Oct 11, 2012

Amanita Pestilens Nov. 27th Bytowne Cinema

Amanita Pestilens - 50th Anniversary Screening
November 27th, Bytowne Cinema, Ottawa, 9:20pm
35mm, 79mins, 1962

Amanita Pestilens (1962) is an unusually compelling film about one man's obsession with creating “the perfect lawn”. Jacques Labrecque stars as champion lawn-grower Henri Martin, a man who struggles to balance the needs of his family with his own ambitions for horticultural achievement as he wages war against the insurgent mushrooms that threaten his immaculately manicured domain. The film manages the unusual feat of being both funny and suspenseful at the same time, treading a fine line of ominous hilarity perfectly conveyed by Labrecque. It feels somewhat as though Spanish surrealist master Luis Bunuel had wandered into the Montreal of the early 1960's and managed to tap into the cultural zeitgeist of discontent and change bubbling just under the surface of polite society.

Shot on location in Montreal and close to Ottawa at Harrington Lake in 1962 by director René Bonnière, it was the first fictional feature film produced by legendary Ottawa filmmaker F.R. “Budge” Crawley. It was also the first Canadian feature film produced in colour, and stands as the cinematic debut of Canadian acting queen Genevieve Bujold, who, in her role as rebellious daughter Sophie Martin, displays enough raw cinematic charisma to suggest that she was born for the movie screen.

The production has the added bonus of having captured images of La Belle Province at a time of great physical and social transformation. It contains numerous visual delights, including early 1960's fashion, wonderful old Montreal streetscapes, and the sight of shockingly new-looking highway interchanges. Special mention should go to Ottawa-based composer Larry Crossley for writing an excellent score, incorporating jazz, folk, and orchestral music, helping the film take on the scope of a much larger production.

Unfortunately Amanita Pestilens never received a wide release. Festival screenings and the occasional TV appearance served to spread the legend, but the film has essentially been vault-bound for 50 years. We are proud to bring it back to the big screen, before it returns to dormancy like a mushroom spore waiting to re-emerge - hopefully sooner than the year 2062!

Part of the Canadian Cult Revue film series at the ByTowne, presented by the Lost Dominion Screening Collective. English-language version.