Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Film Review - River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent

Canadian acting icon Gordon Pinsent left his beloved Newfoundland to head to Canada a year before the Island entered Confederation. He began his acting career in Winnipeg where he met his first wife and had his first two children. Pensent in his own words was not ready for family life in his mid twenties so he hitch hiked to Toronto to embark on the next level of his acting career.

Director Brigette Berman crafts her film mainly from interviews with family and creative friends with Pinsent being the chief recounter telling barbs from his past starting from his days as a boy in Grand Falls, Newfoundland. His kids Beverly, Barry and Leah are also interviewed extensively along with director Norman Jewison and Mary Walsh. Pinsent who is now entering his 87th year is sharp as a tack as he gives a living history of his 70 year in Canadian television and film. He is at his most compelling when he recounts soliloquies from his roles on stage; Macbeth, the Tempest, Cyrano de Bergerac with a knowing slight smile fixed on his lips. The only drawback in production is the ill-advised choice to mix in stop action motion recreation of scenes from the actor's childhood plus a few additional episodes from his adult life.

The documentary is at its best when Pinsent is on camera. One particular sequence describing his first meeting with Christopher Plummer at Stafford is very juicy. Plummer remembers Pinsent as a young and annoying leaving Plummer (in his mind) with no alternative but to use a pointed expletive to get Pinsent out of his space. The actor clearly shows his devotion to Canada as he found several success in Hollywood notably in the Norman Jewison directed Thomas Crown Affair where he held his own on screen along side Steve McQueen and Fay Dunaway. Despite his success he wanted to come back to Canada to tell Canadian stories on Canadian soil such as The Rowdyman shot in his native Newfoundland.

A strong element of the piece is the inclusion of Pinsent's paintings that serve as a snapshot of many moments in his life. There are several portraits that feature his beloved late wife Char normally with a cigarette in hand along with several of his third child daughter Leah as she grew from child to adulthood. Pinsent does not exclude the not so shining moments in his life. From leaving his first wife in Winnipeg with two very young kids that he would not see again for 25 years to a need to seek attention of other women while married to or during the separation periods from Char.

The River of My Dreams is a complete study of a revered Canadian actor. It touches on his television successes starting with Quentin Durgens M.P. John and the Missus and a wonderful turn on This Hour Has 22 minutes doing a serious read of the memoirs of a 16 year old Justin Beiber's book. His films including his recent tour de force performance in Sarah Polley's Away From Her is also highlighted. A certain generation may not know any of his films but might remember that he was the voice of Babar in their youth. If your're a fan of the Canadian arts from Stage to TV to Film and like a story of an actor that came back to working in Canada despite the potential of the potential of bigger and better opportunities south of the border then this production is for you.

*** Out of 4

The River of My Dreams | Brigitte Berman | U.S.A. | 201 |104 Minutes .

Tags: Documentary. Biography, Grand Falls, Winnipeg, Stratford, Shakespeare, Divorce, CBC.

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