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|Written by Kevin Johns|
|Thursday, 05 November 2009 00:00|
Every month the Mayfair Theatre's schedule is carefully constructed by programmer Lee Gordon Demarbre. It's likely, however, that this November's schedule is especially important to him, given that it includes the Ottawa premiere of his own film, Smash Cut.
The slasher flick, staring Sasha Grey and David Hess, was shot in Ottawa during the spring of 2008, and made its world premiere last July at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. This month it finally plays in Ottawa alongside many other great films.
In his monthly chat with (Cult)ure, Demarbre talks about balancing the role of filmmaker and programmer, which Quentin Tarantino film was especially difficult to schedule in the festival, and how his opinion of Ghostbusters II has been proven wrong.
(Cult)ure: I looked over the November's schedule, and the first thing that jumped out at me was . . . Smash Cut! Is there any sort of embarrassment to screening your own film?
Demarbre: We've been open for almost a year now, and I have shown Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and Vampiro: Angel, Devil, Hero, but I never wanted anyone to think I do this job just to show my own stuff. Smash Cut is just one night. If I did a whole week of it, then it would have seemed a little like that! But embarrassed? No. We made the movie in this city, and I think there are a lot of people who want to see it. I'd hate for them to have to watch it on the small screen for the first time, so this gives me a chance to show it to everyone who worked so hard on it.
You screened the film previously in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival.
That was our world premiere. That was a great crowd in a big, big theatre. We've since been to London, England, where we screened in the biggest cinema in the UK, which was phenomenal. We've been to Austin, Texas, and Calgary. Upcoming, we're going to Whistler, Greece, Los Angeles, and France, so it's pretty exciting. We are in the middle of the film's world tour.
Do you find it difficult balancing the two jobs of filmmaker and theatre programmer?
Not so far, but I am afraid something is going to give. I don't want it to. Since we've opened, I've made one film. I took a month off to shoot. I might do so again before the end of the year. I still think of myself as a filmmaker first. I do this job between films. It's fun trying to balance both. I mean, here we are, talking about both, and I'm not completely overwhelmed yet. (laughs)
"We made the movie in this city, and I think there are a lot of people who want to see it."
As a filmmaker and a programmer, the movies you screen on either side of your own film must be important. Can we take that as an endorsement for The Cove and The Last House on the Left?
I asked David Hess, the star of The Last House on the Left [Editor's note: the original, not the 2009 remake] and the star of Smash Cut, if he could attend the screening of Smash Cut here in Ottawa, and if he could I would track down a Last House on the Left print. I finally did. I tried to track one down while he was in Ottawa, but it didn't work out. Finally, after so many months, I was able to get a 35 mm print!
The other big thing happening this month is Quentin Tarantino festival.
Of all the suggestions I've gotten, nothing has been close to the number of requests for Tarantino. Everyone's been clamoring for it. I was old enough to see them when they came out, but there's this whole new generation of young filmmaking fans who want to see a lot of his stuff on the big screen. So here's Reservoir Dogs, here's Pulp Fiction. There's not much left out. True Romance, From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill I and II, Jackie Brown, Inglorious Basterds . . . I'm pretty excited to see True Romance and From Dusk Till Dawn, personally. From Dusk till Dawn I must have seen three or four times when it came out.
You've got Kill Bill I and II playing back to back.
We did that when David Carridine died as a tribute to him, and it was a really popular screening, so we figured why not do it again?
Was there a specific reason Jackie Brown got scheduled in at the end of the month?
I had a hard time fitting in good ol' Jackie Brown. It's not this big violent action movie like the rest of them kind of are. I love Jackie Brown, don't get me wrong, but I think it's one of his less successful films. A lot of people told me I could have left it off, but I wanted to show it. I've got it in there, basically, for my own self gratification. It's such an entertaining movie. My writing partner thinks it's Tarantino's best movie. It's like Rashômon . . . It's like if Akira Kurosawa directed a blaxploitation movie! (laughs)
Last time we spoke, you were excited about screening Skatetown, U.S.A.
This month we finally get a chance to show it! What a great cast: Patrick Swayze and Scott Baio, playing rival roller-skate derby champions. It's got the midget from The Wizard of Oz in it. It's a wild, strange movie. And it's never been released on home video! There a few studios like Sony, Universal, and Fox that have all these great old titles that they never book anymore, and it's up to the programmer to use his or her imagination and track them down. That's the fun part of the job, tracking down films like Skatetown, U.S.A and bringing them to town. I hope the Ottawa audience gets a kick out of it.
