1997, NR, 90 min. Directed by John Greyson. Starring Maria Reidstra, Damon D'Oliveira, Michael Achtman, Matthew Ferguson.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., April 9, 1999
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.