The Enlightened Screen: Carl Bessai

Carl Bessai on the set of No Clue, an eOne Films release.
The Canadian Film Institute’s ongoing series “The Enlightened Screen” continues this week with a special double-bill of films by Canadian independent filmmaker Carl Bessai. The one-night event includes Bessai’s recent comedy-caper No Clue starring Corner Gas’s Brent Butt and Amy Smart and will be preceded by Bessai’s 2008 film Mothers & Daughters starring Gabrielle Rose, Tantoo Cardinal, and the late Babz Chula. Mothers & Daughters is the first film in Bessai’s “family trilogy” that includes Fathers & Sons (2010) and Sisters & Brothers (2011). Bessai will be on hand at the CFI to discuss No Clue and Mothers & Daughters with CFI Executive Director and CBC Ottawa Morning film critic Tom McSorley.

Amy Smart and Brent Butt star in No Clue, an eOne Films release.
Bessai, who is currently completing his next film Bad City, enjoys a prolific career among Canuck filmmakers, for he has directed nearly one film a year since making his dramatic feature debut with Johnny in 1999. Bessai’s films include an impressive range of credits, including the drama Emile (2003) starring Sir Ian McKellan, the sci-fi thriller Repeaters (2010) starring No Clue’s Dustin Milligan, and the powerful drama Normal (2007), which earned four Canadian Genie nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor, the latter of which brought a win for Callum Keith Rennie. Despite the range of projects, Bessai’s body of work consistently remains true to the Vancouver film scene and frequently casts the city in a predominant role. Audiences at the CFI will particularly note the indelible role that the Vancouver cityscape and harbor play in No Clue, and will doubtlessly enjoy seeing Butt’s private eye Leo Falloon explore a comically darker side of the city.

Screening at this edition of “The Enlightened Screen” are:

Mothers & Daughters

Dir. Carl Bessai | Canada | 2008 | 85 min.
-Thursday, June 26 at 7:00 PM
Synopsis: A “collective creation” by Bessai with his talented cast, Mothers & Daughters follows the lives and relationships of three mother and daughter duos. Micki and Rebecca are the first: Micki is a romance novelist with grand delusions to which daughter Rebecca cannot accept. Their relationship is strained as the mother treats her daughter as a sidekick or companion instead of a child. They are too close, with Micki so controlling that she pushes her daughter away instead of maintaining their longstanding dynamic. The second pair is Brenda and Kate. Brenda's husband has seemingly disappeared with their money, leaving her in what Kate recognizes as the complete denial of the end of her parents' marriage. Kate herself is bitter and put off by her mother's neediness. The third relationship is between a surrogate mother and daughter who are not related by blood. This narrative follows painter Celine who is working on a job at Cynthia's home. When it becomes clear through a bout of morning sickness that Cynthia is pregnant, Celine offers her maternal support as a balm for their shared abandonment issues. With its Cassavetes-like intimacy and improvisation, Mothers features a powerhouse cast, including Babz Chula, Tantoo Cardinal, and Gabrielle Rose.

No Clue

Dir. Carl Bessai | Canada | 2014 | 96 min.
-Thursday, June 26 at 9:00 PM
Synopsis: When a case of mistaken identity snowballs out of control, a bumbling salesman (Brent Butt) struggles to guide a beautiful, mysterious woman (Amy Smart) through a deadly web of corruption, fraud, and murder, before she can realize the truth – he’s not actually a private detective. When you’re in over your head, all you can do is keep kicking.
Review: “The film is a stylish throwback to wise-talking gumshoe pics of noir’s heyday, as Bessai and company give No Clue an air of mystery using peculiar cinematography—the oft-moving camera frames Leo as a fish out of water in the Vancouver underworld. Bessai and DP Jan Kiesser especially seem to have fun investing the character of Vancouver into the noir atmosphere of No Clue by using locations effectively with moody lighting.” (Full review here.)

All screenings take place at the Auditorium of 395 Wellington St.
Tickets for the event will be sold at the door: $12.00 for general admission, or $8.00 for CFI Members, seniors, and students. Each ticket offers admission to both films.
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