A young director intent on making "the greatest color crime movie ever" can't seem to finish his script--he has a beginning and an end, but he can't quite figure out the middle. The ... See full summary »
A young director intent on making "the greatest color crime movie ever" can't seem to finish his script--he has a beginning and an end, but he can't quite figure out the middle. The daughter of his landlord, excited to have a real "movie person" living nearby, tries to help by putting him in touch with a man who wants to collaborate on a script--the strange "Dr. Jolly". Written by
Next, Steven showed me a tape-recording of a speeding car that lost control and smashed a camera he borrowed from the National Film Board of Canada. He lost $2000, and when his movie came out almost nobody liked it.
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John Paizs's "Crime Wave" is one of the most original film produced. Although I'm sure you've heard that before about countless other movies, unless you've seen this film you likely can't imagine just how unique it is.
Writer/director John Paizs pulls triple duty by starring as Steven Penny, a "quiet man" who is intent on creating the perfect version of what he hopes will be the best color crime movie ever: Crime Wave. For this reason, he is often re-writing his script and changing the lead characters for his future film. However, he suffers from an inability to write the middles to any of his (somewhat) different versions of Crime Wave.
Steven lives in the apartment over a family's garage. Their daughter Kim is excited to have him living there, and strikes up a friendship with Steven. Kim is excited to have a "real movie person" living in her garage, and does her best to support Steven during his struggle to write his movie. He reciprocates by teaching her how color crime movies work, and by showing her his stuff.
When Steven loses hope, Kim finds an ad in "Colour Crime Quarterly" placed by Dr. C. Jolly. Dr. Jolly, the ad states, is seeking fresh young talent to collaborate on a script. She secretly send Dr. Jolly a letter and the unfinished middles to Crime Wave, and he responds by sending a bus ticket to Kansas and expense money so that Steven can meet with him.
The movie gets quite odd at this point.
Now, the plotline to John Paizs's "Crime Wave" (not Steven Penny's film of the same name) doesn't sound all that different. It's when you couple it with all the other pieces of the puzzle, however, that you notice that a film like this hasn't been made before or since:
Though he is one of the main characters, Steven Penny has no lines of dialogue in the film; it is narrated entirely by his friend Kim. Also, aside from writing (which he only does at night by streetlight), Steven hardly seems to actually do anything when other people aren't around. One scene has Kim going up to visit Steven, and we see that prior to her arrival he was doing nothing but standing motionless in the center of his suite.
John Paizs's acting, though wordless, is very expressive yet perfectly subtle. You can tell exactly what his character is thinking at all times, or if his character is thinking at all. Eva Kovacs (Kim) also turns in a great performance that completely fits into the world of this film. There are some cast members whose acting is a little on the weak side, but for some reason it all seems to fit in with the film and wouldn't work if it were otherwise. And of course, Neal Lawrie's Dr. Jolly is absolutely one of the most riveting performances I've seen. Ever.
It's a shame this film wasn't distributed better, as it would definitely show up on a lot more lists of cult classics. However, it does tend to make Crime Wave seem even more special when you finally end up owning a copy.
If you would like to locate this movie, don't worry -- it CAN be done! After combing through all the video stores in your area, you may try finding this title on various internet auction sites. It appears that many video rental outlets will liquidate stock this way. Also, there are admirers of this film who will provide you with a copy (don't ask me - I'm not one of them). Since all of the companies that distributed this movie are now defunct, I would imagine that this is the only method of obtaining a new copy until it is (hopefully) re-released.
Also, Canada's CBC television network will broadcast this movie -- usually in a 2:00am or similar time slot. This is how I became aware of Crime Wave, incidentally.
So if this film sounds interesting, get hold of it at any price you feel comfortable with. I guarantee you will not be disappointed with it no matter what you paid.
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