gives a stranger a lift; and documentary Exidore observes a contemporary artist's simultaneous preparations for his first major exhibition and a high court trial. The Cineworks production teams will also collaborate with musicians on the Movie Music scheme.
Reading between his lines: Bernard
24 Jun—8 Jul 1999 THE LIST 21