PAPERBACK HERO (Peter Pearson). 91 minutes. Opens Friday (November 17). For venues and times, see Movies, page 107. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Watching Paperback Hero, a 1973 film about small-town Saskatchewan, in 2006 is akin to seeing Rebel Without A Cause after renting, say, Boyz N The Hood. This year's selection for the Canada Open Vault at TIFF was no doubt risqué at the time: the visuals are gritty, the language is coarse(ish) and there's a good bit of nudity.
Rick (Keir Dullea), an aging Clint Eastwood-obsessed playboy, is the perfect 70s anti-hero being destroyed by his own foibles. Despite his receding hairline and lack of ambition, Rick's prowess as a lover and hockey player gets him lots of freebies, including the affections of obviously self-hating women.
But the puerile man-child is no longer a shocking figure - there's an entire comedy industry built around Rick's cinematic descendents - and the anti-hero is so common that Bryan Singer has to spend a jillion dollars to convince us to care about a goody-goody like Superman.
From this vantage point, Paperback Hero merely serves as a long-form video for Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind and an excellent argument for higher education. The only woman to resist Rick's "charms" is university-educated Joanna (Dayle Haddon), setting off the High Noon-style denouement.
You simply want Rick to grow up and the other women in his life to grow a pair.