neu (neu111) wrote in the_ckr_files,

Valentine's Day (movie post)

vd1 - small

Okay, I’ll admit this one is a puzzle.
Canadian movies are not the most documented movies. Experimental Canadian movies?
Try and google Valentine’s Day and you’ll get an idea of the difficulties of research. If you pair it with "Mike Hoolboom", results are more relevant but generally give little more than the year, the cast and if you insist, some semblance of synopsis. Same with imdb or the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Luckily, we have a great site devoted to Mike Hoolboom.
And articles and books by or about him.
But Hoolboom being a very active and productive artist, his production keeps living and he doesn’t leave anything at rest. Meaning that he cuts, splits, pastes, merges and sometimes deletes.

'Kanada' (93), neo expressionist apocolyism, 'Valentine’s Day' (99), its sad and sexy sequel, starring Babs Chula and Gabrielle Rose, 'House of Pain', ribbons of skin and piss and shit, piece by piece he’s going through the work of the past, editing, making it sharpter, tighter for a better tomorrow.

from Introduction to Hoolboom’s book Inside the Pleasure Dome, by Kika Thorne (Toronto, 1997)

"I took 'Panic Bodies' through a test run in Germany," he says, "It played in half a dozen spots, and in the last place I saw it, I knew what was wrong with it. So I recut one section, a lot. Remade the music and sound effects and started shooting again. Cut some more and kept at it. I've spent most of the last three years recutting my films," he admits, "'House of Pain' is down to 50 minutes from 80. 'Kanada' is down to 45 from 60, and then I threw it out. 'Valentine's Day' went from 80 minutes to 18 before I threw that one out too."

from Fringe Filmmaker Flaunts Subconscious in Ode to Mortality by Cameron Bailey (Now Magazine cover story, Oct. 8-14, 1998)

Well, actually I read a book on Fellini and it was common for him to do exactly the same. He'd finish a film for the Venice Festival for instance, and it might show here and there, and then they'd sit down and recut it leisurely. The recut version is the one that everyone knows. It's expensive though. I've spent most of the last three years recutting my films. 'House of Pain' is down to fifty minutes from eighty. 'Kanada' is down to fourty-five from sixty. 'Valentine's Day' is going to become part of a composite film. It was cut from eighty minutes to eighteen and it's got a new opening and video inserts. It's become something completely different.
Cameron: So which is the real version?
Mike: The new version is the real version.

from Interview with Mike Hoolboom by Cameron Bailey, Originally published in Lux ed. Steve Reinke and Tom Taylor (YYZ/Pleasure Dome Books, 2000)

Now, in Hoolboom’s autobiographic book Plague Years, A Life in Underground Movies, Valentine’s Day is referred to as Stormy Weather (nothing to do with Sólveig Anspach’s 2003 French-Icelandic film). Plague Years was published in 1998, so it makes sense to conclude that Stormy Weather is the short that initially cannibalized Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, Stormy Weather is not otherwise known by the internets and is not listed in Hoolboom’s more recent filmography either.

So, has Valentine’s Day been irremediably thrown away? Or bits merged into another disappeared movie? Only Hoolboom knows. Anyway, Valentine’s Day no longer exists in his filmography - by his own choice, so that must be respected. But although I have a lot of admiration and respect for his works, the concern here being Callum Keith Rennie’s filmography, I had to do the reverse of what Hoolboom did, dig out whatever could be found on this ghost movie, cut and paste, with the following collage as a result. Fair warning: there’s not much about Callum in here though!

Let’s take a look at Kanada first, since Valentine’s Day was initially meant as a sequel to this film (also 1993, 65 min. later down to 45 min), a little more documented, and it gives us the setting for Valentine’s Day. It’s another experimental film by Hoolboom, and another example of his rare attempts at making longer, narrative-driven works compared to his trademark short movies. The background is the same in both films - a civil war in a near-future Canada, and three of Kanada’s main characters are back in Valentine’s Day: The Bride (Kika Thorne) and the two heroines, played by Gabrielle Rose and Babz Chula, under different names (Bobbie becomes Alex, Charlie becomes Barb).

