Monday, April 8, 2013

Hit 'n Strum: A Little Piece of Canadian Indie Magic

In the Q & A after the screening I attended Saturday night, the filmmaker, Kirk Caouette revealed that Hit 'n Strum was a "two credit card movie."  In industry terms this is lower than a shoestring budget and implies that the filmmaker financed the movie himself.  For Caouette, the Vancouver stunt man, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in the picture this was clearly a labour of love and that passion has translated into a rewarding movie experience.  Hit 'n Strum is simple, moving and true.

The story of a high-powered executive (Michelle Harrison) who hits a homeless man (Caouette) with her car and is driven by guilt to seek him out and make amends, could have easily been maudlin and manipulative but Caouette choses a more subtle course.  When Stephanie, the executive, learns that Mike, her victim, is a "busker" in downtown Vancouver, and that he actually plays street music right outside her office every day, she initiates a partnership whereby she becomes his manager and tries to sell his album to a record producer in Toronto.  Their unlikely friendship builds slowly and tenuously.

In it we see a woman who is lonelier than appearances would suggest and a man who is a loner with
a small but supportive community at his disposal.  As ponderous as this may sound, the central relationship is compelling and authentic thanks to the leads and their natural chemistry.  Harrison is attractive and charismatic and Caouette is outstanding in the central role.

Watching the film I admired the measured distance that is kept from the characters without spoon-feeding emotions to the audience or telling us what to think.  In one particularly poignant scene, Mike is reunited with his father but they are unable to reconcile over a past trauma that is conspicuously left un-described.  Likewise, the potential romance that is set up between Mike and Stephanie is handled in a tactful and believable way.

At times the story feels a little rushed; although this could be a function of budget and pressure from producers or distributors.  I would love to see a cut of the film where things are opened up further and key moments between characters were given an extra beat to breathe, but the overall effect of the film is memorable and there are many great moments handled just right.

Films that are this intimate and are produced in this budget range often feel like a confessional for the filmmaker.  When I left the theatre afterwards I felt that I had been let in on something personal and unique.  Every frame of Hit 'n Strum is full of life; and all the more amazing knowing that much of the atmosphere and background traffic in the film wasn't staged.  For anyone who has burnt out on Hollywood and would like to own a little piece of Canadian Indie magic, this is a film worth checking out.

Hit 'N Strum is playing at the Cineplex Yonge/Dundas theatre from now until Thursday April 18.

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