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Oh, Canada review – Paul Schrader looks north as Richard Gere’s draft dodger reveals all

Cannes film festival
A dying director who fled from the US to Canada agrees to make a confessional film in Schrader’s fragmented and anticlimactic story

Muddled, anticlimactic and often diffidently performed, this oddly passionless new movie from Paul Schrader is a disappointment. It is based on the novel Foregone by Russell Banks (Schrader also adapted Banks’s novel Affliction in 1997) and reunites Schrader with Richard Gere, his star from American Gigolo. Though initially intriguing, it really fails to deliver the emotional revelation or self-knowledge that it appears to be leading up to. There are moments of intensity and promise; with a director of Schrader’s shrewdness and creative alertness, how could there not be? But the movie appears to circle endlessly around its own emotions and ideas without closing in.

The title is partly a reference to the national anthem of that nation, which is a place of freedom and opportunity which may have an almost Rosebud-type significance for the chief character, an avowed draft-resister refugee from the US in the late 60s, who becomes an acclaimed documentary film-maker in his chosen country. Maybe Vietnam was his real reason for fleeing and maybe it wasn’t. This central point is one of many things in this fragmented film which is unsatisfyingly evoked. Continue reading…

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