WEIRD SCIENCE: THE IDIOSYNCRATIC ARCHAEOLOGY OF PETER LYNCH at Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West) from Friday (June 20) to 28. For times, see Indie & Rep Film, this page. 416-962-3456. Rating: NNNN
To say that Peter Lynch is a director fascinated by obsessive outsiders is a dramatic oversimplification, but it’s still completely appropriate. Lynch’s films are devoted to characters, whether real and invented, who make it their mission to unearth a secret or solve a problem. Whether the problem in question actually needs solving is usually beside the point.
The best example of Lynch’s fascination with self-styled mavericks is also the director’s best-known film, Project Grizzly (screening Tuesday, June 24, 7 pm). A 1996 portrait of Ontario mechanic Troy Hurtubise, who devotes himself to building the perfect bear-proof suit after surviving an encounter with a grizzly, the film delves with surprising empathy into its subject’s near-suicidal need to recreate the scariest moment of his life.
In Cyberman (June 26, 7 pm), Lynch’s 2001 profile of U of T prof Steve Mann, the director again allows his subject to control (or at least influence) the way he’s depicted in the film. The inventor of a wearable rig of uplinked cameras that constantly broadcast his experiences live on the World Wide Web, Mann sees himself as a visionary who offers humanity a bridge to an interactive, uploadable existence through his own example.
The theme of vision metastasizing into destructive obsession reverberates throughout 1998’s The Herd (June 28, 9 pm), Lynch’s examination of a 1929 reindeer drive undertaken by the federal government that turned into a six-year odyssey of confusion and egomania.
Tapping the likes of Don McKellar, Colm Feore, Mark McKinney and James Allodi to re-enact the events, Lynch constructs his most dramatic feature to date. It’s about the folly of good intentions in the face of an uncaring natural world, but also about human beings’ need to literally imprint themselves on that world at almost any cost.
Lynch explores his own relationship to history, in a manner of speaking, in 2003’s A Whale Of A Tale (June 27, 9 pm), which starts with the filmmaker’s discovery of a curious bone in downtown Toronto and evolves into an epic quest for impossible answers.
Cinematheque Ontario’s retrospective – which pairs Lynch’s features with his playful shorts – opens tomorrow night with a talk by the filmmaker, who will also present a screening of Billy Wilder’s surrealistic drama The Lost Weekend (Friday, June 20, 7 pm) – another story, Lynch says, of “characters who go off the rails.”