LOOKING IS THE ORIGINAL SIN – Directed by Gail Harvey – SPOILERS
“Photography is about death, because what you’re doing really is you’re trying to capture a second that’s gone by and hang onto it, desperately clinging on to that moment that’s already happened.”
Linda Hamilton appears briefly as herself. Kris Holden-Ried is Helene’s ex-lover, and Dewshane Williams is Anna’s boyfriend Daniel in this story of a photographer’s daughter (Katie Boland) and her attempts to make sense of her mother’s detachment. It probably wasn’t a good idea for writer/director Harvey to say upfront that the film was inspired by the life of Diane Arbus. Quibbles about things un-Arbus-like would be easy to find, but the story is not about that, and it is a fascinating story.
We learn about Helene (Maria del Mar) through Anna’s investigation of her, and Anna takes her quest to understand her mother to extraordinary lengths. Helene explains to her that all she seeks is an ‘honest picture’, but Anna does not understand that, and needs more. Since Helene photographs everything, her daughter is able to track down friends, business associates, and even an ex-lover. Maria del Mar‘s intense portrayal makes one have a certain sympathy for the great artist attempting to flee the mundane, not wanting to spend time and mental energy being an emotional support for a daughter who has no apparent understanding of her creative process.
Helene’s exploratory activities, both artistic and sexual, are merely hinted at. The implication is that Helene is living on the edge, dangerously pushing the boundaries of sense and safety, but we see nothing of that beyond a couple of suggestive photos. The sins of this mother are very understated, and that gives Anna’s quest a kind of Dorothy in Oz feel, as she searches for the knowledge that will restore her home to what it was before her mother left.
Anna fears that since she does not know her mother, she does not know herself; that if she cannot trust her mother, she cannot trust herself.
Katie Boland is at her best in this film. In the beginning, her character is hard to watch. She is the sort of person one would like to get away from as soon as possible. Then there is a subtle change (the exact moment of which is unclear) and one feels protective toward her. Then she gets to know her mother’s friend Brent, and Anna becomes genuinely interesting. (Brent. a very tolerant man, is portrayed wonderfully by Kent Staines.)
When LOOKING was released in 2013, Harvey was interviewed by Andrew Parker for Dork Shelf, and he asked her what it was like making a film so personal to her with her daughter in the leading role. “Well, the Helene character isn’t me,” she responded. “It certainly isn’t autobiographical, but she does contain a lot of the ideas and things that I think about photography, and I guess she should since I wrote the darn thing. But I have known Maria for a long time now. She was actually only about three or four years older than Katie is now when I first cast her in a film. She’s fantastic, and she and Katie had actually played mother and daughter before. They were together on a fantastic show that was on HBO Canada called ‘Terminal City’ that was shooting out in Victoria, and they lived together in a house for that. Maria has known Katie since she was born, practically. So they already had a relationship.” (The 2005 miniseries TERMINAL CITY is available on DVD from Amazon.)
It is a visually quiet film, at least until the very end. There is a lot of watching the scenery go by as Anna walks or runs or rides the streetcar. If you are from Toronto and are living elsewhere, this is the film for you. Lots of landmarks and locations to identify and remember.
If the cast looks a bit familiar, here’s a possible explanation. Boland, Linda Hamilton, Kris Holden-Ried, Jayne Eastwood, and Maria del Mar have all appeared on LOST GIRL. Boland was Bianca the Seniatta. Hamilton was Acacia the Valkyrie. del Mar was Donna the mamma selkie in Fae Gone Wild. Eastwood was Velma the Mongolian Death Worm in Brotherfae of the Wolves. Gail Harvey directed five LOST GIRL episodes. Dewshane Williams, who plays Anna’s astonishingly supportive boyfriend Daniel, was Tommy LaSalle in 27 episodes of DEFIANCE.
The film had its initial release in Toronto in November 2013. A trailer is available on Vimeo.
Gail Harvey‘s latest film is a documentary called Rickie Lee Jones: The Other Side of Desire, in which Harvey follows singer-songwriter Jones as she makes her first studio album in ten years (titled The Other Side of Desire). Jones reflects on aging, being a woman in the music industry and the complex life she has lived. Both the documentary and the album are now available on iTunes.
Katie Boland has been cast in an as yet unspecified role in SOUTH OF HOPE STREET, a science fiction film written and directed by Jane Spencer, about a celestial event that only two people can (or will admit to being able to) see. Spencer says the film is set in a highly structured future country “kind of inspired by Switzerland”, and should be released sometime in 2017. Boland is also Sarah in BORN TO BE BLUE, a “re-imagining” of jazz great Chet Baker’s comeback in 1960’s, which can now be pre-ordered from iTunes (US). A trailer for BORN TO BE BLUE is available on YouTube.
Jayne Eastwood (Janet) will be The Butler in the Fox TV remake of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, which will air as a 2-hour special sometime in October. She is also Vivian in the Hallmark movie ALL YOURS, which stars Nicollette Sheridan and will next air on 28 May at 5pm.
LOOKING IS THE ORIGINAL SIN can be purchased from iTunes (US and Canada). The film is not available on DVD. Amazon Canada has two versions of an 8×12 inch Wall Art Printing on Metal Tin Decoration Movie Poster Sign of Looking Is The Original Sin for $24.99 (Canadian).