'Kanada' is that rare thing, a work from the avant-garde with wit, passion and just enough slickness to sweeten its message: Canada is threatened by enemies without and within, the future’s not what it used to be. That’s right, another dystopia. This is Canada ten-to-twenty years from now, and it sure doesn’t look like a tea party. Structured like a channel-surfer’s 'Intolerance', 'Kanada'’s cross-cut with enough dynamism (and Brechtian alienation effects) to keep you absorbed throughout.

Four channels, four stories. A skull-faced anchorman briefs us on the dire straits we’ve sailed into. Jean Chretien has been replaced by Prime Minister Wayne Gretzky, and Lucien Bouchard is committing atrocities upon anglophone schoolchildren. The PM and his boot-licking aide hammer out strategy, sequestered in a black-and-white hell. A mad bride spray-paints graffiti while fleeing an unseen pursuer. Central to all this is a pair of women lovers, laughing and fighting while the country goes down in flames around them. To play Bobbie and Charlie (a social worker and her hooker girlfriend) Hoolboom had the good fortune to get Gabrielle Rose and Babz Chula. Bits hat sound like effortless improvisation alternate with monologues where each woman in turns expounds on men, sex and the state of the union.

Visual technique, often the only thing a good experimental film has going for it, is unconventional to the point of assault. The over-exposed colour shots of Bobbie and Charlie lend an other worldly air to their remarks, while hairless Prime Minister Gretzky and his aide (actors Andrew Scorer and Sky Gilbert, both familiar from Toronto’s alternative theatre scene) emote on Expressionist sets right out of 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' – jagged strips in forced perspective, or huge representations of the human brain. The Bride is transmuted by another trick in the experimentalist’s repertoire: hand-doctored film emulsion, complete with scratches and tinted shock that blooms and fades with a mind of its own.

from Festival Guide by David Roche, in the Plague Years book

Hoolboom’s first narrative film, 'Kanada', is set in a near-future Kanadian dystopia and features four distinct threads: a newscaster in a death mask (Hoolboom) reads the often-horrific news of an increasingly violent and chaotic Kanada while surreal images flash on the screen behind him; Prime Minister Wayne Gretzky (Andrew Scorer) and his aide (Sky Gilbert) discuss economics, plot against Quebec sovereignty, and eventually launch a civil war; two women, Charlie (Babs Chula) and Bobbie (Gabrielle Rose), fall in love, move in together, and then break up in a violent encounter; and the image of a young bride in her wedding gown (Kika Thorne) appears over and over again, seemingly unconnected to any of the narrative elements of the film. In addition to this already-complex structure, the film makes use of a disjointed soundtrack, first person voiceovers, intertitles, non-narrative sequences, and image layering. The resulting disjointed nature of the film evokes the experience of television (which is an important thematic element in the film), except that writer/director Hoolboom is the one flipping the channels; the viewer has little control, a situation that seems pandemic in the film. At the same time, such formal complexity speaks to a filmic version of Tully’s concept of interculturalism. Black-and-white sequences, which owe a great debt to German formalism, are interlaced with gritty, over-exposed cinema-vérité sequences reminiscent of British documentaries; the film is a riot of different visual styles, seeming to defy any single mode of representation. Hoolboom’s Kanada thus exists as a filming mosaic, seeming to mimic or mock, on a formal level, one of the defining metaphors for the Canadian government’s approach to national complexity.

from Imagining an Intercultural Nation: A Moment in Canadian Queer Cinema by James Allan, in the book In A Queer Country: Gay And Lesbian Studies In The Canadian Context, edited by Terry Goldie – 2001; the whole excerpt about Kanada can be found here

In Valentine’s Day, the civil war is raging and Gretzky runs a TV-centric war. The air is poisoned with gas, the ozone layer is destroyed by radioactive fallout and the environment devastated. People’s lives are ruled by the curfew imposed by martial law, and the need to wear protective gear to venture outdoors. An AIDS-like plague decimates the population, those infected with the virus regarded as criminals and imprisoned by the army. Against the background of this catastrophic vision of the future, the same women as in Kanada struggle to make their difficult relationship work, and to stay human, sane and alive. Alex works for a municipal recycling company, while Barb, an ex-junkie, operates underground. With great effort and often equivocal and hilarious results, they manage to keep at bay the adverse circumstances from their relationship until Barb is gang-raped by soldiers and proves to be virus positive, becoming a wanted person. The main focus seems to be on indoors face-to-face talks between the two women, with the film jumping between media reports, sampled news footage and spraypaint sloganeering.

