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Thread: THE BITTER ASH (Larry Kent/1963)

  1. #1
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    THE BITTER ASH (Larry Kent/1963)

    The Bitter Ash

    This film was once thought lost forever. It is Canadian underground Legend Larry Kent's first feature, and it was in fact Vancouver Canada's first real feature film if you want the straight facts. NO ONE was making films in Vancouver British Columbia in the early sixties. It was pretty much an untapped medium then. Larry Kent made THE BITTER ASH with zero money and even less money to have a soundtrack- he had to dub all the dialogue later. (Stanley Kubrick had to do the exact same thing for his first feature).

    It was thought lost forever by even the Director, as Larry left the master print in his landlord's attic and he moved away without retrieving it from him. Fortunately, his landlord saved it, thinking it was interesting and may have value later on. Did it ever.
    This was recently completely restored, and EACH FRAME needed work. It took forever. The young man who restored it was at this screening as well, and he was up onstage with Larry to talk about the film, which was given a showcase premiere at last year's TIFF.
    Larry Kent was born in South Africa, and he went to University in Vancouver British Columbia Canada, where he made a few shorts and then embarked on his first feature: THE BITTER ASH. It takes place in Vancouver, circa 1959. Larry told us that the sixties weren't "The Sixties" until 1967, and that everything else was The Fifties until then.

    His first feature has these taboos in full force:
    rampant drinking/alcoholism
    pot references
    sex- frontal nudity
    adultery- jealousy- contempt-horror-social deprivation-"square" oppressions and rules-lack of freedom of expression-lack of values-lack of moral compass- lack of responsibilty-and many others.
    It's extraordinary.
    It's a low-budget masterpiece.
    And no one has ever seen it, except a select few. The Tiff Bell Lightbox had a good crowd on hand to see it, and we all loved it.
    And here the Director was in the house.
    I met Larry at the 24th VIFF and I've been a Facebook friend of his for over a year.
    He gave me a big hug, told us to keep doing what we're doing here at FilmLeaf, and he said that he will have a new film in August of this year.
    I asked him about it and he smiled and said

    IT WILL BE ULTRA-VIOLENT.
    Last edited by Johann; 03-18-2013 at 10:20 AM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  2. #2
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    The scenes in the apartment(s) where the bulk of the action happens was at Pender and Denman streets, right in downtown Vancouver.
    Larry used lots of close-ups and several zooms to tell his story, about a man and a woman of a certain class who are making their way through modern Canada. Larry also used a Genius Jazz-Beat score, straight out of a Kerouac novel. He was in the zeitgeist to me. . Friends of his label him "The Mighty Larry Kent" and he is. He is one of our true cinema legends, like George A. Romero, Ted Kotcheff, Bill Mason, David Cronenberg, the amazing Atom Egoyan and Deepa Mehta.
    You get to see what certain parts of Vancouver looked like before it became a metropolis...Stanley Park, etc..

    When I asked him what he thought of the film seeing it all these years later he said that when he saw it at TIFF last fall he was amazed at the restoration. The opening credits are awesome: Saul Bass style- DIY and very cool.
    He asked the audience what we thought of the jazzy soundtrack music and we all agreed it was excellent.
    This film has urgency, and even though it was banned but not destroyed- Universities are not allowed to ban students work in Canada- it has a very timeless, ultra-hip, ultra modern vibe running through it. I loved The Bitter Ash. I'm not blowing smoke here, either. Larry is a friend and a Great Canadian. A great man. He told us that the film once had people lined up around the block, from word of mouth, yet the film was condemned as obscene.
    And to prudes, yes, this film will give you offence.
    If you are someone with an open mind, however, you will really see something special here.
    Larry made jazz cinema. It's poetry.
    It will be on DVD- an audience member asked about a DVD release- and he said all 5 of his films will be streamed on demand and The Bitter Ash
    just got a DVD distribution deal. It will also be a Blu-Ray.

    It is a bona-fide Canadian classic. See it and be amazed at how great it is. This was avant-garde for it's day.
    Cassavetes before Cassavetes.
    It pulls no punches. The language is a little salty and the content is strictly adult.
    Last edited by Johann; 03-18-2013 at 10:21 AM.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  3. #3
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    THE BITTER ASH has only three imdb reviews, and they nail what the film is.
    I didn't go into detail on the couple and their dysfunctional lives- I want a viewer to discover the plot on their own.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  4. #4
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    Larry's new "ULTRA-VIOLENT" film is currently in production. It's feminist and it's political. Oh yes.

    "SHE WHO MUST BURN"
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

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