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4. In Praise Of Older Women

Country Available: Canada, USA
Related Programs:
  • On Screen! II
  • 'On Screen! III
  • Based on the best-selling coming-of-age novel by Stephen Vizinczey, In Praise of Older Women tells the episodic story of the erotic journey of Andras Vayda (Tom Berenger, in his first starring role). The first half of the film follows Andras as he grows up in Hungary in the aftermath of World War Two through Communist upheaval and repression, responding with sexual freedom. Andres' exile then takes him to Montreal, where his fixation on flesh leads to more comic misadventures, and some realizations. While marking the debits of future Canadian legends Alberta Watson and Helen Shaver, the story of this film, however, goes far beyond what is on screen, and into the stories of its creation and its first public screening. Though its artistic success is, to state the obvious, debatable, In Praise of Older Women was a groundbreaking Canadian film because of both its content--it is the first injection of sex into English-Canadian cinema, following more risqué films coming from Quebec--and because of the unique circumstances of its reception.

    A typical late-70s film starring American imports, In Praise of Older Women shows the Canadian film industry still finding its feet, yet still able to mount a large-scale period piece in Montreal that recreated, among other elements, the Hungarian Revolution. The film took now-legendary producer Robert Lantos, then still learning about the feature film industry, into the big time, due to an intriguing confluence of events. A savvy publicist and self-promoter who manufactured scandals during the film's shooting, Lantos took advantage of a censorship scandal at the 1978 Toronto International Film Festival to promote the film--which was funded by the CFDC--and the Festival's catastrophic overbooking of the theatre on opening night led to a near-riot. Lantos' reputation was born, the Toronto International Film Festival was never the same--all of this because a horrendous storm, a public transit strike, and the Ontario Censor Board couldn't stop the good people of Toronto from trying to go out and see a dirty movie.

    Testifying to all of this is an array of the participants, from producer Robert Lantos--who considers the film one of his most personal efforts--to fellow Hungarians, director George Kaczender, screenwriter Paul Gottlieb, and editor Peter Wintonick, who testify to some of the struggles that occurred both in script stage and after the film was finished. Actors Helen Shaver (who impressed Lantos with a sizzling audition), Genie-winner Alberta Watson, Marilyn Lightstone, Ian Tracey, and eccentric lead Karen Black all candidly share their memories as to the making of the film, and that fateful opening night. Then Toronto International Film Festival director (now the head of Telefilm Canada) Wayne Clarkson, as well as fellow employees Bill House and Piers Handling, all help fill in the blanks, as does Maclean's critic Brian D. Johnson, author of Brave Films, Wild Nights , a history of the Toronto International Film Festival.
    View a printer friendly version of this page...Copyright Date: 2006 Length: 48 minutes Library Audience:
  • General Interest
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • School Audience:
  • 10-12
  • Post Secondary
  • Subjects:
  • Canadian Film Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Film Making
  • Language Arts
  • Formats Available:
  • DVD
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