The Street (1976)

The Street dramatizes family life. Based on a short story by Mordecai Richler, this short is set amongst the Jewish community in Montreal during the 1930s. The leading character is a young boy living in an overcrowded apartment with his mother, father, sister and dying grandmother. The boy is frustrated that his grandmother, now senile, won’t die, leaving him her bedroom. When she does finally succumb, he is overcome with feelings of guilt; the final image is of his sister wrapping herself in bed sheets, evoking the old lady’s ghost.
Filled with colour and incident, this coupling of Richler’s narrative prowess with Caroline Leaf’s sensitive direction is a superb drama. Never losing sight of the central story, Leaf foregrounds the lad whenever possible, while filling the screen with representative Jewish immigrant figures from the Depression era.

At first she recorded a dramatized reading of the entire story, with the idea that in this way I would be true to the work of literature. The images would illustrate the text. I quickly found that it was dead as a piece of film when I duplicated the information in soundtrack and picture. She found it became lively film when she dropped as much of the text as possible, putting the storytelling into images. For moments the soundtrack and picture come together with the same information, but then they veer apart and have an oblique relationship.
This short film spares no feelings and minces no words. In soft simple washes of watercolor and ink, the filmmaker interprets reactions to a dying grandmother, capturing family feelings and distilling them into harsh reality.

1 comment:

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