By Steve Davis
APRIL 12, 1999:
D: John Greyson; with Matthew Ferguson, Michael Achtman, Damon D'Oliveira, Maria Reidstra. (Not Rated, 90 min.)
Uncut zealously covers the three "Cs" -- copyright, censorship, and circumcision
-- with the fervor of an artistic crusade. It's obvious that unorthodox filmmaker
John Greyson (Lilies) finds these issues distressing; he's a man on a mission here.
Part documentary, part fictional narrative, Uncut is unusual, to put it politely.
On the one hand, talking heads righteously discuss how artists run afoul of the law
when incorporating or borrowing from the works of others; in these segments, Michael
Jackson, Kurt Weill, and lawyers are dissed on par with the Antichrist. The rest
of the film relates a bizarre love triangle among three young men in 1979 Ottawa.
In this absurdist storyline, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau is stalked, and people
communicate nonverbally by tapping out letters on imaginary typewriters or through
spelling out words through musical notes. The two components of Uncut are meant to
complement each other, but the relationship between the two is strained, to say the
least. Blame the silly fictional narrative for the film's failure -- it's avant-garde
nonsense. (A clever sequence in which a court trial is performed as opera, with a
new libretto to "La Habenera" in Carmen, is the only thing in this part
of the film that merits any mention.) After a while, you begin praying for another
disgruntled artist -- anybody -- to appear again and disparage the establishment,
rather than watch these pointless scenes. Greyson is probably an original thinker,
but his ideas don't hang together here in the way that he likely envisioned. Consequently,
Uncut comes off as an amateurish effort, the work of a filmmaker who likes to challenge
the medium but doesn't know how to do so effectively. And for Greyson, that may be
the unkindest cut of them all.
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