SOUVENIR OF CANADA (Robin Neinstein). 70 minutes. Opens Friday (May 26). For venues and times, see Movies, page 101. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
As expected, Robin Neinstein 's feature doc based on Douglas Coupland 's series of books is full of amusing observations about "the true north strong and free." Most Canadians won't be able to watch this without a guilty chuckle or two and an odd sense of pride. Novelist/artist/pop-cult guru Coupland has an eye for the tellingly ironic and kitschy detail, especially in the realm of marketing. There's a hilarious look at government's failed attempt to create an official mascot (Ookpik), a sample of our downmarket TV game shows and some bizarre examples of bilingual product packaging. (Apropos this latter point, it's worth mentioning that Coupland focuses mostly on English Canada.)
Neinstein juxtaposes the construction of Canada House -- Coupland's art installation devoted to all things Canuck -- with snapshots of the author's life, including some candid interviews with his family. The heart of the film is the informal chats between the artist and his parents, who are perplexed by his interests. And it's significant that Coupland, who in his youth wanted only to escape the country, now approaching middle age and having lived all over the world, wants only to live here.
The result is occasionally illuminating and never boring, although at times it's hard to tell whether Coupland's occasional enthusiastic outbursts are genuine or ironic.