(this summary owes much to this archive)

In a future world where soldiers are imprisoning all with AIDS, two women struggle to find love amid the ruins. This is the story of Alex, who works in one of the city’s recycling plants, and Barbara Z, a fast talking ex-junkie who works in the city’s underworld. They are lovers trying to keep the strains of conflict from entering their home. Unforgettable performances from a stellar cast (Babz Chula and Gabrielle Rose).

about Stormy Weather, Chicago Festival Catalogue, in Plague Years

Plague Years contains a whole chapter dedicated to Stormy Weather, with dialogues between the two main characters and pics, which can be found here.

In spite of the obvious interrelation, no connection between Kanada and Stormy Weather/Valentine's Day is mentioned, and they're listed as part of two separate cycles. Stormy Weather (18 min, 1997) in the Plague Years cycle, 6 shorts related to AIDS: Plague Years (in six parts: Frank’s Cock, Sorrow, Fall, Hey Madonna, Stormy Weather, Letters From Home) 73 min, 1999 - whereas Kanada is the final part in the Oh Kanada! tryptich, after Shooting Blanks (8 min, 1995) and Escape in Canada (9 min, 1993).

Callum portrays an "astronaut/slogan spray-painter". His scenes were shot separately from the main part with Babz Chula and Gabrielle Rose.

The IMDB page: Valentine’s Day (1994)

Valentine’s Day was directed, written and produced by Mike Hoolboom, a Canadian filmmaker, video artist, writer and critic. Hoolboom has made over 50 films and videos since 1980 (exact numbers vary as he constantly reshapes his filmography - 20 films only are referenced on his site). His production is large and diverse, exploring a variety of formats and techniques. Often provocative, his films have taken a more politic orientation after he learned he was HIV-positive. Hoolboom also played a major curatorial and critical role in the Canadian avant-garde film community, directing various events, writing books and numerous articles. He later directed Callum in Frank’s Cock (1994) and Letters from Home (1996).

Original music is by Earle Peach, who also wrote the score for Letters from Home.

Bruce Sweeney did the sound recording. Sweeney later directed Babz Chula in Live Bait and did record sound for Lynne Stopkewich’s Kissed.

Babz Chula (here credited as Babs), theater and film actor, now deceased, was a long time friend of Callum - maybe she was instrumental in his acquaintance with Hoolboom. They played alongside in The Raffle (1994) and in The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008). Gabrielle Rose appeared in several movies by Atom Egoyan; she has played along Callum in Time Cop, Battlestar Galactica and Shattered (as Dr. Lynn Tanninger in the unaired Pilot, and as Mrs. Bacic in the episode Stairways to Perceptions). Janieta Eyre and Kika Thorne have pursued other venues, respectively as a professional photographer and as a filmmaker/video artist.

Cast / Characters:

Babs Chula
Janieta Eyre
Callum Rennie
Gabrielle Rose
Kika Thorne

Diva of Death

Year: 1994

Runtime: 80 min

Format: 16mm

Country: Canada

Genre: experimental

Keywords: Independent Film, Comedy, Drama, Sequel, Political


First shown at Toronto International Film Festival (Perspective Canada), September 8-17, 1994.
44th Melbourne International Film Festival, 1995
International Festival Of Visual Arts, Hungary, 25 April To 1 May 2000
27e Mostra Internacional de Cinema, Sao Paulo, October 2000
30e Mostra Internacional de Cinema, Sao Paulo, October 2003





All pics from the Plague Years book - the last one for Valentine’s Day or Kanada (the slogan spray-painting Bride)

  • GABRIELLE: Now I want you to just sit here and open your thoughts and concentrate very hard.
    BARBARA: I know, I know. The mind is a muscle.
    GABRIELLE: A clitoris.
    BARBARA: Is that why your head looks swollen in the morning?

  • BARBARA: Sex is an emotion in motion. Love is what you make it, and who you make it with.

  • BARBARA: Baseball gloves and bulldogs look good with wrinkles, not me.

  • BARBARA: The police are to society what dreams are to the individual.

Callum quotient, and: "does he die?"

These are valid questions, but I haven't got the answers...


