JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Hot Docs Quick Takes (Directors: Korbett Matthews, Wade Vroom, Francisca Duran) - April 24, 2008
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Hot Docs Quick Takes

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Reviewed at the 2007 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival

Dying to find endless life

The Man Who Crossed the Sahara
Korbett Matthews
Canada 2008, 53 minutes
Four and one-half stars

Frank Cole began his film career recording the death of his grandmother and nearly finished it with a chronicle of his solo journey (accompanied by only two camels and the unforgiving terrain) across the Sahara desert. The “child of the desert” completed his initial sojourn in 1989, then spent the next decade in the edit suite.

But, tragically, like his life’s journey, he returned to the Sahara—ostensibly to find and shoot more footage for Life Without Death—only to be robbed and murdered near Ber, Mali, leaving both treks incomplete (a cryonic devotee, Cole’s remains are in a -190º Celsius deep freeze awaiting his rebirth and, presumably, further confrontations with his inner demons and immortality).

Korbett Matthews has lovingly crafted this complex tale around the thoughts, feelings and desires of his family to try and make sense of a man who never came to grips with the cycle of life so threw himself (and by extension those dear to him, as witness his desolate girlfriend, Sonja Hersig, and fellow filmmaker, Jean-Ives Dion) into harm’s way.

Now, everyone’s sad, the bandits remain at large and—until the undead break the bonds of fiction—life’s purpose remains unknown.

At one with the subject matter, composer Richard Horowitz’s frequent employment of stagnant, multi-register pedals, only to have Sussan Deyhim’s angelic voice capture Cole’s spirit in ascension—to, to what? to where? to why?—lifts this film to a special place in the canon of lost lives of those who don’t fit Society’s mold.


Budget cut and a one-man band

Vincent in search of a cheap cut

$4 Haircut
Wade Vroom
Canada 2006, 6 minutes
Three and one-half stars

The hard-working hairstylists at Grace’s Hair Salon (mere blocks away from the venue for the boisterous world première of Wade Vroom’s wee film) were good sports in letting themselves, their clippers and scissors be given six minutes of fame.

Vincent Hartley as the redhead in search of a cheap cut is affably engaging even though he’s forced to admit that “No matter what I ask for, it always comes out the same.”

Between shearings, Paul Bates’ burbling tuba bleats out his own ompah track with brassy gusto.

But hold everything! The funniest cuts of all come after the initial credits where a pair (young boy/older man) of customers steal the show and make us wish they’d been the stars.


Through the ear of the beholder

The raven snatches the baby

Mr. Edison's Ear
Francisca Duran
Canada 2006, 32 minutes
Three stars

Francisca Duran’s compilation of Thomas Edison’s genius turns out to be more a scrapbook of sights than array of early sounds. Perhaps radio would have been the better medium. With so much show (unforgettably the raven that snatches a baby off the ground and the infamous electrocution of an elephant—with the Edison eschewed “pounder,” Sergei Rachmaninov playing his C-sharp Minor Prelude in the background), the film becomes a historical curiosity rather than an insightful peek beyond the ear drum of the wily inventor. JWR

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