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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 7.14%
Pretty Bad: 7.14%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 8 user ratings

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Bastards (2003)
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by Chris Parry

"When Hippies learn how to use cameras, the world will look like this."
3 stars

Mort Ransen is so British Columbian, it isn't even funny. Those that make their home in Canada's BC know that they're cut of a different cloth than the rest of the folks from the Great White North. While Calgary folks eat steak and buy SUV's, BC folks smoke weed and scarf all-you-can-eat sushi. While Nova Scotians rack themselves with beer and Catholic guilt, their BC brethren take hikes and drink fair-trade coffee and attend the marriages of their gay friends. While Toronto tries to think of new ways to bring in business, Vancouver tries to think of new ways to stop bulldozers from felling trees. And that's perhaps why, when Mort Ransen decided to get his totally-unexperienced hippy neighbors to work as a professional movie production crew, nobody said, "uh, Mort, dude... that's really not a good idea."

On the one hand, I have to hand it to Ransen; he's attempted something nobody else has - he's decided to make a communal film. While living on BC's Saltspring Island, a haven for hippy's and drop-outs and social refugees, Ransen found himself a video camera, recruited the locals, then seemingly hit up every single filmmaking fund in all of Canada (seriously, this guy got money from like 14 different funding bodies) and decided to make the first non-porn Canadian Point-Of-View (POV) feature film. So what does that all mean?

It means Mort's the lead, and the camera sees only what he sees.

Yes, when you buy a ticket to Bastards, you are Mort.. which is kind of like being Woody Allen, only without the cradle robbing.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's EXACTLY like being Woody Allen, since on-screen Mort finds himself in a jam when he picks up a teenage hitchhiker and takes her home for a meal, only for her to prove to be a freak of nature who won't leave until she's had sex.

So the hitchhiker, Finnie (Liisa Repo-Martell), is a career protester. She's outraged about every damnable happening of progress over people that takes place on God's green Earth. In fact, she's so overly outraged that the first hour of this film basicaly consists of her showing us a cartoon portrayal of what SuperHippy might look like if some hapless lovechild got too close to a nuclear reactor and ended up mutating into the hippy to end all hippys.

So Finnie is freaking out because... well, everything. And Samuel (that'd be Mort) is a recluse who just wants his peace and quiet so he can continue having nothing to do with anything in the world but Solitaire and scotch.

The fun comes (and yes, there is fun here) when Finnie drops the 'we are the world' schtick long enough to get some characterization on the screen. That's when Bastards becomes a movie, rather than a gimmick, and to be fair to all concerned, this period of the film is more than enjoyable. While initially Samuel is as much caricature as Finnie is, when the yelling stops and the outraged, bug-eyed freak-out show slows down to a trickle, there's a decent little story of two folks who find a little of what they're missing in each other. Finnie, the professional freak-out queen, finds a 'daddy', while Samuel, the professional society drop-out, finds a little cause to cast his lonely eye over.

Where Bastards goes beyond fun, and finds its way to importance, is in the gradual compromise between these two characters. The reality is that every audience member who might watch this film will have an agenda. Some will be old and crusty and think hippys are morons, and others will say that the kids at least haven't sold out and still give a damn about the world.

Therefore, for an audience to relate to this film, they need to both shift ground and meet somewhere in the middle. And to Ransen's credit, he paces things in Bastards just slowly enough so as to give the older crowd a chance to understand what the kids are so angry about, while moving fast enough for the kids not to get bored.

In my eyes, the message of Bastards is that, sure, you may think protesters are idiots, but surely there are things in this world that you have to be unhappy about, and if you're unhappy about them, why are you not trying to change them? Maybe people who chain themselves to trees give you the shits, with their street theater and papier mache masks, but then shouldn't you be out there with all your knowledge and experience showing them how to make a real difference?

Bastards is far from outstanding filmmaking, being as it was made by an under-equipped, under-trained, low-budget crew and directed by a guy with a camera strapped to his head, but the ideas behind it run deep. No matter whether you call yourself a liberal or a conservative, or a libertarian or a bureaucrat, you've got to admit that things are a little out of control in the world today.

Why is it that thousands of people riot whenever the G8 or the WTO meets somewhere in the world? What are they angry about exactly? Perhaps you should investigate why these people do what they do, rather than simply say "what's the point, nothing will change" and give in to those who would exploit you and your world.

So will Bastards change the ways of people who have stepped out of the political debate in the world? Probably not. Listening to the 'older crowd' after the film had ended, they couldn't have missed the point any more if the soundtrack to Patch Adams had been played over the top of the film. It's a shame that yesterday's hippys are now the people that today's hippys protest against. It's a shame we're not on the same page and that people will sell out their fellow man to grab another thousand bucks to add to their millions. Sadly though, it'll take more than the noble effort that is Bastards to turn that thinking around.

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originally posted: 09/12/03 16:11:02
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/25/05 Peter Coon great small movie, must-see if you love trees. 5 stars
12/22/04 Fran Burdett excellent, except for unnessary nude scenes 5 stars
8/01/04 Darren not bad..not the greatest of movies 4 stars
7/28/04 Fran Burdett Mort Ransen deserve much credit for his efforts 5 stars
7/17/04 Ashley Mad Brilliant! 5 stars
5/23/04 Wolfe A must see 5 stars
2/14/04 A val real bad 2 stars
10/13/03 Paul Marcano I was enraptured by its provocative virtual reality sustained 1st person perspective! 5 stars
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