By Don Simpson | February 17, 2012
Director: Larry Kent
Writer: Larry Kent
Starring: Lanning Beckman, Astri Torvik, Peter Mathews, Joyce Cay, Denis Payne, Laurie Wynn Kent, Doris Cowan, Mortie Golub, Carol Epstein, Al Mayoff, Melinda McCracken, Gary Eisenkraft, Jack Esbein, Paul Kirby, Peter Pyper
Canadian filmmaker Larry Kent’s 1967 controversial cult classic, High follows a cynical young bohemian named Tom (Lanning Beckman) who is l-i-v-i-n in Montreal. A small time marijuana dealer, Tom spends most of his time trying to pick up women. He eventually falls in love with a young librarian named Vicky (Astri Thorvik). Vicky and Tom spend their days and nights having sex and getting high; but when Tom eventually runs out of cash, they are forced turn to petty theft. With the stolen loot they take a weekend trip to Toronto, but after a couple of days of senseless spending they quickly find themselves back in their natural state of poverty. Frustration with their financial situation ups the ante as Vicky and Tom turn to more drastic tactics in order to survive.
Part of the Canadian “angry young man” cinematic cannon of work, High showcases an amoral protagonist with strong anti-social tendencies who will do anything to avoid becoming part of the establishment. Tom and Vicky expect life to be much simpler, for money to be easier to come by. They would have been perfectly content holed up in their flat, having sex and smoking joints for the rest of their lives…if only they could afford to continue living that lifestyle. It is the capitalist establishment that forces Tom and Vicky into a world of crime, but that is only because they refuse to subject themselves to legitimate employment.
Relying mostly upon grainy, black and white, cinéma vérité cinematography (Paul Van der Linden), Kent uses occasional flashes of color to increase the film’s trippiness. To a 21st century audience, Kent’s visual tricks will seem laughably cliche, but these kaleidoscopic freak-outs were actually fairly common in films of the late 1960s (as was sitar music and backwards-playing rock music). Unfortunately, High‘s sexual content was not quite common enough for Kent to avoid being hassled by the Quebec censorship bureau. The film’s premiere at the 1967 Montreal Film Festival had to be cancelled, but Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, Warren Beatty, and the festival winners joined in solidarity with Kent. Eventually High became one of the films that prompted Quebec to replace its censors with a film classification system.
(Don’t forget to check out all of the other films we previewed for the SF IndieFest 2012.)