Dance Me Outside Bruce McDonald

This 1995 Bruce McDonald film doesn’t have the bite of his much loved road trilogy — while they have the same implicit moralising and confused ideas, the crazy quilt of rock imagery is replaced by something far more prosaic. The characters — First Nations teenagers Frank Fencepost (Adam Beach) and Silas Black (Ryan Rajendra Black) — are certainly in his oeuvre, and their story, a shambling stagger through their lives anchored by their desire for revenge on the white man who killed a friend, could easily pass muster in another of his movies. But there’s something timid about this movie you won’t find in most other high-period McDonald; it doesn’t want to juice up their story in the manner of the director’s other films. While source writer W.P. Kinsella has often been scorned for his cavalierly patronising attitude towards his Native Canadian subjects, this movie has the opposite problem: it’s so careful it sucks some of the life out. As the film moves through romantic dalliances to the climactic stab at vengeance, you don’t feel the personal involvement. The result isn’t insulting at all, and would get a pass with a nobody signing it, but McDonald’s work is distinctive enough to make this non-distinctive movie seem slightly underwhelming when it should be grabbing your sensibilities. Extras include an okay director’s commentary and enlightening interviews with the cast and crew on the set of the film. (VSC)