Race with the Devil is playing this month, too.
That's one of my favorite exploitation movies ever made. Warren Oates and Peter Fonda. We're showing the Friday, November 6 at 11:30 at night and it's such a wild movie. Warren Oates is one of my favorite American "Jane Campion and Doris Wishman go hand in hand at the Mayfair this November!" actors ever. It's so action packed.
What are some of the other screenings you're excited about this month?
Everyone seems really excited for Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (laughs). And, of course, every last Saturday of the month we do a free screening for members. We are showing a little movie called Double Agent 73 by the late, great Doris Wishman. If Ed Wood had a vagina, it would be called Doris Wishman. Pound for pound, she is probably a lesser filmmaker than Ed Wood. She has the ability to make Ed Wood look like a genius!
That's the film with the largest bust-line in the history of cinema, right?
Yes, a 73 inch bust-line. Chesty Morgan plays a secret agent who has a camera implanted in her left breast. She sneaks into government warehouses, strips down, pulls her boobies out, and takes lots of photos. She kung-fu fights with her boobs, smothers men to death, it's out-freakin'-rageous.
We go from that to Bright Star, Jane Campion's new film about Keats.
Jane Campion and Doris Wishman go hand in hand at the Mayfair this November! (laughs) I love Jane Campion. The Piano meant a lot to me when it came out originally. I'm excited to see Bright Star. I hope people love it.
I don't know if she ever really lived up to the promise of The Piano.
A lot of female filmmakers come out of the gates with one really big one, and then have a hard time. It's a male dominated industry, Hollywood. There's not a lot of women filmmakers, nor a lot of successful ones. The Piano won the Palme d'Or; Anna Paquin won the Oscar. Then she followed that up with The Portrait of a Lady staring Nicole Kidman, which no one went to see. She certainly did some films before The Piano that were big, but nothing that big since. I don't know. Maybe she can never top The Piano. It's her Citizen Kane; Orson Wells could never follow up Citizen Kane. But female filmmakers do have a hard time. It's weird. I don't know if they are being bullied by the men in Hollywood or what . . . Anyway, she's one of my favorites.
You've got another lineup of silent films going this month with Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and Buster Keaton's The General.
Battleship Potemkin is on Rememberance Day, and we're bringing The General back on November 13. The General is probably the most entertaining movie in all of November. It's really great to hear with the live music. And this will be the première of Potemkin at the Mayfair.
You are also doing Dracula and Frankenstein.
We have that on Tuesday, November 3rd. It's funny. No one knew Universal had these old prints kicking around. I got a lot of emails from Toronto going, "Where the hell did you get those prints?" I'm like, "There are sitting there in your city!"
You mentioned people are excited about Bill and Ted. In a similar vein, you've got Ghostbusters II this month as well."Out of popular demand, we brought Ghostbusters II to the Mayfair."
We showed Ghostbusters twice already. Everyone asked me, "What about Ghostbusters II?", and I'm like, "Ghostbusters II sucks!" But you know what? I'm wrong! Everyone loves Ghostbusters II. There's all these people who were little kids when it came out, and they have affection for it. When I saw it, I thought it stank, but now it has emerged as this fun follow-up to Ghostbusters. So out of popular demand, we brought Ghostbusters II to the Mayfair.
You've got The Room playing again this month.
The Room keeps doing well. I'll stop playing it when people stop coming, but people keep coming. They love it!
There's also an Exorcist/The Shining double bill.
It's sort of a left over double bill from October that never got programmed. I tried to book them for Halloween, and Warner Brothers told me they didn't have prints. Then I saw them booked in Toronto, so I decided to do the double bill anyway. I can't think of a Hollywood film that is scarier than either of those two.
Anything else you are pumped about this month?
There's the Fiftymen 10th anniversary show. It's going to be a big live concert here. Doors open at eight. It's going to be one of our biggest nights. But the standout films for me this month, as a film-lover, are Race with the Devil, Skatetown, U.S.A., The Last House on the Left, and, as an added bonus, I'll throw Double Agent 73 in there.
And I'll add Smash Cut.
(Laughs) Oh, good. I can't add my own movie!
Kevin Johns is senior editor of (Cult)ure. He can be contacted at