If you were to ask your friends whether they thought Canadian films were sexy, they would probably laugh and unanimously say no. Collectively, they would all probably be pretty hard pressed to make a list of many Canadian films at all for that matter.
Canada has broken into the mainstream music industry, with a few larger bands making it big in the States, but by and large Canadian films have managed to stay under the radar, often being recognized in Indie Film festivals, but failing to capture the attention of popular culture.
Thinking back to my youth, when catching a glimpse of flesh in a movie at my cousins’ house– they had a VCR–was something to be remembered, I can’t help but recall one movie. Though this film was written by Americans and filmed in the States, it is still considered one of the top grossing Canadian films of all time because it was produced by Canada’s Astral Media. I am referring to Canada’s number one film export: Porky’s.
If you say you have never heard of Porky’s than I’m sorry but I’d have to call you a liar. Today the storyline or nudity contained within it would not even be noticed, with sex selling everything on television and the internet, but because of its time and place in history, Porky’s has to be recognized as Canada’s sexiest film. It will always be remembered by countless teenaged boys who grew up, swapping stories about where they were and who they were with (if anyone) when they first saw it.
The second film that pops to mind, at least for me when I think back on all the steamy Canadian films from my teenage years, is Exotica. This film made the careers of both film-maker Atom Egoyan and star, Mia Kirschner, but again in today’s world of rampant-sex-sells-everything, it wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar.
I remember wanting to see Exotica. I was fourteen and I had heard about it and maybe even seen an ad for it on CTV. It looked forbidden and so, being a teenage boy without cable, I imagined that it would be full of…well, I wasn’t sure what, but I knew it wasn’t going to be like just another episode of the Littlest Hobo. When I did finally see it a few years later, probably aired on some French channel, I was disappointed. It wasn’t sexy. It was serious and beyond my level of teenage appreciation of things.
My opinion of what is or is not sexy is probably pretty mainstream. I’m sorry if that makes me boring, and for some people it probably would/has/did, but David Cronenberg’s Crash is not sexy or even good. Yes, I actually paid to see this film in the theatre, thinking it was going to be bad in a good way and exciting, and it was starring James Spader, Holly Hunter and Rosanna Arquette, so it would at least be interesting, right? I am not the type of person to swear; it was just one of those habits that I never took to, even as a teenager, but the first thing I said after watching this film, and I quote, was, “That film was F@$#ed up”, and it was, and still is, though I doubt I will revisit it…ever, to be sure.
There is another dark and yes, sexy film that heralds from Canada. It’s called Kissed and was made by Lynne Stopkewich specifically for the indie scene and starred Molly Parker. It’s the story of a woman who realizes that she has a thing for dead bodies, and can’t help getting a little bit closer to them than what is morally or legally, for that matter, acceptable. Though the taboo of necrophilia is not about to go away, even with all the sex on the cyber super highway, I don’t think it’s that aspect of this film that makes it something of a keeper. It’s the genuineness of the characters and the pain their addictions cause them that makes this more than just another shock ‘em film fare.
So, if I went back to the same friends I asked before and mentioned Porky’s, Exotica, Crash and Kissed, would they finally agree that Canadian film is indeed sexy? I’m not so sure. I am sure they would all agree that Canada has produced some pretty thought- provoking films, that definitely have a sexy element to them, but dark is more the word I’d use.
Film reflects culture. It offers a peek into the psyche of a people and shows an aspect of what is normal, or abnormal for that matter. Having said that, I would have to hold up Canadian cinema as one more example that Canada and the United States are not the same culturally. Our films are not polished, the actors are not as plastic or air brushed, and the stories we tell are less to titillate and more to provoke dialogue.
Will I go back and watch these films again? For some of them I’m tempted, but in the end, probably not. I may be a product of a pre-internet society, but the allure of uncomfortable films is just that, uncomfortable, and there are a lot better watches out there then the likes of Crash. F@$* that!