Mustard Bath Darrell Wasyk

Painting an amusing connection between physical poverty in third world countries and the emotional poverty of a soulless, privileged, control freak doctor, Mustard Bath doesn't really convince on any level but features some contemplative direction and a haunting performance from Martha Henry, whose titular story is truly disturbing. One of the biggest issues with this little seen 1993 film is that character conflicts and personality traits come via overblown sequences of exposition without any logical build-up or rationale. Characters meet, talk about the weather, screw and then apparently know every secret and personality flaw about each other, and feel compelled to shout them out in a battle of ideology that seemingly defines the film's message in a strange way. The other problem is simpler and involves flat out bad writing. Our conflicted protagonist exists mainly in voiceover, which has a tendency to describe inconsequential objects in the sort of way that undergraduate creative writing students do. It feels written and rewritten, and rewritten. What is interesting about the film, however, is that the dominant gaze is constantly lingering on the male form in an often explicit and unapologetic manner, which is peculiar, given that this film was made in the early '90s. As a character journey, the plot is quite simple, following Matthew Linden (Michael Riley), a young Canadian doctor who travels back to his birthplace, Guyana, in order to find himself. While there, he strikes up a connection with a mysterious older woman (Martha Henry), whose horrifying past gives perspective, as well as a schoolteacher whose affections he distances himself from despite his attraction. Other subplots involve a rambunctious Guyanese child with Leukaemia and a wise priest, who may or may not be real. The DVD comes with a 4x3 aspect ratio copy of the film, as well as a trailer. (Paradox)