KISSED (Lynne Stopkewich) Rating: NNNN
ROLLERCOASTER (Scott Smith) Rating: NNN
There's still time to catch two notable films from Only Happy When It Rains: The Roots And Rise Of The Vancouver New Wave, which wraps up Cinematheque's fall season this weekend.
One of the gems is Kissed, Lynne Stopkewich's controversial debut feature based on Barbara Gowdy's notorious short story about a young female necrophiliac.
Kissed came out in 1996, the same year as another monosyllabic-titled film about sexual fetishes, David Cronenberg's Crash. While Crash had a bigger impact on op-ed pages and at the box office, the quieter Kissed still lingers - as it should.
The then unknown Molly Parker stars as Sandra, whose obsession with dead animals leads her to find work at a funeral home, where she embalms and does a little after-hours work on the corpses of attractive young men. Peter Outerbridge plays Matt, the pre-med student obsessed with Sandra's obsession.
It would be so easy to tilt over into exploitation or sensationalism, but Stopkewich handles the material with sensitivity and restraint. She makes Sandra's necrophilic experiences ecstatic and mystical. And Parker, with her breathy narration, registers Sandra's needs and wants with open-eyed wonder and determination.
Coincidentally, one of the grips on Kissed was Scott Smith, who went on to direct another Gowdy work, the novel Falling Angels. But the film that probably got him that job was Rollercoaster, made in 1999.
It's about teens from a group home who spend a day at an abandoned amusement park with the goal of killing themselves at the end.
These rebels without causes, though, are a tad underdeveloped, and the film takes on a few too many issues: sexual abuse, teen pregnancy, homosexuality, substance abuse. Not a surprise, since everyone was still talking about Larry Clarks's Kids.
But Scott shows off his terrific eye and makes the best use of his single location - a terrific one, tailor-made to evoke childhood memories and dreamy or nightmarish angles.
Kissed screens at Cinematheque Friday (December 8), with Stopkewich introducing the film plus two of her shorts. Rollercoaster screens there Saturday (December 9).