Three reviews from the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center Catalog

- Gemma Files, Eye Weekly

Stars Babz Chula and Gabrielle Rose play a pair of hyper-intellectual dykes who fight to ‘stay human' in what surely qualifies as very trying times: a future in which Quebec has just separated, causing Prime Minister Wayne Gretzky to declare a TV-centric war that soon bogs down for lack of corporate sponsorship. Outside, martial law and a fading environment call for the three C's of caution, curfew and protective covering. After Barb is gang-raped (off-camera) by soldiers and proves to be HIV positive, the moral of their story becomes increasingly clear: not only is nothing safe - it never was. Rose and Chula handle their two talking-heads-in-a-room roles with a winning combo of poignant intensity, wit and unexpected lyricism. Tense, funny and haunting, 'Valentine's Day' is Cancon funding in action, the way it should be - but all so rarely is.

- Geoff Pevere, Globe and Mail

Although the film jumps between media reports, sampled news footage and spraypaint sloganeering, its emotional centre is a love story between two lesbians, winningly played by Babz Chula and Gabrielle Rose .... Recommended for those who wouldn't rather be in Philadelphia.

- Sandra Cunningham, Toronto International Film Festival Catalogue

With 'Valentine's Day', Hoolboom offers an incisive, eloquent, black-humoured tale about politics and sex, where the devastation of AIDS is contextualized within a larger issue of a nation in decay .... The rigorous and intelligent dialogue, along with potent performances by Chula and Rose, keeps us riveted from the beginning to the end of 'Valentine's Day'.

found here

Canoe Review

Writer-director Mike Hoolboom's sardonic film sounds a lot better than it is. Awkward, ugly and badly staged, the execution of the idea sabotages the idea itself. Too bad, because it did seem inviting as a premise.

(source lost)

Kinema 1995 – FESTIVALS: The Canadian Scene

…/… As the summers pass these special programmes bring on high hopes of whole-hearted rejoicing in finding among the almost fifty new feature-length films at least a substantial number to make us quietly proud of what our filmmakers have accomplished in showing audiences here and abroad what it means to be Canadian …/…the results are not much better this time around …/… As for Brigitte Berman's 'The Circle Game', Jeremy Podeswa's 'Eclipse', Gregory Wild's 'Highway of Heartache', Bruce LaBruce's 'Super 8', Mike Hoolboom's 'Valentine's Day', Judith Doyle's 'Wasaga', it is a kindness to say nothing more.

found here

THE BODY, The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource Film, by Kevin J. Harty - 1998

.../... Since 1984, HIV/AIDS has been a main or significant plot element in more than 120 films from almost two dozen countries. Although resistance to HIV/AIDS-related plotlines has limited the response from Hollywood and the major television networks in the United States, independent and foreign film companies and television industries have provided many thought-provoking and challenging cinematic works ./... Most films about HIV/AIDS focus either on children, who are considered by some the "innocent victims," or on gay men, who are for those same people, the "less-than-innocent victims" of the disease. There are, however, some notable exceptions -- films in which women with HIV or AIDS are the main characters.../... Mike Hoolboom's futuristic vision of Canada, 'Valentine's Day' (Cinema Esperança International, 1994), finds Prime Minister Wayne Gretzky declaring civil war on Quebec and examines the lives of two lesbians, one of whom is HIV-positive, in a moment of national and personal crisis.

found here

Mike Hoolboom and Valentine's Day

Introduction to Stormy Weather in Plague Years

It’s the night before Halloween, recognized in countries unruled by candy manufacturers as the day of the dead, and I’m lying in the hospice, grateful that another day’s waiting is over so I can get on with my real life in the world of dreams. Suddenly I am running across an open field, pursued by a Great Dane, starved these long years before my arrival. With every step the ground gives way and the dog draws closer, I can feel its breath on my jeans, and realize that up ahead is a sudden cliff. Too scare to think I jump into the void, and there, growing out of the sheer drop, is a small tree. I grab hold of it in desperation and swing from the largest of its branches. It is an apple tree, which has recently borne fruit, so I pluck one from its leaves and begin to eat, suspended between the hound’s cruel temper and the abyss, thinking that nothing has ever tasted so sweet.

