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DIRTY(director/writer: Bruce Sweeney; screenwriter: story by Tom Scholte & Sweeney; cinematographer: David Pelletier; editor: Ross Weber; cast: Babz Chula (Angie), Tom Scholte (David), Benjamin Ratner (Tony), Nancy Sivak (Nancy), Vincent Gale (Ethan-Angie’s son), Frida Betrani (Lila), Abby J. Arnold (Abbie-Angie’s mother); Runtime: 94; Canadian Film; 1998-Canada)
A poignant, original, psychological drama-comedy depicting life among a bunch of disorientated residents in Vancouver.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A poignant, original, psychological drama-comedy depicting life among a bunch of disorientated residents in Vancouver. It explores their problems over loneliness, sexuality, and coping with life.

The film centers around four troubled individuals whose stories somehow interconnect. It does a nice job of looking at their sexual perversions and fantasies, and their bizarre attempts to relate with one another. All of them were credible characters, seemingly, trapped by their sexual dysfunctions.

Angie (Babz Chula) is a fiftysomething chain-smoking dynamo, a drug dealer of homegrown pot and a mother of a twentysomething son, Ethan (Vincent), who lives with her along with his girlfriend Lila (Frida). Angie’s mother (Abby) inconveniently visits and tries to make sense of her daughter’s life, while coping with her own ill health and loneliness. Angie’s main problem is that in her need to survive and be independent, she can’t open herself up to love.

David (Scholte) is a college student at Simon Fraser University, who has some deep sexual problems preventing him from pursuing a relationship with his longtime girlfriend Rebecca. He has a relationship with Angie whereby he gets his kicks when she spanks him. Angie has grown weary of this and is trying to ditch the persistent younger man who constantly shows up in her house, even though he’s not welcome anymore. His schoolwork also suffers because of his deep sexual problem. David is so consumed by Angie, that he is prepared to destroy his life over her.

Nancy (Sivak) is a twentysomething bulimic woman who lives in the basement apartment in Angie’s house and suffers from a depressive disorder, preferring to be alone rather than with others. In order to make herself feel good, she spends money she doesn’t have by using her credit cards to go on shopping sprees and misuses her $18,000 student-loan by spending it mostly on clothes. She is currently employed in a grocery store and is in the process of filing for bankruptcy. Nancy’s life has gone under because of her shopping addiction and she is left on her own to deal with it, receiving no professional psychological help.

Tony (Ratner) is not a bad guy, but he can’t connect with others. He’s a short, lonely, young man, with a bit of a temper, who is working in a lumber store. Tony is roommates with David, whom he can’t connect with. Tony gets Angie’s number from a fellow worker, when he asks for someone he can score some weed from. Angie coolly diverts his advances and fixes him up with Nancy, which results in an unsuccessful date. Tony is completely lost at how to find love in this city and escapes from reality by getting stoned, and is eventually so frustrated by his loneliness that he chooses to go back to his hometown.

This is young Canadian film director Bruce Sweeney’s (Live Bait) second feature, which was supposedly influenced by his attending a 1991 master class with British director Mike Leigh. He makes good use of Leigh’s improvisational way of shooting and has created a nifty contemporary film, with frighteningly real sex scenes and recognizable characters who have modern urban problems. The acting is subtle (Babz Chula’s performance is mesmerizing); the story is emotionally strong, showing how all the individuals are tangled up in knots. It was both a sad and funny picture, one that I would highly recommend for those who are not afraid of seeing some graphic sexual scenes.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”