Given the recent popularity of the Occupy movement around the globe, it’s not a shock that TIFF’s latest Canadian Open Vault has opted to highlight the staggering similarities between Toronto in 2012 and director Ron Mann‘s take on the city in 1984. In other words, the clothes and hair may be laughably different between the two time periods but in every other way, the song remains the same.
The Toronto-based Mann, who has come to be known for his quirky documentaries like Grass and Go Further, made what would become his only dramatic feature to-date back in 1984. Listen to the City made the festival rounds, and then all but disappeared from the Canadian film landscape. That’s a shame too, because Mann’s languid, meandering wander through a dreary and depressed Toronto in the midst of an economic downfall is certainly an original and thoughtful political fable that is as academic in its arguments as it is offbeat.
Listen to the City introduces us to a city (obviously Toronto but not specifically stated as such) that is a “symphony of voices” all of whom are protesting the impending economic collapse in myriad different ways. A young woman (played by Sandy Horne of The Spoons) spends her time attempting to blend together unusual sounds to create beautiful music that she performs in seedy clubs filled with disillusioned young people. A hospital patient (poet/musician Jim Carroll) rises from his gurney and takes to the streets with his IV still attached, spouting prophetic platitudes that paint him as some sort of urban messiah. A local reporter (P.J. Soles) tries to get to the bottom of why the local master of industry, Lambda Corporation, is set to shut down four of its plants, thus putting a large majority of the city out of work. They’re all begging for someone to hear their laments and wake up before it’s too late.
These storylines (as well as a few other storylines involving the evil corporation itself and the factory workers and their supporters attempting to stop the close down) all play out parallel to one another and are seemingly only joined by a very thin thread. Mann flits back and forth between the plot threads with seemingly no sense, yet you slowly begin to realize that it’s the juxtaposition of the stories that make the film’s ultimate point. That is, political action of any sort is not an independent endeavour, it’s actually only when various perspectives and viewpoints are united that the wheels of change are greased enough to move forward ““ one would like to believe toward a better tomorrow. At least Mann seemed to hope so.
Listen to the City screens on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Check their website for more information.
More from Toronto Film Scene
- Porn and horror: exploring our relationship to sex and violence on the big screen
- Review: The Dark Knight Rises
- Toronto For Rent: where have all the video stores gone?
Latest posts by Kristal Cooper (see all)
- An interview with Kate Melville, writer/director of Picture Day – May 23, 2013
- Review: The Rep – May 22, 2013
- A Q & A with Morgan White, director of The Rep – May 22, 2013