As a filmmaker the dream’s secret message appeared clear. I must travel to the place most dreaded by every maker on the fringe, the barren wasteland of narrative cinema. Like Godard, I believed that every movie should have a beginning, middle and end, though not necessarily in that order. But making movies out of waiter’s tips and penny jars never left much room on the ledger for actors and crews. Always depended on the night sky for stars. But the call had rung clear and with no other map to guide of footsteps to fall in behind, I nodded off to Vancouver where Babz and Gabrielle waited for me, well versed in the arts of impersonation, ready to stage the mystery of the many lives that lay within a single body.

from the Plague Years book

an interview with Mike Hoolboom, by Dirk de Bruyn (Vancouver, 1993)

…I've just shot a multiscreen psychodrama called 'Frank's Cock'. I've shot two features with actors that I'm hoping to finish this year: 'Kanada' and 'Valentine's Day'. I finished writing my first play and a chapter for a book on postmodern Vancouver. Trying not to think of that line from Yeats, "the best lack all conviction while the worst are filled with a passionate intensity." At least it gets me out of bed in the morning.

from here

Valentine's Day, Frank's Cock, Justify My Love - Director/producer/scriptwriter: Mike Hoolbloom – Diary by: Pamela Cuthbert - Payback September 12, 1994

- March 1992: Mike Hoolbloom is living in Vancouver (he now resides in Toronto) and receives notification of a $10,000 grant from British Columbia's Cultural Ministry to make a personal film about aids. He has a script, but it's about to get tossed out. Editor Haida Paul, a friend of Hoolbloom's, is looking for someone to take care of her downtown house for a few months Hoolbloom moves in. He starts work on a script that can be shot entirely in the house. Short ends of 16mm stock are collected for the shoot.

- June 1992: The film is evolving into a sequel to Hoolbloom's first feature, 'Kanada', and is written for Kanada stars Babz Chula and Gabrielle Rose. The 'Valentine's Day' story is about Canadian civil war as experienced by a lesbian couple, one of whom becomes hiv positive when she is gang-raped.

- July to August 1992: Chula and Rose meet with Hoolbloom every day for a month to finalize the script. Steve Sanguedolce flies out to Vancouver from Toronto to shoot the film, help cook the meals, and do the lighting. Sound recordist is Bruce Sweeney and Alison Beda handles the boom. It's a one-week shoot in the house and all scenes are shot in sequence. Everything goes smoothly. Scenes with Callum Rennie as an astronaut/slogan spray-painter, are shot separately on the streets of Vancouver a few weeks later.

- September 1992 to March 1993: Meanwhile, 'Frank's Cock' is hatched through a National Film Board Program to Assist Filmmakers in the Private Sector-sponsored exercise led by Alex Mackenzie, then board member of Vancouver-based Cineworks Independent Filmmakers' Society. Seven filmmakers are asked to create a three-minute film, limited to one edit, on the subject of breaking up. Hoolbloom makes a film without edits, but with an internal montage created by reshooting, through a piece of cardboard with a hole, footage off his television screen. He creates a four-screen display within the frame. In one corner is actor Callum Rennie, delivering a monologue about a lover who has died of aids. The film is finished by March, but not printed (through pafps) until September 1993.

- March to May 1993: First rough assembly of 'Valentine's Day' is done at Cineworks.

- June 1993: Sanguedolce and Hoolbloom begin to edit the feature film on Sanguedolce's Steenbeck in his Toronto apartment.

- July 1993 to May 1994: It's a long edit. The script and the shot list are scrapped. New scenes, including 'Kanada' footage and old home movies, are added.

- August 1993: The Ontario Arts Council contributes $12,000 to Hoolbloom's efforts.

- September 1993: The astronaut scenes are sent to Carl Brown (a fellow experimental filmmaker) for hand, bathtub processing. A grant from the Toronto --- Arts Council arrives for 'Frank's Cock' and two other shorts in the making, for a total of $10,000.

- October 1993: The final shoot of 'Valentine's Day' takes place at the Metro Toronto Zoo with Rose and Chula who are visiting Toronto for another gig.

- November 1993: Stock army footage, ordered months ago, arrives and is inserted into the film.

- March 1994: Hoolbloom flies to Vancouver and sleeps on the living room floor of composer/mixer/ sound editor Earle Peach while Peach composes the sound. Sound effects are done at Cineworks on a ProTools system.

