1948, and a femme fatale is receiving her just desserts in a Los
Angeles sanatorium after being convicted in a headline friendly murder.
A year later, and the same ice-cool blonde blows into Vancouver,
drop-dead gorgeous and with revenge on her mind. So it goes in Stan
Douglas' epically staged piece of cinematic theatre, which is part film
noir homage, part dissection of post Second World War social
engineering, and part technical feat par excellence.
The story, as scripted by some-time HBO writer Chris Haddock with
hard-boiled baroque flourishes, is stylistically familiar enough, as
the play's eponymous heroine flits her way between a decrepit hotel
that houses homeless war veterans and the mixed race Hogan's Alley
ghetto nearby. As corrupt cops attempt to clean up the black economy
which has thrived during war-time, we get a glimpse at the roots of
future urban regeneration projects that razed big cities as much as
enemy bombs did.
All of this is filmed on a bare stage and subsequently beamed live in
black and white onto a screen shared with astonishingly realised 3D
realisations of the play's two settings writ large. Accompanied by a
suitably shadowy jazz soundtrack, these parallel images resemble a
titillatingly drawn collage on a pulp fiction book jacket or a poster
at the local flea-pit promising sex and violence galore.
Beyond the big-screen action, there's a without walls vulnerability to
the ensemble cast's living colour performances, led by Lisa Ryder as a
beautifully brittle Helen. Haddock's wise-crack loaded script is shot
through with occasional sapphic undertones in a meticulously plotted
period piece laced with politics aplenty.
The Herald, August 25th 2014