The English Canadian film scene was dealt a devastating blow last year when veteran director Allan King died. One of the most important documentary filmmakers to emerge in the post-war period, King began his career in the fifties, making a number of extraordinary documentaries for the CBC. He followed that with two of the most powerful and innovative documentary films ever made: Warrendale and A Married Couple. Both films changed the way people approached and thought about documentaries.
Recently re-struck and transferred to high-definition, A Married Couple doesn’t seem to have dated a day since its initial release. A portrait of the combative marriage between Billy and Antoinette Edwards, a middle class couple living in Toronto, the film lays their relationship bare. Some of the scenes, like the sequence where Billy tries to throw Antoinette out of the house after a particularly venomous argument, are as shocking as anything made this year. The film also contains some unbelievably poignant moments, like the scene where Billy and Antoinette dance tenderly to The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” – a moment of extraordinary grace and beauty. Of course, the film is about much more than the deterioration of a marriage. It captures a society in upheaval – one unable to balance the new demands of women (and men) with the traditional roles ascribed to them. Few movies have done this better.
As part of the Festival and the University of Toronto Press’ co-publishing programme, the new copy and eventual re-release of A Married Couple will be accompanied by a monograph written by academic Zoe Druick, who examines the film in the context of late sixties cinematic and cultural movements, tracing its impact on Canadian and documentary filmmaking. It’s a welcome and long-overdue addition to the scholarship on one of our finest filmmakers. –TIFF
Internationally acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Allan King is among his country’s best filmmakers. His most famous film is his debut Warrendale, a wrenching documentary examination of life in a home for emotional disturbed teens. So brutal and disturbing was the 1966 made-for-television film that neither the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation nor the BBC would air the film. He released it theatrically in 1966 and it won a prize at Cannes and earned him a reputation as a major filmmaker. King was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. Before becoming a director he obtained a degree in philosophy, worked as a cabbie and traveled throughout Europe. In 1954 he began working for the CBC and became a television director in 1956. During the ’60s, King began working independently as a director and producer. Later he took much of the footage he had not used in Warrendale and used it to create Children in Conflict, an 18-part television series. In addition to producing… read more
I'm currently drinking single malt whiskey out of a "sippy cup", not two months into my own marriage, and I'm thinking of Billy and Antoinette--not characters, to be clear-but PEOPLE. And how they bang up against walls, and each other, and some of it soaks and some of it bounces, but there's real LOVE there. And the kid craps on the carpet, so what? So. What.
"What we don't know is whether we really hate one another or not," says Billy to Antoinette, but that might be the only thing these perpetually disoriented ill-marrieds DO know -- the answer is no, they don't hate each other, they just don't understand how they got into this mess and how the hell they can ever get out. In King's raw, pat, tedious yet compelling film, all credit for the mess itself goes to society.
For Criterion's Current, Michael Koresky writes extensively on each of the five films in this week's Eclipse package, The Actuality Dramas