- April to May 1994: 'Justify My Love' is conceived and shot in less than one month. Hoolbloom scrolls a text over the Madonna rock video of the same title. The overlay is a fictional letter from the glam-queen's high school heartthrob, reminiscing of their sweet and smutty romance.

-June 1994: Back to 'Valentine's Day': Hoolbloom launches into a panicked, last-minute final cut of the fine cut.

- August 1994: A print is struck at Film House. Andre Bennett of Cinema Esparanca agrees to be the film's international sales agent and theatrical distributor in Canada. The Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre handles educational distribution. Hoolbloom estimates the cost of 'Valentine's Day' at somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000.

- September 1994: Toronto International Film Festival screens all three Hoolboom creations, 'Valentine's Day', 'Frank's Cock' and 'Justify My Love'.

from here

Festival that ate my brain (International Film Festival) by Mike Hoolboom, TAKE ONE, Dec-1996

This is about Hoolboom’s first participation to a real film festival (1986) and about the genesis of Valentine’s Day, written as a reaction to finding out AIDS had caught up with him, and which was presented at the Toronto 1994 festival. The article has been taken up, longer and re-written in parts, in Plague Years chapter "Festival". I have inserted here some of the ‘new’ wording between brackets. It's an excerpt but the whole article is worth reading.

.../... It's 1993 in Vancouver on one of those cloudless spring days when you imagine if you were tall enough you would see right around the world until you could just make out, faintly, at the close of the vanishing point, the back of your own head. I have an appointment with Dr. Richards and stumble upstairs, bracing myself for the waiting room. With an all-HIV/AIDS practice, his waiting room is a cruel mirror, as I watch young men, many barely 20, moving blind and slow and gutted into one of the many upholstered chairs. We stifle raspy coughs and joke with Dianne the receptionist until the doctor appears at the door and waves me in. I'm here to get the results of my latest blood test. "Well, it's pretty much what we expected," he begins and I nod, knowing this is just a routine check. "Are you having trouble breathing, say when you walk up stairs?" And because he's on the eighth floor and the elevator's broken again, I wonder if he's doing a brain check, trying to figure whether all those years of worry have finally washed away my grey matter. So I nod, he nods, and then he nods again and says, "Well, your counts are very, very, very low, and I really think you should go on AZT." I'm confused because my counts have been high and stable for a couple of years now and I don't feel any different than usual. So I ask if it's okay to do the tests again in a couple of months, and he nods again, only he looks worried now or maybe it's the sun in his eyes and I leave, feeling shaky and confused. I'm dying and it doesn't feel any different.

When I get home, there's good news. The B.C. government has granted me money to make a new movie, which is going to be a personal film about HIV/AIDS, only now the thought of making a diary movie seems trivial because this surely would be my last film. So I set about writing a new, longer movie--a feature which we could shoot in the house I was looking after for a friend who was on vacation. It was to be called 'Valentine's Day' ['Stormy Weather'], and tells the tale of a couple of women, lovers, and what happens when one of them tests positive.

While I'm editing, I realize that this is the film that will tell everyone who doesn't already know that I'm positive, and this will almost certainly occur at the festival and that sometime before the screening I would have to tell my folks. Cutting the film was like listening to a child unable to speak, like walking into a half-finished house, a stranger's house, and trying to see where the doors and windows ought to be. And it meant listening to the siren call of the festival, which waited with party invitations and people in suits looking for The Next Big Thing or even a number of small things that might rub together, and I wondered why the line between public and private, between being a filmmaker and a fan, should be so clearly drawn. In Toronto, at least, it is simple. Either you were in the festival or you watched.

