Paul Doucet in Early Winter
In the midst of a cold, the soothing balm of great cinema makes everything much better and on day 6 of the festival I was still coasting from the visions of the previous day. Taking it a bit easier I only went to two films, but having a bit more time to sleep and reflect was a good thing to build up energy for the final push with a couple of packed days still to go in the Atlantic Film Festival.
A solid documentary with a conventional approach and a vital and important topic, which is the history of the women’s movement in America from the late 60s to early 70s. Interviewing key members of the movement and making connections between the other social justice movements at the time, it’s a powerful reminder that rights are fought for and that things today may not be as different as it seems. Progress is incremental and hard-fought, and remembering our history is critical so we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
A small, but engaged audience saw what I believe was the Canadian premiere of Australian director Michael Rowe’s Early Winter. The Canadian / Australian coproduction stars Suzanne Clément (who is consistently bold and remarkable as an actor) and Paul Doucet as a couple in a marriage that isn’t working. (Clément and Doucet take different comedic roles in the Québec comedy My Internship in Canada also playing in the festival this year). In Early Winter Rowe locks down the camera with long takes that confine the actors to the frame as they are trapped by their lives. Beginning with a relatively explicit sex scene that encapsulates many of the problems in their relationship, it deliberately reveals the details of their lives, relationships, and history through subtle gestures and sparse dialogue. Using natural light and precise framing, there are some fantastic shots where we can see both characters, but they can’t see each other and we see the reactions between them with a different perspective. Great drama with a different approach that is powerful and effective in a quiet way.
While watching Early Winter I thought about some of the amazing cinematography that has been on display at the festival this year. Many films are shot in low light and in changing lighting conditions with technology making some incredible images possible. From the lower-budget Fire Song to Early Winter to Into the Forest to Rams to Cemetery of Splendour to Victoria, they’re using small amounts of light to push the limits of filmmaking. This is a great time for cinema when artists use technology and tools to expand the world of storytelling.