Passchendaele Paul Gross

Passchendaele Paul Gross
Paul Gross would have thrived in the Hollywood studio system. Tall, square-jawed, mature-looking and ruggedly handsome, in an outrageously conventional way, he's the type of broad-shouldered he-man who defeated the bad guys and got the girl in the years before the age of irony. He's handsome in the same way as Bruce Campbell, which I think says a lot, but Gross is the closest thing the Canadian film industry has to a movie star, maybe because he looks Hollywood enough for our box office-deprived industry to believe he could be a multiplex draw. Passchendaele, the 2008 historical drama he wrote, directed and starred in, is a tricky proposition for a movie critic; it's no fun trashing a big-budget (20-million), Canadian-produced flag-waver that might actually have a chance of gaining an audience. Those of us who have seen how vital Canadian film can be would be hesitant to shoo people away from a Canadian film ― any Canadian film ― no matter how mediocre. Still, while Passchendaele was reasonably successful at the Canadian box office, it was far from profitable and it didn't really sell to other countries, which leads to the conclusion that adopting all the corny clichés of an American war epic is not the route our industry is advised to take. Spot the clichés: Gross is Michael Dunne, a soldier who has returned home from WWI, praised as a hero but scarred by his experience. He falls in love with Sarah (Caroline Dhavernas), a local woman shunned by the community for her German background. Her younger brother, David (Joe Dinicol), is hell-bent on fighting in the war but needs guidance. All of this will eventually lead Michael back to war and into one of the bloodiest battles the Canadian army has ever seen. It's weepy, corny stuff but Passchendaele does coast along pleasantly on the affability of Paul Gross. As a director, he manages to deliver a humdinger of a battle sequence, though I really do wish he had restrained from resorting to a thuddingly obvious piece of Christian symbolism. Released on DVD to coincide with Remembrance Day, the special features, produced mostly by the National Film Board, are almost exclusively about the actual Battle of Passchendaele. One can't help but suspect this DVD will become a staple in tenth grade history classes. (Alliance)