Season of the Twitch


Toronto native Don McKellar is best known in the States as an oddball presence in the films of his countrymen—the nerdy pet-shop proprietor in Atom Egoyan’s Exotica, the cartoonishly menacing trout farmer/virtual-reality whiz in David Cronenberg’s
eXistenZ—and as something of a classical-music emissary, cowriter (with director François Girard) of the fractured, impressionistic biopic 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould and this year’s knowingly bombastic middlebrow hit The Red Violin. Focusing on the actor – writer – director’s quirkier, more personal work, AMMI’s mini-retro (which includes none of the aforementioned films) illustrates the versatility, befuddled charm, and distinctive humor that’s made McKellar a ubiquitous Renaissance personality at home—Canada’s answer to Takeshi Kitano. McKellar’s first feature as writer-director, Last Night, is the centerpiece of this weekend’s tribute: a wry, poignant portrait of regular folk dealing calmly with doomsday. (Milking millennial anxieties, Lions Gate releases the movie next month.) Its AMMI screening is preceded by the short Elimination Dance, an adaptation of a Michael Ondaatje poem (codirected by McKellar, his regular collaborator Bruce McDonald, and Ondaatje). But the real draw here, for local audiences at least, should be the premiere of McKellar’s popular Canadian TV series, Twitch City, an “anti-sitcom” in which McKellar plays the central character, Curtis, an agoraphobic, passive-aggressive couch potato. A deceptively slack study of TV dependence (and other modern ills), it plays like a strange new form of meta-television; its low-key absurdism and layered ironies, though elusive at first, have an appropriately addictive quality. AMMI is screening Twitch City in two chunks of six and seven episodes—go with the first six (Saturday at 1 p.m.), which are accompanied by Blue, McKellar’s 1992 fun-with-porn short, starring David Cronenberg as a carpet-factory owner with a drawerful of girlie mags.