When the film ['Stormy Weather'] was finished, I still hadn't told my folks, finding myself in a depth of procrastination I hadn't realized existed before. Then I got accepted into the festival, and, of course, my folks asked, like everyone else, did you get a film into the festival? I told them I had, but I still couldn't tell them what it was about. I had another film accepted, a short called 'Frank's Cock', but that wasn't exactly the kind of thing you want to bring home to your folks either--"Look mom, its 'Frank's Cock'." When I told my mother the title, she asked if it was a movie about farmers. A week before the screening, I mailed them tickets with a brief note telling them I was positive and that they should call. A couple of days before the letter had arrived, my mom had been sleepless and anxiety ridden, and when we spoke, she said the letter came as a relief because she finally knew what it was. We gathered at last beneath the marquees of the festival and cried and held each other, just like a family, and sniffled through a movie that seemed haunted by my declaration, and Babz came and made everybody laugh during question period, even those who were thoroughly confused by it, and then we all had a long drink together. I wondered how many other secrets were being laid bare because the festival demanded it, how many other families had grown beneath its call for congregation, or after meeting its weathering stare for some 20 years now, what new organizations of the social lay nestled in the womb of its projections, slouching towards Toronto, to be born.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Canadian Independent Film & Television Publishing Association
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

from here

Babz Chula and Valentine's Day

Chula met Sweeney while shooting Michael Hoolboom’s 'Valentine’s Day' in Toronto in 1992. "It was a sequel to a movie called 'Kanada' and it was, you know, real low-budget alternative filmmaking. It wasn’t even independent. It was beyond independent. I was playing a junkie tough gal. And we’re shooting in a house and there are absolutely no amenities. You work with Michael knowing when he says cut and you’ve got to change, you’ve got to find a corner to do it in. But the work is so exciting that it’s worth that. Gabrielle Rose and I were the actors; there was also Steve Sanguedolce, who is Michael’s partner and director of photography and key grip and everything, and Bruce Sweeney, who was a student who knew Mike’s films and volunteered to be the sound and boom person.

from Dreaming in the Rain, by David Spaner


- Kanada user comment
- Kanada synopsis
- Valentine’s Day overview
- A disgruntled look at Canadian independent movies: Kinema 1995 – FESTIVALS: The Canadian Scene

- Plague Years, A Life in Underground Movies, by Mike Hoolboom - 1998
- Dreaming in the Rain: How Vancouver Became Hollywood North by Northwest, by David Spaner - 2003
- In A Queer Country: Gay And Lesbian Studies In The Canadian Context, edited by Terry Goldie - 2001

Mike Hoolboom:
- Movies and writings
- Canadian Film Encyclopedia
- The Video Data Bank has a bio and a few shorts on-line
- so does The Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art
- and You Tube also has a collection of clips by or about Mike Hoolboom

The actors:
Babz Chula’s site
Janieta Eyre ‘s bio and site
Kika Thorne’s site, and an interview (2001) by Mike Hoolboom Kika Thorne: What is to be Done?

(non) Availability

Valentine’s Day was once available from the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Center Catalog, but is no longer listed on their new site.

In conclusion

Valentine’s Day is a sequel to Kanada, they share a common plot device and various elements - still they’re two different movies, specially in intent, as is emphasized by the fact that Hoolboom later included each of them in two different cycles: Kanada in a cycle about Canada, more specifically about Canadian politics and society, and Valentine’s Day in a cycle about AIDS – with a (probable) focus on the inside feelings of one living with AIDS, the reaction of others - of the lover, of society (ostracism brought to a paroxysm with the imprisonment of the AIDS-infected population).

Why did Kanada remain more or less whole while Valentine’s Day was drastically cut remains a mystery. Maybe Hoolboom simply became unsatisfied with it, maybe he found it more incisive reduced to some scenes. We can only guess.

As for Callum’s role, it seems that it derives from Kanada’s bride who was already spray-painting slogans – but the bride remains as a character in Valentine’s Day so it’s not a simple substitution or evolution of the character. In his essay, James Allan says the bride may be an obsolete symbolic representation of the Canadian nation - now turning back on the same nation through vandalism and social action. What then is the symbolism of the astronaut? Why was the spray-painting been transferred to him? if it has been at all - maybe the bride continues to do some spray-painting of her own. Maybe he's just a reference to the devastation of the environment, which has became as alien and deadly as the moon atmosphere. No other clue than, bride or astronaut, they're both parts of stories / allegories parallel to and not interracting with the main storyline, this being confirmed by Callum’s scenes shot separately from the bulk of the movie.

Any thinky (or not!) thoughts welcome...

Tags: .genre: movie post, actor: babz chula, callum quotient: 10%, director: mike hoolboom, film: valentine's day, year: 1994

  • The brat pack (article excerpts and pictures)

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