In the lead up to the 7th Canadian Film Festival in Australia (August 2012), join us as we countdown the Top 100 Canadian Films of the past 30 years. We'll be posting one film a day leading up to Canada Day on July 1st 2012. Do you agree with our staff favourites? Let us know your thoughts!
#84 - Barney's Version
Three times a charm for Barney Panofsky in the Oscar-nominated Barney’s Version: a witty and endearing film told entirely from Barney’s perspective as he fumbles through a series of ups and downs in his complex relationships with friends, family, and women. Director Richard J. Lewis brings Mordecai Richler’s novel of the same name to life with nuanced performances by a talented cast and a comic tone that has you at times rooting for Barney, and at others feeling disappointment.
Paul Giamatti is Barney: a Jewish TV producer from Montreal who, at the opening of the film, is reminiscing on the last thirty or so years of his life. Through a series of flashbacks we see Barney live and marry in Rome and after his first wife’s death move back to Montreal where he meets his next wife. It’s on the day of his second marriage that he meets and immediately falls for Miriam Grant: the ultimate love of his life. The rest of the film follows Barney as he falters and makes mistakes in various instances of his life, but never relents in his unwavering love for Miriam.
One of my favourite scenes in the film is one that focuses on an altercation between Barney and his best friend, Boogie. Without giving too much away, it’s a moment that at first starts out with Barney ecstatic until he realizes his anger, and the two fight over the meaning of their decades-long friendship, finally ending on an inconclusive note. It is a realistic sequence in the way that it shows how one incident can be the trigger to unearth subconscious emotions that are at the core of a long friendship. The moments as well between Barney and his father, Izzy (played by Dustin Hoffman), are amusing and sweet.
It is a film that its core is all about love: the spontaneity and sometimes inconvenience of it; its durability to withstand anything or fragility at the slightest touch; how one moment can be life-altering; and the multitude of forms it takes on for the people you encounter in your life.
"The film offers a lovely mix of compassion and humour. We get a sprawling comic tableau, the arc of a full life." (Paul Byrnes, Sydney Morning Herald)
To see the other films in the countdown so far, click here.