The Rocket Charles Binamé

The Rocket Charles Binamé
The successful Maurice Richard film from 2005 gets another DVD release from Alliance films, this time dressed up with the accompanying NFB documentary from 1998, also entitled The Rocket, as a second disc special feature. Considering the esteem hockey fans and Quebeckers in general still hold for the man, Binamé's dramatization idolizes the hockey great with near-saintly deification. In traditional biopic fashion, the film charts the life and career of the man, from his humble working-class life to his ascension to the best player in the game. All the touchstone events in his career are hit and handled with great care and emotional poignancy ― his first season with the club, his early injury problems, his 50-goal season, his suspension and the subsequent riots that ensued. In particular, his very public chastising of the league's discrimination against French Canadians, which could be seen as the germ of the Separatist Movement, puts his career into an even deeper context and significance for the country. Unfortunately, the film is often let down by the abrupt transitions between these benchmark moments, which an elegant montage or two could have smoothed over. But the film should be cherished and celebrated for its stunning visual recreation of the '40s/'50s hockey milieu. Pierre Gill's cinematography is simply some of the finest images ever shot in Canada. Recreating a '40s hockey game with the pinpoint period accuracy needed to satisfy a highly discriminating, hockey-loving audience on a limited Canadian film budget is no small task. But these sequences are so astounding they accurately capture not only the artistry of Richard on ice, but the sounds, smells and even the chilliness of the old Montreal Forum. Thus The Rocket is arguably the final word on Canadian hockey on film. Jacques Payette's accompanying NFB doc is decent, if a little dated by the standards of today's more polished, flashier documentaries. But it works well as a companion to the dramatic film, with reflections from Richard and his contemporaries looking back on his influence on the game. Other special features include a number of deleted scenes and a featurette. (Alliance)